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The ‘roaring game’ and other changes in sport

I was thinking about changes this week.

Specifically changes in sports over the years.

It came to a point when I was interviewing Jennifer Jones on the After Nine show on CFIS on Monday morning. Partway through the interview, I asked her if had started curling with a corn broom.

She laughed and said she hadn’t, but she had known people who did. I wasn’t asking the question for the purpose of getting a definite answer, but instead as a lead-in for a question about how leadership styles had changed over the years since she started skipping a rink.

But afterwards, I was thinking about changes in sports. I also saw it in the Brier when I saw one fellow “sweeping” by pushing with his broom from directly behind the rock, almost like a snowplow in front of it.

I remember when I was watching curling years ago, hearing the thwack-thwack of the corn brooms hitting the ice. It made it hard at times to hear the skip’s instructions, but that wasn’t the main reason for the change to push brooms, I think.

The problem with corn brooms is they’re made out of cornstalks. That means there was a lot of time spent during a game clearing the ice surface to make sure the next rock wouldn’t suddenly go sideways.

It also means, though, that when you hear people call curling “the roaring game”, it’s lost some of its meaning. When you were in a club with four sheets of ice and everybody was making those corn brooms work, there was a lot of noise.

Hockey has seen its share of changes as well, obviously. When I started watching the game on a regular basis and following it, there were 12 teams – and Vancouver wasn’t one of them. Now there are 31 (and some people might argue Vancouver some years still doesn’t have one).

Baseball was played by nine players per team, with no designated hitter. Montreal had just started play as the Expos, but the Toronto Blue Jays were still a few years away. Nobody had heard about steroids, and if a player had a breakout year at the bat, it was just assumed the stars had aligned themselves for him that year. You didn’t automatically wonder if he was doing steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

One thing that I don’t recall hearing about as a problem in any sport when I started following them in the early 1970s was concussions. You occasionally heard about a player suffering a concussion during a game, and maybe he didn’t come back for the rest of the game, but he was usually playing the next game.

Now, all sports have concussion protocols in place regarding how long a player has to stay out of a game, and the teams are required to follow them.

I still think, though, that one of the best remedies was one I heard from a football coach years ago. When asked how you stopped a player from sneaking back into the game even after the coaches and trainers had told him not to, he said it was simple.

“You hide his helmet. No player is so shook-up he’ll go in without a helmet.”

Oh, yeah. Helmets as required equipment in hockey. There’s another change.