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ROBIN SHORT: Huh? Hockey on the street? But where’s the ice?

Sweden’s Lucas Raymond was the fourth overall pick in the NHL Draft, and analyst Brian Burke said: “he’s a multi-sport athlete, something we like in draft picks.” – Submitted photo
Sweden’s Lucas Raymond was the fourth overall pick in the NHL Draft, and analyst Brian Burke said: “he’s a multi-sport athlete, something we like in draft picks.” - Contributed

Sportsnet’s Burke reminds us kids playing multiple sports isn’t a bad thing; more teams/players for high school hockey this season

There was a photo making its way around social media recently of a group of St. John’s kids playing street hockey.

Now, this normally wouldn’t be a big deal except this is 2020, and kids don’t play street hockey anymore. Or baseball knockouts. Or basketball’s “Horse.”

But they’re playing ice hockey, for sure … when there’s no pandemic crimping plans.

And they’re playing a lot of it.

One of the more thought-provoking comments from Sportsnet’s coverage of the recent NHL Draft came via analyst Brian Burke, the former NHL general manager who’s made for TV.

After the Detroit Red Wings selected Swede Lucas Raymond with the fourth overall pick, Burke opined: “he’s a multi-sport athlete, something we like in draft picks.”

Someone forgot to deliver that memo to the minor hockey players, and their parents.

Because multi-sport is generally not a term used to describe a lot of today’s young hockey players.

Not all, of course, are devoted singularly to hockey, but there is no denying the game has in many ways become a 10- or 12-month sport. This year being the obvious exception, it’s no longer unusual to see minor hockey players dragging their hockey gear into rinks in July and August.

One of the biggest challenges, I’ve found from personal experience, for baseball coaches was keeping some of the children at games and practices in August rather than seeing them dash off to hockey practice.

Neither of the two best hockey players the world has seen have been shy in their opinions that youngsters may be playing too much hockey. Both Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr agree they enjoyed their summer breaks to play baseball and run track (and, in Gretzky’s case, play lacrosse).

Which brings us back to Burke’s comment.

What’s wrong with playing ball or soccer in the summer? A) because they’re sports to play, and B) because they’re good for physical and social development.

Does everything need to be undertaken solely with the intention of developing hockey skills?

And at the end of the day, will a summer session of hockey vs baseball, soccer, riding a bike or going off in the woods trouting make a difference to a child vying for a spot on the all-star hockey team in the fall?

Really?

Summer hockey isn’t a particularly new or novel concept. Summer hockey schools have been around since the stick blade was curved, and there’s nothing wrong with some week-long instruction in August.

Packing up the bag, however, for another season starting in June just doesn’t seem right.

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Speaking of hockey, there may be something good coming out of this pandemic for high school hockey in the metro St. John’s area.

The Eastern School District has been busy rolling out plans for extra-curricular programs. Softball recently clewed up. Soccer is ongoing, and volleyball started this week.

High school hockey is expected to start the first week of November and unlike past years, when there were metro and St. John’s leagues, there will be one organization this season with teams from Holy Heart, Gonzaga, Waterford Valley, PWC and Holy Trinity (which played in the St. John’s league last season), and former metro league teams O’Donel, Mount Pearl Senior High, St. Kevin’s, Mobile Central High, Queen Elizabeth, Holy Spirit and possibly Roncalli of Avondale.

The league will be operating under the Doug Marshall Hockey League banner.

As a result of COVID-19, teams will dress 11 skaters and two goalies, and there will be no body checking.

“It’s just good to be playing,” said Steve Power, who has co-ordinated the Doug Marshall league since its inception.

“Because there are only 11 skaters, we’re expecting the majority of schools to have two teams,” Power said. “In fact, we’re asking the schools to have two teams.

“If not, they will have to seek permission to play with one.”

One of the disadvantages to COVID-19, and one not lost on the Doug Marshall league, or high school hockey or any other league, is the time restriction between games.

If a game ends at 9 p.m., another cannot start until 9:30. The 30 minutes is allotted to sanitize high-touch areas in the arenas.

“That’s a half-hour of dead ice,” Power said, “and when you add that up, you’re losing an average of 12-15 hours of ice per week.

“That’s tough on a lot of associations.”

Another sport given the go-ahead to resume play is rugby.

Organizer Bas Crosbie is still waiting on a confirmation of teams, and as a result, there’s no game schedule yet. A start date being considered is next weekend.

Last year, six boys’ and seven girls’ teams played high school rugby.

“There’s going to be high school rugby,” Crosbie said. “Whether they’re all in is another thing. If not, it makes for going ahead the following season that much harder.”

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A St. John’s metro regional high school softball championship was staged last week. There are no provincials this season, so a number of regional or section tourneys are planned in a number of sports. Mount Pearl’s O’Donel Patriots won the boys’ title, beating Holy Heart of S. John’s 10-8 in the final. In girls’ play, Baltimore High of Ferryland slipped past Gonzaga of St.. John’s 7-6 in the final.

Nine boys’ teams took part, along with 11 girls’ teams.

Nobody asked me, but …

The selection of Lucas Raymond in the NHL draft at No. 4 was the Detroit Red Wings’ highest since 1990, when Keith Primeau went third overall … I covered that draft, in Vancouver, when John Slaney went ninth overall … Slaney recently re-signed for two years as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners under coach Jay Varady. Steve Potvin is the other assistant … Doug Redmond and the gang at the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association did a bang-up job this past summer getting Challenge Cup, Jubilee Trophy and Premier Youth League soccer on the go under challenging circumstances. Props, too, to the various minor soccer organizations. Likewise Mark Healey, Troy Croft and the baseball crowd at St. Pat’s Ball Park, the various minor baseball associations and, of course, Bill Barron with the senior and intermediate softball leagues at Lions Park … Finding it hard to watch sports on TV these days. May have watched a combined 30 minutes of hockey last month … I am the only guy in the world who sees Dean MacDonald taking over Mile One Centre and pumping a ton of money into the under-utilized rink a no-brainer? Where is council on this issue? I hear nothing coming from the council chamber? Can St. John’s Sports and Entertainment cannot be given the freedom to make an autonomous decision on this without input from elected officials? Between missing money at Mile One, the awarding of highly questionable bonuses — to name but two concerns — SJSE has proven itself not to be in consideration of that privilege …

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

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