The state of sick hockey? (5×8 – 2/25/14)

There’s been plenty of hating against the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team in the wake of the egg they laid in Sochi. But these two videos, one released four days ago and one over the weekend, are still a pretty neat celebration.

Here endeth today’s good feelings about the state of hockey.

In an op-ed in the Star Tribune, Dale Vaillancourt of Burnsville says the state of youth hockey is “sick.”

I visited the youth hockey website in my town to check on fees and sign-up dates. There, I found the names and numbers of a few of the age-level coaches. After placing a few calls, I reached a “team secretary,” the wife of a coach. That was the first red flag.

I asked her about the schedule, and she said she did not recognize my son’s name. I told her it would be his first year, and I was met with a long pause.

“Well, if he’s never played before, he’ll have to be on a “C” team,” she said, and gave me the number to that team secretary.

When I reached the “C” secretary, she nicely listed the practice, game and tournament schedule, along with dates of supplementary camps as well as strength and conditioning training times offered at the rink. Turns out that for 9- and 10-year-olds, practice is four to five days per week, with one to two games each week, and five to six full weekends of tournaments — some in town and some involving statewide travel.

Digesting that, I asked what time the practices would be. She was necessarily vague, because there are no set times … it could be 6 a.m. or 4 p.m. or even 9 p.m. On school days. Ice time is a scarce commodity, so teams take what they are given.

There is no room in Minnesota, he suggests, for the kid who wants to do something in the winter in addition to a little hockey. You’re either all in, or all out.

More sports: Why The Olympics Left Me Cold (WBUR).

The Legislature begins its full-time part-time work today and it’s beginning to sound as if medical marijuana won’t be much of a priority in the session.

Too bad, says Brent Olson out in Clinton, who writes the Independently Speaking column, reprinted here by permission:

We know a little girl named Greta – nice little girl, about seven. She has severe epilepsy and has been having seizures since she was five months old – a lot of them. We’re talking 15 or so a day, to the point that it has seriously interfered with her ability to walk, talk, or even feed herself.

Her parents have tried everything.


Doctors and drugs beyond counting – even brain surgery when Greta was five.

Take a moment to think about that. Think about being so desperate to help your child that when she was five, you would agree to her having brain surgery that might even not help.

And it didn’t.

Greta has a terrific family – two older sisters who are swell and a father who is a very fine man who I’ve known since he was a baby. He actually rents some of our farmland. When we decided to stop farming, he’s one of the people I offered it to, because I liked how he farmed and I liked how he lived his life. Greta’s mother? Well, people who know her will read this, so I might as well tell the truth. Her mom can be kind of a pain in the neck.

Of course, the United States Marines can be kind of a pain in the neck, too, but that doesn’t stop the president from dialing their number when something goes south.

Maria, to my knowledge, never served in the Marine Corps, but she can bring a little of that into most conversations, and where her family is concerned, she is relentless.

This story should have a happy ending, or at least a hopeful middle, because the family has finally found a medication that helps with the seizures.

Unfortunately, the medicine is a variety of medicinal marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web,” named after the little girl who first tried it. That little girl went from 60 seizures a day to none. But, as it turns out, Minnesota is not one of the twenty states where medicinal marijuana is legal. So, to save their daughter, Mark and Maria broke up their family. Greta and Maria moved 800 miles away to Colorado, where Charlotte’s Web is available, with a prescription. They bought a house and established residency. She’s telecommuting to her job as a nurse back in Minnesota, but Mark’s a farmer.

It’s damn tough to move a farm, and the money from farming is largely responsible for making all the rest of their efforts possible. To save their child, they split up their family.

The Botker’s are in a cruel trap. Many conservative folks oppose legalizing medical marijuana, because they think we have enough ways to get messed up in our society. And I can’t really argue with that.

Oh, wait, yes I can. You don’t get high from Charlotte’s Web. You don’t smoke it, and it’s developed to be very low in the component of marijuana that provides a high. It’s a drug – the way morphine is a drug. No one is talking about banning morphine, because heroin is such a problem…even though they both come from poppies. There are endless other examples.

On the other hand, some of the more liberal folks aren’t throwing their full weight behind legalizing medical marijuana, because they want the “fun” stuff legal, too, and they think that if they can tie the whole shebang together, they just might get that done.

Both sides have their agendas and Greta, a girl with a great smile and too many problems, is stuck right in the middle.

I very seldom take a strong position on anything, other than an occasional plea for common sense and getting along. I think of myself as a guy who sits pretty close to the middle on a lot of issues and being in the middle means, almost by definition, that you give some weight to both sides.

But this, this right here, is wrong. It’s just plain wrong. The governor should hear, our senators should hear, and something should be done – now. Apply the same rules to medical marijuana that are placed on any other drug. Trust the doctors to prescribe it appropriately and ruthlessly punish the people who abuse the privilege. I’m fine with all that.

Maria told me once that she and Mark had decided to live a life without regrets with Greta, that they would do everything they could do to help her.

That attitude is beyond admirable. It just shouldn’t be necessary.

“I thought it was just a given. You call 911 and 911 answers,” a north Minneapolis woman who saw a man lying in the street tells WCCO.

Another person says the phone rang and rang as she watched a burglar steal a snowblower next door.

Why isn’t anyone answering 911?

In its investigation, WCCO blames a new training program.

It had to get to this sooner or later. Broadcasters are playing the “we may shut down free TV” card in their fight against Aereo, which streams TV stations for a monthly fee.

In a filing with the Supreme Court, which hears the case soon, the broadcasters hinted they may just shut down TV.


Bonus: We’re pretty tired of war. We’re not tired of watching reunions. This one happened at Albright College in Pennsylvania.

Should voluntary water regulations for farmers be made mandatory?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Transportation issues and the Legislature.

Second hour: Painkiller addiction.

Third hour: Lots of us are afraid to fail – both in our personal and professional lives. But Megan McArdle wants you to know that it’s ok to fail. In fact, it’s GOOD to fail. If we navigate our failings correctly, McArdle argues in The Up Side of Down, we can learn to identify mistakes early on and turn them into successes.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – American RadioWorks documentary: “Say it Loud Plain. Say it Loud.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – A look at the future of the U.S. military.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Minnesota lawmakers this year will again consider banning the antibacterial agent triclosan from consumer products. The chemical has been found in Minnesota waters, and environmental groups are concerned about harmful dioxins it could produce. Public health advocates say soap with triclosan is no better than regular soap for hand washing, and several companies have already announced they will phase out the chemical from consumer products. Minnesota could be the first state to ban triclosan, but the cleaning products industry is expected to push back. MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar will report.

The cause of two deadly Minneapolis fires remains a mystery. Investigators are still trying to figure out what led to the New Years Day explosion that killed three people in a Cedar-Riverside apartment building, and they were unable to determine what caused the fire that killed five children in a North Minneapolis duplex this month. Nationally, nearly one in five fire investigations ends up “undetermined.” MPR’s Curtis Gilbert will have the update.

Before ALS takes your life, the disease takes your voice. That’s when patients turn to synthetic speech through a computer. But now there’s a way to customize it with your own, natural voice before it’s too late. NPR will report on voice banking.

  • John O.

    #1) Pick your youth sport and there is money to be made everywhere you turn. It isn’t just about making money on uniforms, gear, renting space, paying coaches and trainers, etc. Don’t forget your friendly neighborhood orthopaedic surgeon either; he/she is making bank with kids coming in with all kinds of injuries requiring surgery and/or rehab. Our area even has a specialized after-hours “urgent care” for just orthopaedic-related injuries.

  • MrE85

    1) I hope that Dale Vaillancourt is as concerned about his kids education as he is about their ice time…but I’m sure he is.
    4) My teevee hasn’t been “free” in some time, but that was my choice, I guess.

  • #2 – with such a short session, not much of anything will be a priority outside of passing the bonding bill. I know there are high hopes for a minimum wage increase, but I still wouldn’t hold my breath. Any policy proposals that would require hearings in multiple committees probably don’t stand much chance, unless groundwork was laid during the 2013 session.

  • John

    4) i guess I’ll just stop watching broadcast TV completely if that comes to pass. It would only be a small step from where I’m at now (my over the air tv programming is definitely free – after a modest investment in an antenna a couple years ago). Hopefully the good folks at PBS won’t decide that it’s a good idea (though most PBS is already free-on-demand through roku/apple/etc. boxes already).

    Nothing like driving me farther into the arms of the pay-to-stream services (Netflix mostly). Good planning networks.

    • Agreed. If they shut down TV, they may be surprised at how few people care.

      • John

        There are people who will care. I have some friends who live in rural enough areas that they don’t have high speed internet or cable as an option (and aren’t willing to pay for a dish), so they’ll care, but most of us probably won’t. (they can get high speed through cell towers, but it’s prohibitively expensive to have anything with large enough data caps that it’s realistic).

        • I think it’s a generational thing. Younger people think nothing — for reasons that escape me — on spending ridiculous amounts of money for their “connectivity.” And over time, most all sports events have moved from “you get it for free in exchange for watching advertising” to “you pay for it and still watch the advertising” and nobody seems to have noticed.

          Throw in the fact that Comcast is the new AT&T (ask your grandparents) and I’m not sure why there isn’t more outcry about what’s happening with over-the-air TV (oh, wait! Yes, I do. The head of the FCC is a former lobbyist for the cable TV industry).

          Once the Comcast is finished assembling its monopoly, it’s going to get pretty ugly. We saw that this week with the shakedown of Netflix.

          Fortunately, when the process has shaken itself out, we can dismantle the FCC since there will be no reason an agency set up to regulat bandwidth and radiotelephone frequencies still needs to exist.

          • John

            My experience is that the younger people spending more on connectivity are not actually the ones doing the spending. The number of youngsters (crap. . . I’m 34 and calling people youngsters) at work who have their parents footing the connectivity bill is amazing to me. When they do make the transition to paying their own bill, the cell phone and internet are two things that are just as “necessary” in their minds as electricity and gas.

            So, they suck it up and pay.

            more to the point of paying for entertainment – I’m about fed up with the whole screen based entertainment industry anyways – be it sports, drama or the old sitcom, I am tired of being advertised to everywhere I look – particularly if I’m paying for something in the first place. We don’t have a Hulu + subscription, primarily because I’d be paying for it and still get to watch advertising (don’t get me started on product placement). If they had an option where I could pay more than the base price and get no ads, I might consider it.

            We bought our son a popular brand eBook reader for Christmas (it’s what he wanted), and I was more than happy to fork over an extra $20 to keep the ads off his screen.

            Between radio, the library, music streaming (I actively look for services with minimal advertising), renting a movie (or netflix) every now and then and the occasional play or sportsball game in person, I have enough available to keep myself and family entertained year round. Even when it’s -10 in February and no one but me wants to be outside.

          • I like John’s point: We have more entertainment/media at our fingertips than we know what to do with. Take away my TV and my internet and I’ll be fine with everything else I still have. Maybe with less screens in my life, I’ll find more entertainment in my community.

            Everybody is pushing something. We live in an age of publicity.

          • boB from WA

            Actually Bob, the FCC will still need to exist only because the radio frequencies they regulate cover more than just radio or TV. Not that the FCC is doing a great job. Look at the problem they are having in setting up frequencies for PTC (Positive Train Control) which was mandated for the railroads back in ’08.

  • John

    1) Hockey has been this way in MN for at least 30 years (as far back as my frame of reference goes). Nothing to see here folks, move right along.

  • “There is no room in Minnesota, he suggests, for the kid who wants to do something in the winter in addition to a little hockey. You’re either all in, or all out.”

    You just have to know where to look:

    /i play in several “Beer League” divisions through HF and have only been playing hockey myself for about 6 years (I’m 50 years old now).

  • Dave

    With how many issues have we watched this happen? We watch coastal and western states make progress on issues that could be considered “live and let live” issues. It’s maddening to see middle-America states have the same stupid debates and then maybe, finally, after too many years, relent.

    I have no idea why law enforcement should even have a seat at the table when it comes to the medical marijuana conversation. Recreational pot, sure, but certainly not medicinal.

  • DaveG55337

    I pointed out to Dale in a comment on the Strib site that there ARE many options for less-intense hockey leagues.
    I am a coach with the Minnesota Hockey Rec League. Interestingly enough, Dale is my neighbor in Burnsville and a number of the kids on my 12U Rec League team are from the Burnsville Association territory (although my kid is out of the AVHA).
    Rec league has 12U, 14U, and 17U levels. 1 practice and 1 game per week Jan-March, roughly $200-250 for the entire season (includes jersey, socks and ice time).
    Teams are organized by location (my kids are Prior Lake, Burnsville, Savage, AV, Lakeville, and surrounding) and also balanced by skill level/experience. There are new-to-hockey kids and kids with years of experience on each team.
    It’s a great experience and the numbers of kids looking for this type of program are exploding. Check it out by Googling Minnesota Hockey Rec League.
    The intensity of the Association wasn’t for my son. But….I also have a daughter in the full-on AVHA program. She’s 7 years old and skates 4-6 times per week (Mites and 8U Girls) and she loves every second.
    Personally, I find that Minnesota offers something for everyone when it comes to hockey. Now that I coach about 10 hours/week, I have started playing old fart hockey again myself.

    • JRS

      Great to hear that there are moderate options for youth hockey. I’ve coached youth/high school lacrosse for 12 years and have been part of a very grass-roots program the entire time. I really like watching hockey (played one year in grade school but wasn’t a good skater), but I have found myself attempting to steer my 3 1/2 year old daughter away from hockey and toward lacrosse and soccer (although the same things may be able to be said for most soccer programs now). Hope these types of hockey programs continue to grow.