NEW FOR THE OLD
In recent years, skating, finesse and play-making have taken a back seat to slap shots and bruising body checks at all levels of hockey, with the result that the sport is far less fun to play than it once was. Whether it is less fun to watch is a matter for argument, but there is no argument that participation has declined.
Enter Coley Burke and the American Oldtimers Hockey Association. Modeled after the Canadian organization of the same name, the AOHA is for men 35 and older who would like to play hockey without risking their lives for it. "A 45-year-old guy doesn't want to go out and crack a guy over the head, and he doesn't want to be pushed around by a 22-year-old who's lean and green," says Burke, a 37-year-old New York lawyer who was an All-Ivy hockey player at Yale in 1963. "He wants to skate and shoot and pass and have a good time."
AOHA rules differ from the norm in two respects: slap shots and body contact are forbidden. Now in its second year, the league has more than 2,000 on its mailing list; elsewhere it is booming. Canada has more than 10 thousand members, and last year 56 teams showed up for a tournament in Copenhagen.
It is Burke's fervent hope that all this will somehow change the direction youth hockey has been taking in this country for several years and lead to the sort of participant explosion that tennis recently experienced. "It's ridiculous to see these kids go out and hit the way they do," he says. "Professional hockey, with its brutality, has ruined the game on a broad level. More and more kids are getting out of the game." Then he adds, "If you were on a tennis court and getting ready to hit a drop shot and your opponent jumped over the net and gave you a cross-body block, there'd be a lot less people playing tennis, too."
THE VALLEY OF DEBT
Steve Cauthen's problems continued last week when he suddenly changed his mind and decided not to leave Santa Anita. His agent, Lenny Goodman, returned to New York, leaving Steve with another agent, Chick McLellan. Two days later Cauthen switched to Harry (the Hat) Hacek in hopes of getting the mounts he needed to break his woeful slump.
When last Sunday's races at Santa Anita were run, the losing streak had reached 105. Nobody knows why the super-jockey of 1977 and half of 1978 has become the bust of '79, but the consensus of owners, trainers and fellow jockeys is that he is simply getting on too many slow horses.
One of the interesting aspects of Cauthen's case is that trainers are still using him—he had eight mounts Sunday—thus backing him as he tries to find his way back into the winner's circle.
As far as horseplayers go, Cauthen is riding them right into the valley of debt. There is an old system for bettors who wager on jockeys: when a good jockey is going bad, double your bet on every mount until he wins. However, no gambler can endure a 105-race losing streak by doubling up. Starting with a $2 bet on Cauthen's first losing mount and progressing through his slump, a player would have lost $40,564,819,207,303,340,847,894,502,572,032 on the final bet.