The Case Against the Handshake | JIM FURLONG

It is easy to write in support of popular notions. Working the other side of the street is not nearly so easy. At issue today is the post- game handshake in minor hockey. I am against it. It is an area wrought with difficulties. It is not a simple matter of the final whistle blows and we are all friends again. Hockey is not like that.

I had three boys play minor hockey in the Celtics and later Avalon/Celtics system. I was never a full-time coach but I was an assistant and handled the team sometimes. Hockey is not like baseball, soccer or tennis. Rightly or wrongly it is a game best played in ill-humour. You can hit a double in baseball and stop at second and ask your opponent how is family is. Baseball, while it has its moments, is a bucolic game played in a pasture with the sun shining.

Hockey, on the other hand, rewards aggression. That is not to say that it is a good thing only that it is the nature of the game. That idea is more true as kids get older. You don’t have to be mean but meanness, or at least hard hitting, is rewarded. These days it’s called having “ sandpaper” in the lineup. The era of the hockey goon is gone but “ sandpaper” isn’t . Also still in the game is the issue of justice on the ice. Every hit doesn’t mean immediate retaliation but the idea of “taking down a number” is very much alive.

The idea that after the final whistle hands are shaken and that is the end of problems between players. That is a myth. I can tell you that in my own low level rec. hockey skate a few years ago we had a couple of post- game issues. Not a big deal but a reminder that the final whistle isn’t the end of emotions.

Now here is an episode from minor hockey that I am not proud of. As mentioned, I was an assistant coach on a team that was not very good. Our opponents from a different organization – and with the game well in hand – continued to press us an run up the score. I knew it. Our coach knew it. When the final whistle blew our coach refused to go to centre ice to be part of the handshake line. In the line the opposing coach said: “What is HIS problem?” My reply was delivered in the raised voice of righteous indignation. I said: “YOU RAN UP THE SCORE!”

That might have been the end of it but their assistant coach, my counterpart, said, “Well, get over it.” My first inclination was to smack him but we were in the middle of a rink with parents looking on and you can’t assault someone because they are an idiot.

The moral of the story? Stop having handshakes AFTER a game when emotions are high. There have been several incidents in minor hockey and the governing body of hockey is not making it up. Do the handshake before the puck drops. We will all be better off.

You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]

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