Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Kudos To MacLean's

Occasionally, there are some columnists in magazines and newspapers who pull back the shroud of darkness on a subject who should be recognized. I had read an article from the April 2014 edition of MacLean's magazine, and completely appreciated the candor and tone of the article written by Charlie Gillis in his piece entitled "How parents (and their lawyers) are killing minor hockey". Mu apologies for not linking this sooner, but it was a piece I was looking for tonight and finding it brought back an appreciation for Mr. Gillis' work. This is a good read, folks. I highly suggest you read through the piece, and then follow through with this article.

First off, the number of incidents across Canada is staggering. And these are just the reported ones! That means there could be dozens of incidents that haven't been recorded, and that's a frightening thought. For a country who claims to be a peace-keeping nation, we sure take up arms when it comes to our children playing hockey!

We talk about raising good Canadian hockey players, but the article seems to be pointing at a Canada that is far different. As Mr. Gillis writes, "Families with NHL ambitions for their youngsters have in recent years stepped up efforts to undermine minor hockey associations' authority to tell them where they can play, dragging everyone from volunteer coaches to Hockey Canada officials into court over issues the judiciary thought it settled long ago. Some families have even resorted to human rights commissions, where they've protested the gross unfairness of their children’s plight". This is a cry for help, readers, and I'm not sure where to start.

No longer is minor hockey fun. I've seen coaches - parents who volunteer to run the team - implementing systems for kids as young as six. There is no way that kids that young should be told to play a position. How about we start taking a different approach to hockey? How about worrying less about ice-time and less about how many touches your kid gets, focusing instead on having fun and teaching kids to be good teammates?

I know - it's a novel idea. You're probably saying, "Hey, Teebz, that's a pipe dream, man." And you're probably right in that some people won't want to go along with the plan as their kid is the next Crosby, Weber, or Quick based on his or her play at six years-old. The problem, as Don Cherry put it, is that "the two per cent of goofs are still going to be goofs." That's a fact of life we need to face, and the 98% of us who have some higher brain function should force these idiots out of the rinks once and for all.

I'm not the only one who sees the game being far too structured at the younger ages, though. As Mr. Gillis wrote in his article,
Since 2009, enrolment in tyke through atom (ages five through 10) has slid by about 6,300 players, or three per cent, while peewee, bantam and midget enrolment has dropped off by 7.4 per cent. Time commitment, expense and safety concerns all feed into these declines, say officials at Hockey Canada. But when the governing body teamed with hockey-gear-maker Bauer last summer to survey 875 families who'd kept their kids out of the game, the reason they heard most was, "Hockey just doesn't seem fun."
That is a damning statement, folks. Bauer, who has a large investment in hockey, couldn't have been happy about that statement either. The fact that families kept their kids out because hockey just isn't fun is a great way to kill minor hockey and ever subsequent level above it.

What is wrong with us? Why does our national winter sport seem to bring out the worst in us when it comes to our kids learning the game? What is our malfunction when it comes to watching our kids play the game we love?

If there was a simple answer, we would have already made the changes. Mr. Gillis' article is sobering in terms of our behavior at hockey games, and it should be a reminder that despite how peaceful we believe we are, we are savages when it comes to kids' hockey.

As a Canadian, I'm embarrassed. And I hope you remember this simple message the next time you want to strip a layer off a coach, official, or player at a minor hockey game: you're an embarrassment as a fan, as a parent, and as a Canadian. And I will not apologize for saying this.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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