Sunday, November 21, 2010
Off to the penalty box
London, ON, September 2010
[Click here for more Thematic candidness]
You may be surprised to learn that London has a hockey team, the Knights. They play in the Ontario Hockey League - not exactly the big leagues, but it's something we see more as an advantage than anything else.
See, we're a small-ish town, so we'll never have our own major league team. We get that. But it's that smallness that seems to play to our advantage. Games here are still affordable for the average family (vs. a four-figure night for the average Toronto Maple Losers fan) and sitting in the stands still feels like you're part of a community instead of a slick, marketing-driven, moneymaking machine. It filters down to the ice, too, as the players, still working their way up through the hockey hierarchy, haven't become megabuck, megawatt stars.
To wit, Daniel Erlich, #92, who plays centre. He visited our kids' school last year as part of the team's community outreach efforts, and they've been avidly following his progress ever since. He's being billeted by a family we know in the community, and he's been a regular guest on a radio morning show. He isn't a superstar - yet - but he's already the kind of person, a good soul with a tremendous work ethic, that my kids want to emulate.
So when we attended a recent game, I followed him with my camera for a bit because I knew the kids would love to have a picture or two of their favorite player. I've long been critical of how sports has tainted our definition of hero, but a hometown team like the Knights, with good kids like Erlich on the roster, is enough to soften my formerly curmudgeonly attitude.
Maybe he can teach the Maple Losers a thing or two about good sportsmanship, too.
Your turn: Can major/minor league sport ever return to its simpler roots?