After spending a few days surrounding myself in the atmosphere of the Ottawa 67s, I’ve come up with a few observations on the average junior hockey player. They can spend all their lives working and working, trying to achieve their goals, and never really get there. They are the prime example of an underdog. Junior hockey players get really excited for scoring a goal in practice, and make sure to run it in to all their teammates. If they miss the net, they become melodramatic and sprawl themselves out on the ice and stay there for a few minutes. They play every game like it was a Gold Medal game. They want to have fun more than anything, and if that means ripping your teammates about every little thing, they do it. They’re not all extrordinary at what they do, but every teammate brings something to the table, whether its grit, personality, heart or skill. They’re just kids, just teenaged boys playing the game they grew up with. They play the game because they love it. They have heart and determination.
I prefer watching junior hockey over professional hockey any day because the junior boys have something to play for: the rest of their careers. With scouts always on your trail, it’s your job as a junior boy to show off, and try every game harder than the last to make a leaving impression. NHL players get comfortable in their positions. I’m not saying they don’t care or try, I’m saying they don’t play with that die-hard passion you see junior players use every game. Sure, certain players in the NHL never really got over their junior days, and they still embrace the fun of playing the game like their lives depended on it, even if it was just a regular season game. I like to compare Junior A hockey to the NHL playoffs. You see the same fight every regular game in the juniors as you see in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that’s what makes it so special and exciting to me. Their fans are like no others: having to watch their star players leave the team year after year makes it difficult, but they always have faith in their boys. Their fans differentiate from 5 year old boys on their dads knees, to 60-something men in leather 67s jackets who get really intoxicated and feel the need to make a comment on everything.
Everything about junior hockey is passionate, and I guess that’s what draws me to it the most.