It’s a tradition.
It’s been part of the very fabric of the game as long as the game itself.
In many ways it represents the true essence of the game of the hockey. It often reminds us that nothing is bigger than the game itself.
Emotions always run high, which will never change, but it would appear times they are a changing.
Hockey’s handshake line at the end of the game is the ultimate display of sportsmanship, character and mutual respect.
Some would argue the handshake line is the cornerstone of the game.
That cornerstone is starting to crumble under constant scrutiny, pressure and perception of it’s own participants.
So why can’t we shake on it?
Why do governing bodies of today’s game have to rip out the cornerstone in efforts to protect those within it?
Where is the game going?
How did it even get to this place?
Over the years my role in the game has drastically changed, much like the game itself.
From player, to coach, to broadcaster, to writer, to scout, the game continues to play a vital role in my life.
Nevertheless, the game has always had a unique way of teaching us all of life’s lessons a long the way.
As a player I learned to respect the game at a very young age. I learned to always respect ourselves, our teammates and our opponents.
That was engrained in my soul as soon my parents laced up my skates.
That cultural norm and expectation was carried on by my coaches throughout my time in the game, and as a coach I tried to pass those morals and values on to my players.
You always play the game the right way. You always respect your opponent. You always show class and dignity.
You always shake hands at the end of the game, and you never disrespect the game, whatever you do you never disrespect the game.
Those words are entrenched in my hockey DNA. You see I also learned a very valuable lesson along the way.
Whenever you step on the ice you are representing your team, your coaches, your parents and yourselves, but more importantly the game itself.
I understand why Hockey New Brunswick came to decision to remove the handshake line at the end of games.
I understand it, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it.
I understand incidents happen, and that they are trying to protect the integrity of the game, but I also understand they have to protect everyone involved.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it’s right. You see this isn’t about shaking hands at the end of a hockey game or tradition.
This is about the culture surrounding the game today and how it has drastically changed.
This is about parents, coaches, officials, fans, and most of all the players.
You see my experiences are vastly different than others that have played the game.
My long time mentor and coach taught us to always show and play with class.
To be professional, when you win and lose.
The game and those involved need to re-evaluate their unique roles within it.
What role do parents play in this? What role do coaches play in this? What role do officials play in this? What role do governing bodies play in this?
As a coach, I witnessed one our players punching two opposing players in the handshake line.
It was Atom A Development. The player in question was 10 years old. I was the Assistant Coach on that team, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. No other coach or parent had seen the incident. I rounded the corner in the dressing room and lost my mind.
The message was sent. I had coached five years of high school hockey before I went back to the grass roots level. I had seen a lot as a coach at that level. I had a fan throw a puck at me during the handshake line.
I had seen players get spit on.
I had seen players of opposing teams spit in their hands during the handshake line.
I had seen fights almost break out several times, so I get why Hockey New Brunswick has taken this stance, but as a coach I always tried to instil those values I learned during my career.
Those values served me well. Everyone has different values. Everyone has had different experiences in the game.
I’ve have seen referees end games, and direct both teams to their rooms without handshakes at the end of a very heated affair.
I’ve seen coaches almost get into at the end of games. Unfortunately, if you have been around the game you have probably witnessed it all.
You see we all play a massive role in promoting, showcasing and maintaining the integrity of the game. You see that’s why so many people can’t shake on this one?
We can’t find common ground on many aspects in this era of the game and for a matter of fact our society due in large part to everyone’s perceptions, experiences and opinions within the game.
There’s no common ground. Where is the line going to be drawn? Where is the game today?
How did we get to this point, that one of the games greatest traditions has to be performed at the beginning of the game?
I realize it’s this isn’t professional hockey or the NHL or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but this issue is far from over. The debate continues.
Can’t we just shake on it?