There is an old joke about a Buddhist proverb that says “change is inevitable... except from vending machines”. Whilst you may not always be able to find change for your lunchtime snack or can of whatever soft drink you prefer, you’ll always find it in sports. The very nature of competitive sports means that teams and players are always looking for an advantage, and the games and the way they’re playing are constantly in a state of flux.
Hockey, traditionally, is not a game that takes to change well.
If you read your hockey history it took years before people realized that passing forward in hockey was a good idea. It took decades for North America to adjust or even take seriously the competing philosophies of Soviet hockey and a European approach to the game. Even now, hockey’s resistance to change, at least wholesale change, can be seen in the popularity of “hockey men” in the game, the backlash against analytics in some quarters and even, to bring things close to home, the skepticism in the hockey world at the hiring of John Chayka as Coyotes GM (one school of thought that’s definitely being proved outdated as the seasons pass.)
But even though there’s not sweeping, massive changes hitting hockey that everyone can see, there are major changes happening and continuing to happen right now in the way the game is thought of, the philosophy of the game and the way it’s played. As the Coyotes said in their advertising-this isn’t your parents’ NHL.
It might not even be yours anymore - the way hockey is changing isn’t in something as simple as the way it’s played, but something more subtle - the way we know it and the way it’s thought of. Hockey wisdom is no longer what it was. Players are harder to pigeonhole into traditional hockey roles.
The game is making traditional hockey thought obsolete.
This is something that we’ll be looking at in this series over the next few weeks and throughout the season,, starting with the first piece tomorrow. We’ll be considering such things as the death of the grinding forward, considering if there even is such a player type as “power forward” anymore, and looking at the way the game has and is evolving in the new millennium, and how this is changing the NHL and the way the game is played.
Welcome to Hockey 2.0.
Everything you thought you knew about the game is about to be challenged.
Enjoy the ride, and embrace the change in the way you think. Because hockey ain’t a vending machine, and change IS inevitable here. It’s happening right now.
All you need to do is look for it.