Subscribe to Bourne's Blog Grab My Feed!Subscribe to Bourne's Blog Subscribe to Comments

Bowling for Kneecaps



Hockey fans, a general inquiry from a player, to you:

Why, oh why, do you all love short players so much?

Why does being 5’6″ guarantee any player an instant, devoted following?

My father was been widely cited as the “fastest skater of his era” – a nice quote considering he played during the Gretzky days with teammates like Bossy and Trottier.

It’s one of his favourite rants:  Shorter players look like they’re working twice as hard as tall guys, because their little legs have to pump more reps to keep up with us long-legged folk.  And people see the increased reps, and say things like “that little guy just never stops working”.

Punching downhill sounds fun.

Punching downhill sounds fun.

At 6’4″, it takes a tad more effort to get one of those stems up-and-through than it does when you’ve got the legs of a Pembroke Corgi.  We’re working here too, alright?  We’re trying.

Every year at fitness testing, there’s some kid with T-Rex arms that can do 45 pull-ups and only stops because the trainers like “fine, fine, we get it, enough”.

They aren’t skating faster, they just have really short legs!

I get that fans like to watch them play physical – as a taller guy, you always want to thump that little bastard that’s running around like a possessed bowling ball, but the odds of running over a guy with a lower center of gravity than a flat-side-down bosu-ball is unlikely.

Of course, all sports are, to quote Al Pacino “a game of inches”.  Two guys reach to poke the puck, or a forward drags his leg to stay onside, whatever.  The small guys are disadvantaged there.  So sure, love them, they do have a few little hurdles to jump.

I have a feeling St.Louis drew a lot of walks in Little League

I have a feeling St.Louis drew a lot of walks in Little League

Just do us lanky-leggers a favour:  Don’t say they’re working harder.  And don’t applaud the (rare) small guy who (lacks respect and) goes low (fans love the front-flip after a sub-hit, but half my college team would give their left one for the chance to beat the piss out of Nick Licari from Wisconsin.  And unlike fighting, low hits don’t come with smiles and respect at the bar).

Do you know how hard it is to co-ordinate 15 miles of limbs?  I’m not even quite at the 6’2″ line and it took me to 20 before I could get them working in the same direction.

So why, hockey fans? 

Where’s the love for the gangletrons? 

Cheering for the small guy is like being a Yankees fan.  How’s that beaten path feel under your crocs?


* The final piece of my series “A Hockey Players Life” for Max is up on their site, or it can simply be found as the latest article under the Max button at the top of this page.


18 Responses to “Bowling for Kneecaps”
  1. ms.conduct says:

    Wish I could help, but apart from Clutterbuck (who I’m irrationally, unflinchingly, unabashedly fond of), I’m not crazy about any smaller players, regardless of their energy or talent. Kinda like small dogs… Your chihuahua may be the best dog ever, but I’ll still take the slightly naughty golden retriever if I have to choose.

    Love the really big boys. Though I especially love them if they can skate with a little grace, which it seems like only about 25% of them can do. Too many do that perpendicular arm swing that looks so counter-productive and drives me up the wall. Talking to you, John Scott and Matt Kassian.

  2. Sam Woo says:

    Clutterbuck is like the energizer bunny.

    I like players that play their hearts out and maximize their talents with their effort and passion, not their ego.

  3. Jake says:

    Wow Bourney. You’re really pushing my buttons. My crocs are as compfy as your Mets are terrible.

  4. possum says:

    I think part of why people love them so much is that they just look like they’re playing harder. Sure it’s because they have shorter legs, but to the average fan who may not know a great deal about the game, it’s awesome. Why did everyone love Spud Webb or Muggsy Bogues? They’re the underdog, they’re beating the odds, and in some cases they’re beating ass. Being that I’ve been “raised” watching the minor leagues mostly I see these guys a lot.

    Konrad McKay (Cree Nation, bounced around ECHL/CHL and went to LNAH)
    Jordan and the late Terrence Tootoo
    Tom Zanoski (with Gwinnett now)
    Ryan Lang (a Nanook you should remember)
    Mark Lee (product of the Q, mostly ECHL with a cup in the A)

    Personally I’d rather see a guy that’s in the low 6 foot range who has the same fire. Perfect example, who I think you’ll also know, is Brandon Cullen. The guy’s roughly 6′ tall but went all out every single shift, not to mention he will punch your face off if he can (tell Lessard to shut his trap, I’ve seen Cully do it). Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to tend my moonshine still and watch the race from this weekend again.

  5. Far North says:

    I have a soft spot for smaller players for two basic reasons:

    1) They’ve spent years fighting the perception that they’re “too small” to play hockey. Look at any scouting or fan site. If a player is under 6′, size immediately becomes a point of discussion. And if the player is 5’10″ or less, well . . . he’s likely to be passed over in a draft in favor of less-skilled but taller players.

    2) Smaller players are generally excellent skaters. I won’t claim that they’re working harder than their taller teammates, but they typically rely on speed, mobility and smarts to get through traffic — they can’t just bulldoze their way to the net.

    My question is: Why are short players so easily disqualified? There’s no question that being tall is an advantage — but that doesn’t mean a guy who’s 5’9″ can’t compete. I’m a small female who plays defense in a non-checking league. Okay, it’s not the NHL. But I’m less worried about tall players than I am about the short, solid ones. Strength (and speed) are more dangerous than height.

  6. Blake says:

    Ms. C…I don’t know that there’s a Wild/Aeros fan that doesn’t have an irrational, unabashed love for Clutterbuck…

  7. Ashleytheclimber says:

    Hey, we short people gotta stick together!!

    Being 5′ 3″, I think people like shorter players because there’s a belief that being short is harder then being tall, something I can sometimes attest to. From my rock climbing standpoint, being shorter, can be better, as I’m more flexible then my 6 ft+ climbing partners. also I have smaller fingers, so rocks are bigger and more useful. But there are also downsides, mainly the obvious, less reach, and that a 35 lbs pack is heavier for me.

    If I was tall, I’d probably hit my head on everything.

    Great new site!! Awesome blog!!

  8. jtbourne says:

    Hahaha, chilllll everybody. I knew this would be a polarizing topic.

    First, there were a lot of good responses, in comments, to my email, and to facebook. I understand that smaller guys are beating odds (and that’s a fact). I understand that people like to see the underdog succeed. But if you’re small, that’s all people care about. Immediate fan-base, good or not.

  9. Marc says:

    Licari? You mean Likens and MacMurchy played clean compared to Licari…. wow, the more you know…

  10. Jbrown says:

    Okay, I’m late to the party, but to me it’s a simple question of mass. Big guys are harder to push around and harder to get around. Bodying someone off the puck or off the ball isn’t so easy when you’ve got weight and leverage working against you. When I was a small guy I had to be smarter, faster and more resourceful (aka dirty) than the big guys in order to make a difference. Of course now that I’m bigger, my play style just makes me an asshole…

  11. jtbourne says:

    Likens and MacMurchy played physical in different ways – Likens with his stick, MacMurchy with his body. Though both were frustrating to play, neither were in the same frustration league as that Licari – he damaged more *CL’s than I knew existed. He’s not a well-liked (or well-respected) ex-opponent.

  12. Firestorm says:

    Worst of all, there is no method of retribution against the little sh*tdisturbers. A little guy goes low, gives a little spear to the groin and a face wash in the corner, but the big guy can’t just drop the mitts and pound on him. If there is a fight and the bigger guy wins, it’s supposed to happen. If the little guy wins, he gets bonus points. I’m with you: there should be a “must be taller than…” line on hockey rinks.

  13. jtbourne says:

    Far North – I think “smaller players are generally excellent skaters” is sort of a clunky generalization. I don’t think it’s necessarily true, plus, the taller you are, the more any little skating nuance will be accentuated.

  14. Far North says:

    Yes, I’m definitely generalizing when I say that smaller players are often excellent skaters. And admittedly, I have a lot to learn about hockey (that’s why I read this blog!). But I don’t think my statement is totally off-base. How many times have you heard a coach say, “He’s a good skater for his size”? That’s always about a big guy, right? I think there’s a little more tolerance for “average” skating skills when the player is tall.

    (That’s not entirely unreasonable. Skating is just one factor in the whole package.)

    Another thought — wouldn’t small players actually have a physical advantage when it comes to skating, because of their low center of gravity? That should make you happy — it boosts your argument that you tall guys deserve more respect!

  15. Neil says:

    Obviously short people are playing with less physical potential and they cannot learn how to be taller, and when someone like St.Louis makes a team over someone 6’4 with the same stats you gotta give some respect. At the same time, and what I think Bourne might be saying (forgive me if I’m wrong), is that when Martin St.Louis and Joe Thornton skate at around the same speed, Marty earns the title of “hard-working” while Joe is apparently lazy, and it doesn’t have anything to do with effort or speed, just skating styles (we shouldn’t be blamed for thinking he linked to the Corgi just for a cute picture).

  16. jtbourne says:

    Yeah, that was what I was getting at. Just because a little guy has to take two strides to one doesn’t mean it’s twice as difficult. Corgi defense:
    a) a Corgi is sort of an obscure reference
    b) their legs are really short
    c) I just learned to make words into links with this new blog, so I had to do it. Expect more of that!

  17. rob neilson says:

    How can you not love a guy like Theo Fleury? Any game you watch him in you know he’s been up doing lines and pounding beers til six am, AND STILL will take the puck from you in the corner and put it in the net.

  18. jtbourne says:

    Ha, I welcome any and all readers who like players that live like that. The games about entertainment for fans right? So entertain me! “Are you not entertained!?!”

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!