The Menzoid on the Personal Risk Associated with Playing Sports

With Toronto trouncing Detroit yesterday at Ann Arbor, The Maple Leafs’ Winter Classic record remains perfect.

Still, as much as The Menzoid enjoys the odd NHL game played outdoors in a football stadium, the experience leaves him somewhat melancholy. Decades ago, the game of hockey moved indoors, and the game will never again move back outside. Heck even street hockey is a dying breed: those autumn sounds of wooden blades scraping across unforgiving asphalt is becoming ever more rare in a world where recreational activity is lorded over by the mighty Xbox; where play has given way to PlayStation.

The omnipresent nanny state also shares part of the blame for the decline of outdoor play. All the frozen ponds The Menzoid comes across in Rich Man’s Hill has signage noting that any use of the pond is “strictly prohibited.” Even ball hockey is verboten in certain jurisdictions. The mantra of “safety first” –even when there is no real danger to speak of – has eclipsed common sense.

Need proof? One of the Christmas gifts The Menzoid picked up for Menzoid Junior last month was a new whiz-bang sled for tobogganing. Actually, it’s something called Whiteout made by the fine folks at Laval, Quebec-based Pelican. And Whiteout is a nifty inflatable saucer indeed.

As The Menzoid began to inflate the saucer prior to visiting the hills, he couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of warnings that had been permanently etched upon the sled. In both English and French (as well as graphic icons in case one presumably does not speak one of Canada’s official languages), a slew of warnings noted the do’s and don’ts of, yes… tobogganing! In fact, the number of dire warnings covered about 5% of the saucer’s entire surface area.

Some of the more notable cautions included:

“This product has been specifically designed for use on snow. It is not a floatation device and should not be used in or on water.”
“Do not tow with any vehicle. This is not a towable device.”
“Never leave children unsupervised when sliding and provide competent adult supervision.”
“The wearing of a safety helmet and protective goggles is strongly recommended.”
And my favourite warning: “Product will develop high speed under certain snow conditions. Product has no brakes or steering mechanism and excessive speed can cause loss of control and serious injury.”

Can you imagine? The Whiteout saucer might actually “develop high speed under certain snow conditions”? Well, The Menzoid sure as hell hopes so – that’s why he forked-out 50 bucks plus H.S.T. for this conveyance in the first place.

The thing is, The Menzoid doesn’t remember all these warnings on sleds back when he was a toboggan-happy lad. And guess what: The Menzoid and his helmetless friends – far from the glare of competent or even incompetent adult supervision – never did end up in the emergency ward or the morgue.

Thus, to quote the old Fred Willard catchphrase:

Yeah… “wha’ happened?”

But it was after the toboggan run that The Menzoid took in the NHL Winter Classic. And a thought occurred to him: if the game of hockey didn’t exist, it could never be invented today. Not a chance … not in our liability-averse, bubble-wrapped, helicopter mama society.

Just start with the puck: A piece of vulcanized rubber. Surely you jest? The new age puck would most certainly be made out of foam rubber.

Then there’s this issue of hard wooden boards surrounding the rink and the concept of being physically checked into the boards. That’s a no-no. So, like a soccer field, there’d be no boards and no body contact and when the puck goes out of bounds, the game would stop to facilitate a throw-in (underhand, of course.)

Skating would be limited to a “safe” speed, and as for shooting the puck, well, slapshots would be made illegal. I mean, a slapshot? The very term conjures up Three Stooges-inspired mayhem:

Come to think of it, why aren’t Larry. Curley and Moe rated X today? But that’s a rant for some other time…

In fact, this whole issue of having any game played on ice seems preposterous, really. Ice is so hard and slippery, after all. So, let’s park those skates and just play hockey on grass or Astroturf (even though by this point ice hockey would practically resemble field hockey – and we all know how riveting that game is!)

Oops, The Menzoid almost forget one key modification: keeping score. Which is to say, there would be no keeping of scores lest junior on the losing side ends up suffering from self-esteem issues. Naturally, all trophies would expunge the word “Champion” and would be inscribed with “Participant” instead. And everyone gets one.