I am not a fan of hockey.

It’s not because I don’t think it is an amazing sport, because it is.

The skating skills of the men who play are outstanding. In fact, I don’t think skaters in the world of figure skating are as talented on the ice as hockey players.

The speed and agility the hockey player exhibits is absolutely unmatched.

There are really two reasons I do not watch the game.

One may seem silly.

I have tried to watch and have sat in front of the television for long stretches of time, willing myself to enjoy it.

I sit in awe of the skating, just waiting for a goal to be scored. Then I may get distracted for half a second and turn away from watching, only to hear the announcer shout that a goal has been scored and I missed it!

Thirty minutes of my time and I didn’t see the payoff.

And even if I get lucky and I am watching when a goal is scored, I still don’t see it because the puck is moving so fast that my eyes cannot keep up.

That’s the silly reason. The other is a little more serious.

The game as allowed to be played today is too physical and violent. The checking, high sticking, slamming people into the wall is excessive. Here you have a game that is truly elegant, graceful and filled with skaters extraordinaire.

But it has devolved into a brutal war. It need not be that way.

Return to the days when stating was the primary reason to watch — not how much you can mug your opposition.

They even made a few schmaltzy movies where a hockey player has been teamed up with a female figure skater to form a pairs team.

I have no doubt any hockey player could do this because they are such superb skaters. Let the game get back to showcasing some of that skating talent.

It is the violence in basketball that is now promoted why I don’t watch it any more, either. It used to be you couldn’t touch the opposing players. No hand checking, no smashing your body up against them to deny them position, no backing in to try and get really close to the basket.

You had to be quicker or double-team the big men in order to stop them.

I’m not sure when they started allowing big men to be mauled by defenders who couldn’t stop them.

It was probably when George Mikan and later Wilt Chamberlain began playing. In order to "even things up", defenders were allowed great latitude in physical play. That was ridiculous.

Shaquille O’Neal was literally assaulted every time he touched the ball. Multiple defenders were allowed to grab him, hold him, push him, whatever, in an effort to stop him. This was wrong. He was just that much better than his opponents. A good coach would be able to design better defensive strategies to slow down O’Neal. And if you couldn’t, oh well, you were just beaten by someone who was better.

The reason this all really bothers me is that this style of play has filtered down to the high school level.

Our kids are not being taught to excel in fundamentals but are given the green light to be brutal.

They are taught to see what they can get away with.

It’s not their fault, nor do I think it is the fault of the coaches. Since rules on physical play have been lax, it had to happen.

I wish they would tighten things back up in all levels of hockey and basketball. Bring back the purity of the game where your skills matter more than brute force.

Then our children will become better players, more skilled and better sportsmen.

Yes, I think the brutal, physical play leads to poor sportsmanship. A recurring theme as mine as a coach has been sportsmanship and fun. Cleaning up the games can get us back to that.

Greg Sarkisian has coached high school athletics on the Central Coast for more than three decades, spending 30 seasons as St. Joseph's head cross country coach and 35 seasons as the school's head track and field coach. At St. Joseph, Sarkisian's track and field athletes won 24 individual CIF championships under his tutelage. He also taught mathematics for 38 years at the high school level and for 27 years at Allan Hancock College.


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