I was all ready to write my article on Olympic sports that rely on judges to determine winners and losers and just as I was about to get my first sentence written on the computer screen, I was sent a YouTube video that, once again, has changed my main focus.
In an area near Winnipeg, a hockey game featuring 12-year-olds was marred by an incident in which a referee attempted to break up a mugging by one player on another when the ref appeared to lose his footing and he ended up landing on top of the instigating player. (Remember referees in hockey games played by 12-year-olds are usually learning the craft. They are not seasoned officials that you may get at a Midget AAA, Junior A, or professional game). The YouTube video focused on the referee and called it a video in which a ref smashes a kid to the ice. It, conveniently, leaves out the foul mouthed parent who could make a sailor look like a good Christian boy as well as the coach, who jumps on to the ice and engages in fisticuffs with the ref.
I think it was a couple of weeks ago when a Winnipeg area hockey team made the news when a mother refused to leave a dressing room and got shoved by a coach. The husband got involved and the coaches ended up beating him to a pulp. What is it with hockey?
Admittedly, I didn’t play hockey beyond my formative years. It was quickly priced to the point where my family couldn’t afford it, so it’s hard for me to really understand why normal human beings undergo an incredible personality change when their kids hit the ice. I played baseball and several school sports and at no time did I ever witness this kind of behaviour. I now have my own kids in music, soccer, baseball, dance, and football. At no time have I ever seen this kind of barbaric nonsense from grown adults. There maybe a few ‘out to lunch’ parents, but I don’t think anything close to a fight or a verbal assault laced with swear words has ever been in my midst at any of the events I’ve attended. I’ve even coached minor soccer and minor baseball and have never experienced a raving lunatic parent or seen a parent go bonkers on an official.
I’ve had a few conversations with hockey parents and all of them, to a person, tell me that abusive behaviour is not a problem. Isolated incidents get publicized and make everyone else look bad. Well, if that’s the case, it’s time for the hockey world to clean up its own backyard. The reputation of hockey parents, and their kids for that matter, perceived by non-hockey families is very negative. It’s, sometimes, unjust. But, I can tell you I have people that I consider to be very close friends and really good quality individuals turn into complete neanderthals once they get inside a rink. I mean, it’s like somebody laced their coffee with a full bottle of tequila.
My own opinion when it comes to minor hockey parents and players is this: the parents need a big time wake up call. I can’t think of a single player from Yorkton currently playing in the NHL. Oh, sure there is Jarret Stoll, but isn’t he from Neudorf? Okay, let’s say it’s Yorkton. Quick, name a second NHLer from Yorkton? I can’t. I had to do some research and the best I could come up over the last 100 years was Brent Fedyk, Larry Popein, and Metro Prystai. Buy a lotto ticket or go sit at the casino if you want to hit the jackpot. The impression given to me is that the parents are willing to sacrifice everything (time, money, you name it) all in the name of forging a path as clear as possible for their son to make The Show. My impression of the players is that they recognize this at a very early age and become very spoiled, and self-entitled. Everything is about them and what can you do for them. It’s not uncommon to see kids get NHL style treatment from the equipment they use, to the make-up of their dressing room, to the cadillac bus to take on road trips, to the money spent on professional coaching to enhance skills. I saw a comment about the Winnipeg video from the weekend and a person wondered what do the kids think. The person assumed the kids think their parents are wackos and are embarrassed to be associated with them. I disagree. I think the kids are proud to have their parents sticking up for them. After all, how dare another player make you mad or heaven forbid a referee try to tell you what to do.
I see Junior A players all the time who are, in reality, going nowhere as far as a hockey career is concerned, and yet they have to have their skates sharpened a certain way, need to use a special brand of stick, eat a particular meal before a game, and get a specified amount of rest (I could go on and on). If you are the cause of any of those things being disrupted, you have doomed this poor player to a terrible of life of... what I call... reality.
Too bad I’m out of space again this week, because I wanted to also talk about Turner Ottenbreit, a player brought up well by his parents who is the exception rather than the norm.
Maybe next week.