What Is The Value Of The “C?”

Recently, the Edmonton Oilers named the youngest captain in the National Hockey League when they placed the “C” on Connor McDavid’s #97 jersey. Connor McDavid, born on January 13, 1997 – hence the number 97 on his jersey, was 19 years and 266 days old when the announcement was made by the Oilers.

Gabriel Landeskog was the previous record holder when he was named the captain of the Colorado Avalanche at 19 years and 286 days. Before Landeskog, Sydney Crosby was 19 years and 297 days when his “C” was added to the Penguins jersey.

Of course we could keep going with all the others who were before – but that’s not really the point is it?

When most 19-year-olds are handed a leadership position how do they handle it? This isn’t to say that McDavid can’t handle it. Certainly it seems that Landeskog has handled it and Sid the Kid has no doubt handled himself with tons of poise.

However we’ve seen 19-year-old kids in all sports who have struggled with the expectations of living up to their talent much less leading a group of men into the locker room night in and night out. On February 28, 2017 when the Oilers end a six game road trip in St. Louis if they are out of the playoff hunt will he be able to motivate his team to get up for the game? How will he keep the momentum going on that road trip? He has said that he’s not a vocal leader, so does he leave that to his alternate captains?

I’m not doubting that he can be a good captain, he certainly is able to lead on the ice – his talent speaks volumes. I’m sure he can lead on the ice. He puts up goals, assists and points – 48 points in 45 games in his first year.

I wonder though how we value things?  Whether it is our hockey card collection or a new cd or the “C” that we put on someone’s jersey. Things only have value when we give them value. If McDavid gives that cloth letter a value and believes that it is worth something then truly it is worth something. It’s no different from believing that being the captain of our beer league team is the greatest thing in the world – it can be if we truly believe it to be.

We give thoughts, actions, items and even speech value. What is the value of the title of captain? That “C”?   Do you look at McDavid different when he steps on the ice? Do you look at anyone differently because they play hockey? Or because they are an athlete? Are they role models?  Charles Barkley said “I am not a role model.”

If you are a card collector – how can a Gretzky rookie card be worth thousands? Would you be willing to pay that much money for it? For a piece of paper with a picture on it? At one time I would have said I’d pay money for a Gretzky autograph – but what exactly is an autograph? Someone took a pen and scribbled their name on a piece of paper or item.  It’s nothing but some ink that I’ve suddenly given value to.

The same goes for game worn memorabilia or game used items. Why are they valuable? Because they were worn or used?  Is a swatch of a jersey or bat worth that much? How do I even know that it is theirs? Does that athlete even care that they are giving it to me? Does that athlete even care about me?  Take a look at the hockey card collection. Who gives that hockey card collection value? You? Or some magazine that comes out monthly? The guy at the card shop? Someone on Ebay that wants to buy it? If you want to sell it you give it whatever value you want to sell it for. If you want to buy a card with an autograph it’s whatever you want to buy it for. Sure there are magazines out there that will assign a value to a card – but it’s a random arbitrary value. How can it truly be worth that?

But what is value? What is money? How do we define that? If you want to go see Connor McDavid and the Oilers play how much are you going to pay? How do you decide? Are you going to pay x amount? Or are you going to pay x amount for his autograph or jersey or card? What causes us to put value on something? It seems to all come back on what we work for or how we generate value. “We” or “I” generate value. That value that we put on something. That value that we put on that label of the “C.” So if I value the “C” more than McDavid, maybe I’ll wonder why they gave it to him? It’s all in the eye of the beholder – much like beauty.

Reality is amazing when you break it down to simplistic terms, when we break sports or life’s details into the small points it’s all how we look at them. Take for example our pain, joy, experiences, value (of course), memories or dreams. All of these are subjective to ourselves and what we feel. No one can truly know our experiences or how we truly feel inside of us but us. No one can know how deep an emotion or an instance strikes us but us. If I were to go through a situation with you, we may have seen it differently, describe it differently and feel it differently. This is both the joy of being a human and the fatality of being a human. How do we describe a world that our mind colors specifically with our individual being as a target?  Our flaw is ourselves.  Being human is both a curse and a blessing.

As we ponder these things, we must consider young Connor McDavid’s plight. How does he approach other young men in the Oilers locker room? How does he approach older men in the locker room? I would imagine he’s not looking at it from the philosophical side of them seeing the situation from his side versus theirs however I have to wonder what they see in that “C?” Do they see a captain or do they see a 19-year-old? What value do they put in the title of captain?

Why Can’t Hockey Be America’s Game?

Every time I go to Toronto I find myself drawn to the Hockey Hall of Fame and its marvelous displays of greatness.  Not that I make it to the Great White North all that much but it seems like since I’ve gotten older I’ve made it more than when I was younger.  I’ve been to the HHoF at least three times and to Toronto at least five but every single visit to the museum I’m always struck by the wonder of it all.

I know that Canada invented the game (although some may argue that it’s roots are in the Middle Ages – the game as we know now is Canadian in origin) and is celebrated as a religion country-wide.  In fact before it was replaced in 2013, the Canadian five dollar note featured children playing winter sports, including hockey, and wearing a number 9 sweater to honor  Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.  Included with the picture was a quotation from Canadian novelist Roch Carrier’s short story “The Hockey Sweater”:

The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons.  We lived in three places-the school, the church and the skating rink-but our real life was on the skating rink.

Yeah I get you Roch, the rink is where I’d be too if I lived in Canada.  Cold, brutal winters where you are forced inside, you might as well find something to do right?  Time for some hockey and after your legs are burnt out from skating turn on the television and watch some Hockey Night in Canada?  I mean come on, we don’t have anything like that here in America.  Sure we have Monday Night Football, but Hockey Night in Canada, there’s no chance.  The tradition and the history, plus Canadians have Don Cherry and his outfits.  No contest.

But here’s the thing.  Most places in America don’t have access to a rink.  In the South you are lucky to find a rink.  It’s getting better but when I was growing up I could only tell you where one was.  Even living in New York, where you think there’d be a bunch – it’s cold!, I have to drive an hour and a half on a good day to find a rink to play hockey.  True, I’ve read Derek Boogaard’s biography where it talks about his father driving him all over.  If my daughter is going to play she’s going to have to go at least three hours in multiple directions to play.  All over the Eastern Seaboard.  I can’t imagine doing that as a kid to play a sport.

But what’s funny about hockey, is that for as much as it costs-and trust me it costs, at some point you start to find this itch.  You can’t get enough ice time.  You can’t get even time on your skates.  You want to feel that stick in your hands every chance you get.  Even getting back into it at my age, I’m proud to say that I skated for an hour without falling-finally!  I’m getting better but I’m still pretty terrible.  Watch me skate backwards if you need a laugh.

However I’m bothered though, for all that hockey means to Canada there will probably not be one Canadian NHL team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Yes the teams are loaded with Canadian players, but I want to see Toronto or Calgary or Ottawa or Edmonton or Winnipeg or Vancouver go deep in the playoffs.  It just doesn’t seem right not to see a Canadian team.  I don’t like it at all.  I realize some of it has to do with the direction of the club, some has to do with the value of the dollar and some has to do with the quality of the team but no matter I don’t like it.  I’ll trade a potential Florida team or two for a Canadian team any day.

I know these teams are all because of the Gretzky effect – the same Gretzky who perfected the so-called Gretzky buttonhook.  A move that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl perfected in a game on March 20, 2016 when he assisted on Bryan Rust’s goal.  The Pens took out the league leading Washington Capitals 6-2 that night behind Kuhnhackl and his spin moving self.  I’m not sure Gretzky could have made a better pass, this was text book.  Maybe Chris Becker taught him that at the Revolution Ice Rink in Pittston at skills night while he was playing for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pens?  It’s a possibility.  You never know where he may have picked that one up.  Then he sold him some Ribcore skates?  Just kidding Chris.

Because of Gretzky’s influence on the league we’ve seen more and more Americans jump into hockey.  I was probably exposed to more hockey because of him and I have to thank him for that.  It is one of those sports that gets in your blood.  No matter what other sport you think you love, until you actually get on the ice and strap on the pads, skates and grab a stick, you don’t know what you are missing.  I can understand why it’s Canada’s sport and you know what?  I don’t think we’ll ever be good enough at it to best them.  We’ll never have the access or the commitment to hockey.  Our focus is on baseball, basketball and most importantly football.  There’s no way we’ll take up hockey as our number one sport.  I think Canada should take hockey, mold it and each year make it better and better.  Each visit to Toronto make the HHoF a place that I never want to leave at the end of the day, a place where those that gave everything they had to the game have a chance to pay tribute to their teammates and those they respected.  Hockey deserves a place where it can be worshipped and I think that place will be and should always be Canada…O Canada.