Throughout my interviews with various Gaels coaching staff, the desire to embody a gritty and hard-headed work ethic has stood out. Gaels Men’s Hockey Coach Brett Gibson described it as ‘blue-collar.’
Blue-collar workers are unafraid of physical labour and getting their hands dirty, as opposed to white-collar workers, who often work desk jobs with little physical demand.
In terms of play, a blue-collar team is willing to get aggressive and fight their battles. Blue collar teams don’t give up, earning their successes through hard work.
In an earlier interview with The Journal, Gibson mentioned the play style’s appeal when considering how to rebound from the the Gaels’ struggles in the first half of last year’s season. He said that historically, the team’s identity was based on its blue-collar play—something the Gaels need to get back to.
We don’t have to look far outside of the realm of U SPORTS to find examples of notoriously successful—though sometimes controversial—blue-collar teams.
The 2004 Detroit Pistons were a feared basketball team in the NBA, comprised of many physically dominating, hardworking athletes who helped the team clinch the NBA Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy that season.
In the NFL, the 1976 Oakland Raiders team was home to Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, two of the most feared hitters at the time. They achieved a Super Bowl win that season.
This gritty style of play was typically seen from teams years ago, especially in the hockey world, where enforcers were a big part of the game. A lot of fans are excited that the grittiness and dedication to the game is making a comeback in a much safer manner.
The Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers are currently two of the most hard-nosed, head-down, gritty hockey teams in the NHL. With both teams meeting in the Stanley Cup Final this season it’s fair to say this blue-collar mentality is a desirable attribute for any team in any sport.
The blue-collar mentality Gibson seeks is a great opportunity for the Gaels’ defensive improvement.
With the addition of the Soo Thunderbirds forward Dharan Cap, who won the NOJHL’s Top Defensive Forward award in the 2021-22 season, and Nathan Ribau, a physical defenseman from the Niagara Ice Dogs, who’s valued for his aggression and tenacity when battling on the ice the Gaels are taking a good step towards this type of play.
The return to a blue-collared form is feasible today’s game, and we won’t have to wait much longer to watch the vintage style of play in Men’s Hockey.
The Gaels Men’s Hockey team opens up the season at home on Oct. 5 against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. I anticipate a close, physical game that you won’t want to miss.
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