Thursday August 21, 2014

Clarifying minor hockey position


Everyone makes mistakes. People get taken out of context. My article a few weeks back about minor hockey parents has shown that I fall into both columns.

Because of those facts, I feel it’s necessary to mention that if young people want to pursue a childhood dream of making the National Hockey League, then that’s a very healthy goal. But, let’s remember that not being on the ice in the final minute of your Atom game or getting some extra powerplay time or being the victim of that slashing call in the Peewee AA game that the referee didn’t notice is hardly what’s standing in your way. That’s really all my article was about. As parents, let’s just sit back and allow our children to play and enjoy the game for however long they have to play it. Let’s not have the memories be that of a fist fight with your coach or a referee. Or, a YouTube video of you coming within an inch of uttering a death threat.

In Saskatchewan, we have a strong hockey system that allows young people to play elite level hockey greater than those in some of the other provinces in Canada. The Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League are amongst the best in the country and there are appearances in national events to prove that fact.  

I’ve made mention in past articles about how difficult it is to carve out an NHL career. The odds are incredible that an individual will not make it, so it’s imperative to have something else in mind to do with your adult life. The odds are also stacked against an average child from making the SJHL. Remember, there are 12 teams with a roster of 25 players each.  That’s 300 players and not all of them will be from Saskatchewan. 300 SJHL players represents less than one urban centre’s minor hockey enrollment for all age groups, let alone for those 18, 19, and 20. Making it to the pinnacle of junior hockey in Saskatchewan isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do either and should be considered a privilege.

The SJHL represents, for most, the last line of competitive, high level hockey. For those that are fortunate enough to keep going, a number will have distinguished college careers. Some will play minor professional. The odd one will get an NHL tryout and a few (Jaden Schwartz and Chris Kunitz, for example) will even, eventually, make the NHL.

For those that are finished and move on to careers outside of hockey, many will use skills learned through the game. Look at how many have become police officers, teachers, firefighters, social workers, and other professions that show leadership, teamwork, and dedication.

My fear going forward is that, as parents, we are raising our kids in a manner that deprives them of learning some of the traits required to be society leaders.  Let’s not show our kids entitlement, but rather make them work for what they wish to achieve, and remember it’s what THEY want to achieve and not what WE want them to have. Let’s put the onus on them and not point fingers at a bad referee, unfair coach, selfish teammates, substandard equipment, a bad meal, etc. Those that are most successful in life, usually become great because they make the best of their surroundings (good or bad) and learn to discover their inner strengths.   

Young people should not recognize that the way to get what you want in life is through a fist fight in a locker room with a person in a position of authority or through screaming obscenities at a neutral party assigned to officiate a fair game.

The SJHL is a great league that I’ve had the privilege to have been a part of since 2002. While it provides players an avenue to pursue dreams and continue their elite hockey beyond their teenaged years, my enjoyment comes as a fan. I think as an entertainment product, it’s underrated and my hope is that fifteen years from now the players are every bit as good (or better) than they are today.  

Sometimes I may go overboard expressing some of the things I see as issues facing our game, but that’s only because I love hockey and don’t want to see it become anything less than great.

I have received a lot of words of encouragement and thank-yous from people around the Yorkton area, who don’t wish to be part of some of the things I have outlined in my article a few weeks ago. For that, I say a special Thank-You to you. I do also know that I have upset some people in minor hockey and even in the junior circles and that wasn’t my intent at all. However, I’m sorry to those I may have offended. I didn’t want to make anyone mad. I, simply, was hoping we could spark a discussion.  

Remember, I may be a writer, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. One of the lost arts in this day and age is the ability to have a healthy debate. I don’t think there is anything wrong with two people agreeing to disagree. What is wrong is for people to think young children shouldn’t play hockey and have dreams or think that the SJHL is a nowhere league. That wasn’t my intended message, but if that’s how it was received please accept my apology.



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