Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Its the Economy Stupid

The Colorado Springs annual President's Day tournament draws an interesting crowd, but this year the crowd is smaller and closer to home, and some of the better teams just aren't here. The tournament directors don't want to disappoint any parents by dropping the AAA divisions, so instead they appear to have dropped the B divisions. The result is that nearly every team played up, but the mere fact that the division was called AAA did nothing to improve the teams coming in.

Worse, these teams would probably already have been playing up a level, B to A, A to AA, so we ended up seeing some really glaring mismatches, 11-to-0 blow-outs (some even in the finals), and a vast gulf in skill and ability. This is terribly unfair to everyone involved, and dangerous (more about that in a moment), but appears to be a fact of life. The same dynamic played in the CO Cup event in January. I'm not sure whats happening in Denver with tournaments but this year all of the COS based events are smaller.

Take for example the CO Cup, that tournament was aimed at the younger players, and the younger players have younger parents, who appear to have less money, so fewer teams are willing to travel, and those that do are the ones that can make the trip by car instead of plane. My colleagues agree on one thing, "Its the Economy, Stupid". The pain has trickled down to my side-profession, and I'm exceedingly glad that I don't need the referee income.

Back to the other issue, the danger incurred by the economic effects. By compressing the divisions, and not accepting the fact that this lowers the actual level of skill that is participating, the tournament setup an accident waiting to happen. This year I've thrown at least one Game Misconduct in every tournament I've worked, all for dangerous/injury potential play. I really don't blame the players however, in all of the cases I could see at the start that something might happen and could feel the weight of my riot-pad in the back pocket in anticipation of pulling out my USA Hockey 'cheat sheet' that I carry to make it possible to fill-out the Game Misconduct paperwork on the ice instead of in the locker room.

Fortunately, the worst of the 3 GM penalties I've had to assess occurred this last weekend, and it did not involve a game delayed due to attendance of paramedics. I've been there for some of those in years past, as a team-mate, a coach (both opposing and to my player), and an on-ice official. Frankly being the on-ice team watching a stretcher leave the ice is probably the worst of the 3 relationships, unless you are the parent or spouse of the person on the stretcher.

The bad part is that it was an insanely stupid penalty, the offending player and team was outplaying and dominating their opponents at the time. They clearly felt superior to their opponents, and this being the "final" game, one player decided it was time to do a little head-hunting while his team ran-up the score. The night prior, pointstreak's online system shows that they put 11 points to 0 on the score board against a different team. I can get into this players head a little bit and see why he figured this was an ok idea. He was wrong, but seemingly called like Odysseus baited by a siren.

But now I've gotten it out of my system and will try to forget the event so I can look forward to the next games, and hope the Economy get back out of my locker room and we can cocoon ourselves into the rink. One can hope.