June 27, 2011

From NEHJ: Cast of characters provides amusement

by Lyle Phair

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

For some, the journey that is the hockey season can be a long one, but for others, it seems to go by in the blink of an eye. More often than not, it depends on the team and the experience of the season. It’s not just about the players or the games, but the complete experience, the anything and everything that happens around the team.

It really depends on the people. The players, the parents, the families. How they handle it, how they co-exist, or how are unable to do so. They can make or break a season. How a season plays out is always interesting, sometimes like a television sitcom, sometimes like a drama series.

It has been said that sports such as hockey build character because of the challenges that have to be faced and overcome. Others say that adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it, or the lack thereof.

While character is important, the hockey world is definitely full of characters. Every player is unique. Every parent is unique. They come from different places with differing ideas and expectations, and no different than a television show, how those characters interact is what makes the season and the story that it tells.

So here is a tongue-in-cheek look at the characters that shape the season. Take any team, anywhere, and you will see some, maybe all, of these characters and characteristics:

Every team has The Talker, the nonstop chatterbox who always has something to say. The Talker sometimes gets a completely innocent teammate in trouble with the coach only because he or she happens to be sitting or standing next to the Talker when the coach is trying to address the team.

The Loud One is different from the Talker and definitely does not have as much to say, but he or she does have an affinity for attention. And when the Loud One talks, everybody hears — whether they want to or not.

As would be expected, The Quiet One is very much in contrast with the Talker and the Loud One. Most often, you would never know the Quiet One is there and can easily be confused with The Serious One or The Thinker, who can at times seem to be mentally in a faraway place, and often is.

The Dawdler sets his or her own pace and runs on a completely different clock than the rest of the players. There is no sense of urgency to get to the rink or get dressed, but somehow the Dawdler always manages to be where he or she needs to be and in many cases can be a very valuable player on the team. There is usually no direct correlation between playing ability and dawdling.

Opposite the Dawdler is The Early Bird, the one who is always there first, anxiously waiting for the rest of the players and while having a need to be to get there first, is completely unable to comprehend how come everybody else can always be so late. The Early Bird does not understand the Dawdler.

The Nervous One also can sometimes be the Early Bird, but not in all cases. The Nervous One is easy to spot, asks a lot of questions and never wants to do something out of the norm. Which is a far cry from The Odd One, who just seems to dance to a different song than everyone else (not unlike that uncle at every wedding reception there has ever been), and you just never know what the Odd One will do next.

The Instigator loves to stir it up, sometimes just for fun, sometimes maliciously. But there has to be some kind of conflict going on, or the Instigator will try to create one.

Aside from the players, the parent group has its own unique cast of characters with their own subplots. Sometimes they are grown-up (or not so grown-up) versions of the player characters themselves. Every parent team has The Talker, sometimes a couple of them, and they are usually the nicest, most engaging people in the world. They just love to talk, all of the time and to anyone. A version of the Talker is The Story Teller, who prefers to have a captive audience of listeners to entertain and is usually accompanied by The Topper, who loves to one-up the Story Teller with a better story.

Far away from any of the talking group will be Mr. Intensity (although it sometimes can be a Mrs.), who likes to focus complete attention on the game at hand. The Intensities can be the nicest people ever, but when there is a competition going on, so does the game face and victory must be won. There is a version of the Intensities that is The Yeller, the one who hollers nonstop at the players, at the refs, at the coaches, at pretty much anybody. The female model of the Yeller is The Screamer, who usually has a little higher pitch and can be heard from great distances.

The Timekeeper doesn’t run the clock but always carries a stopwatch and monitors the ice time of every player. The Timekeeper might also be, or can often be seen with The Negotiator, who is usually working a deal, maybe with the team’s coach, maybe with a coach on another team. Out in the arena lobby,

The Analyst can be found offering pregame insight and predictions and breaking it all down afterward, often accompanied by The Second-Guesser, who always has a better plan than the coaches.

The Organizer sometimes ends up being The Doer, too, and makes sure that whatever needs to be done for the team gets done. Comic relief is provided by The Funny Guy, who in some cases might also be The Excess Imbiber. While typically harmless and often entertaining, you should be aware that some species of The Excess Imbiber can at times become belligerent and obnoxious and morph into The Angry One.

For some teams, it is essentially a reality television show without the television. Only much more entertaining. You just never know what will happen next or what kind of characters will emerge.

And like a good television show, you can’t wait for the next episode.

Lyle Phair can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com