Lee Chin: Hurling could learn from ice hockey’s school of hard knocks

Wexford hurler Lee Chin has admitted he was bowled over by the violence within professional ice-hockey, yet he believes hurling could learn a thing or to from it.

Lee Chin: Hurling could learn from ice hockey’s school of hard knocks

Chin, part of a Wexford side on the cusp of a surprise promotion to Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League, had an eye-opening week with NHL side the Vancouver Canucks as part of the AIB commissioned The Toughest Trade documentary series.

He befriended Erik Gudbranson, a player earning $3.5m per year, yet was blown away by the ‘drinking culture’ at the club and the ferocity of the fights which broke out during games.

Chin said that, at first, he thought exchanging blows was ‘barbaric’ and ‘crazy’, though he quickly came to respect it and he suggested hurling could learn from it, particularly in light of what he believes are diminishing levels of aggression in the game.

“If a guy is acting the maggot on the ice with another guy, then he has to pay for what he’s done and that’s the way they look at it,” said Chin. “Basically, they police that rule and they feel that if the rule went out of the game and there was no more fighting, the game would get so much dirtier.

“The game I went to watch was between the Canucks and San Jose and there were two fights. There was actually a dose of the mumps going over there and seven or eight of the Canucks team were on lockdown and they had to bring in some younger guys and they wanted to prove themselves and try to earn the love of the fans and one or two of them had to throw off the gloves to do that. That’s the way it is there.

“It was pretty much sin-bin, two minutes in the sin-bin, and then get back in and play. So it was basically ‘go ahead and fight, get your two minutes rest and come back’.

“I know that rule was never in hurling, but the fighting, you know, I found it really interesting.

“To me, it was such a player power thing, that they controlled it. That meant something to me.

“I don’t know why, because it was never really in our game, but you used to see a lot of brawls in hurling and stuff like that. Lads used to just get with it and go back into position and hurl again. If that happens now you’re left with 11-a-side, like a soccer game. Lads would be getting sent off everywhere.

“I think our game is not as physical, anymore. I think the players and the fans all love the physical side of our game.

“I think there’s elements coming into our game at the moment that kind of cuts that out. There’s so many games I’ve been involved in, and one’s you’d watch, that there’s so many questionable frees given for certain things that, as a player, I wouldn’t be happy with.”

Chin will line out for Wexford on Sunday when they travel to play Offaly knowing a win will guarantee promotion to Division 1A. Even if they lose, they can still go up by beating Laois in Round 5 and the sense that Wexford did the hard part by beating Limerick and Galway last month is strong. New boss Fitzgerald is clearly making huge strides though he won the league outright with Clare last year, yet still slumped in the Championship and he was effectively removed afterwards by his players. Chin shrugged when asked if there’s a possibility that the high point of Wexford’s season this year could have already arrived in February.

“I suppose there’s always that question of a team peaking too early and I suppose you might look at us and say ‘is that what’s happening?’ We are just doing what we are asked to do and we are happy that we are in a position where we can get promotion in the league, that would be massive for us. If a league quarter-final comes around then, hopefully, we can continue with a bit of momentum into those stages. Regarding the summer, I don’t know, because you can only tell at that stage, but we feel that right now we are still learning, that we still have a lot of work to do and, if we get that done, it will only benefit us in the summer even more than it is benefiting us at the moment.”

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