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Cornered Coach: Changing Lines


A lot of people love to stick their nose in other people's business.

I should know.

For over 30 years, that's how I've made my living. As a broadcaster and writer, I actually get paid to shove my proboscis in other folk's affairs. Sometimes, when you're celebrating success, people appreciate it. But when you're casting a critical eye, it can be a much different story.

Take the whole issue of girls playing boys’ hockey.

A few years back, I wrote an article for ripping Hayley Wickenheiser's decision to head to Europe to play in a men's professional league. At the time, I felt Wickenheiser was devaluing the fledgling Canadian Women's Hockey League by heading off to Finland and Sweden to face-off against the guys. A lot of people took exception with that viewpoint, saying that it was up to Wickenheiser to decide what was best for her development and that if she was good enough to compete against men, all the power to her.

To her credit, Wickenheiser herself never displayed any bitterness over my Sportsnet piece. I interviewed her a few times after the story came out and she was always very cordial. 

Who knows?

Maybe she was giving her old linemate a break. Yes, believe it or not, I played hockey with Hayley when she was a skilled teenager just beginning her incredible journey to Olympic and World Championship glory. Always searching for ways to improve her ability, Hayley was a regular participant in our weekly Calgary media pick-up game – an ice time that included a sprinkling of former NHL, junior and university players. Back then, I was a sportscaster for a local Calgary TV station and most of my fellow reporters at our Friday shinny sessions would bicker about who got to play on Hayley's line. After all, with her impressive skill set, all you had to do was go to the front of the net, keep your stick on the ice and Hayley would set you up for a couple of easy goals.

Still, despite having a ton of fun playing with Wickenheiser, I still had the audacity to criticize her decision to play with and against men in a European pro league.


Nobody said I was a brain surgeon. You'll have to leave that up to Hayley, who just happens to be in the process of working towards her medical degree now that she's retired from competitive hockey. 

It's funny how time flies and how people change.

These days, my son plays for an Atom AA team in Toronto; a league that features a handful of girls. Earlier this week, two of the young ladies helped their squad hand my lad's team only its second loss of the season. One of the girls scored a gorgeous goal and the other one was a whirling dervish on defence, constantly rushing the puck and putting our boys back on their heels.

My fresh take on girls playing boys’ hockey?

If they're having a good time and they're capable of competing… who cares?

Especially in hockey-crazed Canada, there's plenty of puck for players of every gender and every skill level.

Don't get me wrong.

As a broadcaster and writer, I still have to make a habit of sticking my nose in other people's business.

But that doesn't mean my sense of smell is perfect and that it can't change as the years go by.

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