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Let the Kids Play: Change the unwritten rules of sports

Let the fans eat cake for once

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Boston Bruins v Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres Captain Jack Eichel is one of several young players showing more personality on the ice
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

As I was watching the Red Sox absolutely whip the Yankees on Monday night (final score was 16-1) something that one of the guys calling the game said stuck with me: “There used to be a code, but there’s no code now. Let the kids play I guess.” “Let the Kids Play” is the promotional slogan used by the MLB as the playoffs heat up. The speaker, I forget his name, was reacting negatively to the fact that the Red Sox seemed to still be trying when the result of the game was no longer in doubt. That Brock Holt would still try to hit the first cycle in the history of playoff baseball even when a position player was put in as pitcher. How dare the Red Sox not take the foot off the gas in a playoff game against their most hated rival.

Let the kids play. The Red Sox were beating the hated Yankees in the Bronx and they were loving every minute of it. The “kids” were definitely playing, whether or not the men in the booth approved.

Let the players play the game, let them show emotion, let them have fun. That should be universally encouraged in all sports, but some sports, especially ones with long histories like baseball and hockey, seem to struggle with it at time. There’s a code and a culture that encourages players to be quiet for fear of putting themselves ahead of the logo, or horror of horrors, become a distraction. Heck, even the impression that Lars Eller celebrated too much led Brad Marchand to jump him. Yes there is P.K. Subban living his best life, but he seemed to be the fun exception in an otherwise personality deprived league. I love the sport of hockey to death, but had gotten used to hearing cliches in interviews and little to no real emotion on the ice.

There’s been much hemming and hawing about hockey players not having fun. Some teams are worried about Fortnite (the video game, not the old timey term for 14 days and nights) or Josh Ho-Sang having a personality. Then, when scrolling Instagram (as millennials such as myself are wont to do), I saw highlights of Jack Eichel encouraging the crowd to cheer even more than they already were after a he scored a goal.

Then there was the video of Patrick Kane (a sentient pile of garbage who happens to be very good at the hockey) and Auston Matthews trading taunts after scoring goals.

And all of this was being highlighted and praised by the NHL’s official media channels. Players are being encouraged and rewarded for showing personality when they excel. It is understood that having fun while playing a game is not contrary to excelling at it. Patrick Kane, the despicable person that he (allegedly) is, has proven that he’s an elite hockey player, often at the Wild’s expense. Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel are 2 of the 3 best young centers in the league. Let the kids play. In the NHL, the kids are playing and having the time of their lives and I am here for it (as those kids would say). Best of all, instead of hand wringing and worrying about some sort of code or culture, the league itself is promoting it.

Was this whole article an excuse to share the two above videos with you? Maybe, but let’s all be grateful I avoided using “Making Hockey Fun Again” as the headline, and let’s all resolve to enjoy it when the players let their personalities shine on the ice, even when it comes at the expense of the Wild.

Unless it is the Avalanche, then they can go fork themselves.