First things first, the outcome of a hockey game - in other words officially awarding points to the winner - on any given night, in any given league, is not determined by whoever scores the first goal. The game of hockey is, after all, a game of chance. As has been noted so many times before, there are too many wonderous factors that ultimately decide who wins and thus who loses any given game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoy today the benefits of tremendous financial and moral support from a vibrant and vocal fanbase, which exists across a spectrum of stakeholders. The stakeholders appreciate their best efforts, and expect nothing more from paid professionals. The Leafs can play a game well and can lose a game. Yet in one area there exists no fanbase - except perhaps Don Cherry himself - and this is squarely in the realm of television broadcasting.
If there is one thing certainly consistent among the land of The Leafs over the years it is the disrespect of Leafs players, new and old, including of course the on-going speculation and what-if scenarios based on perceived value of other players. The net result for hockey commentators during The Leafs games is the belief that winning The Cup is simply not possible, whereas it always is for the opposing team.
Every other team, quite naturally, according to the broadcasters' choice of commentators, is a better team. When Don Cherry says, btw, that The Leafs in order to win and make the playoffs must "do something", well, he is referring to The Leafs coach, specifically. It is Coach Wilson's responsibility to instruct the players and maximize their skills shift after shift.
Matchups, thus, are critical, best player against best.
Players are honed. They've been playing their entire lives, and when they turn professional they are provided the best trainers, the best nutritionists, the best doctors, the best therapists, and on and on. As professionals, but as humans playing the fast game of hockey, they make mistakes - and teams making the least will win, excepting the bounce, injury and bad call.
In fact, every player in every professional league enjoys these aforementioned benefits, and in return they each try not to make mistakes and let down those very people who believe in them, and ensure these lucrative benefits continue... forever. These players are expected to win games based on natural skill, and a body and a mind honed to perfection and trained to react.
Still, game after game, as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I have to hear (and likely you too) so-called objective commentating - like the first goal scored against is akin to throwing in the towel. Our Maple Leafs are equally as aggressive as any athlete, assuredly they want to win each game they play, indeed, every fight and every shift. They cannot give up, and neither, frankly, should management.
Yes, commentators can say whatever they want, applicable and relevant.
Winning a game (or a shift) has nothing to do with who might be with the team tomorrow, or the anointed media stars in opposition on any given night. But, according to our television broadcasters, The Leafs are lucky to survive the relentless attacks of the opposing team. Warm-ups don't matter, morning skates don't matter.
Apparently, saves matter, but The Monster is learning the game on-the-job, and thus rather than The Leafs executing good penalty killing and a good strategy to win, it is underachieving opposing players that matter. Simply, the team who scores the most goals wins the game. Nowadays The Leafs come up short, because they run out of time, apparently.
Great players, as determined by their stats, not the ability to consistently perform and deliver the requisite second effort under constant duress, make mistakes. Mental errors matter. The results of games played impact players. Individual players are judged by the results of a team effort. Fans watch games not to see who wins or loses, as that really doesn't matter, it is how the game is played that matters; we wait to see the great goal, the great hit, and yes the great fight.
These things make hockey hockey, but most importantly to make it Canadian is to ensure hitting and fighting - to assure victory - remain as critical as scoring. Brian Burke is ensuring we watch great games of hockey, played by players and coached by coaches who understand that winning matters. Players are truly honed and then constrained and told what to do, what is expected professionally: dump the puck, chase the puck, pass the puck, shoot the puck, or stop the puck.
To win, it is discipline that matters, on and off the ice, as well as education and practice, as well as camaraderie and having fun at the end of the day. To play the game well is to expect rewards, but the net result of accumulated victories is all that matters to broadcasters and teams awarded the most points and sitting among the top of the standing are deemed the best and most worthy of praise.
Criticism is easy and cheap. To my knowledge, everyone has an opinion.
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