Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Is This Slapshot?

Scanning through the news today, I was sickened at a story about minor hockey in Ontario found in the Globe and Mail today. I'll get to this in a second, but what is it that makes a hockey fight between two men so appealing, but when it happens between eight year-olds, we're calling for changes to the game? There's entertainment - the NHL is that, and markets itself as a professional sport AND entertainment. However, minor hockey between pre-adolescent kids is nowhere close to being entertainment in terms of hockey fights and line brawls.

The story, written by Unnati Ghandi and Caroline Alphonso, appears in the November 27 edition of the Globe and Mail, and is entitled "Coaches under fire after teams of 8-year-olds brawl on ice". You can read the online version here.

Again, I am sickened by what was reported, most notably this part: "Coaches allegedly also encouraged the fighting, police say".

Excuse me? The coaches encouraged the fighting between eight year-olds? Who the heck are these imbeciles? Honestly, these "coaches" should never be allowed to step behind a bench anywhere again for any sport. It takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude to send your team of eight year-olds over the boards to fight another team of eight year-olds. However, I question if either of these men have the right equipment to have any testicular fortitude at all. These men were coaching teams of eight year-old hockey players, not running a street gang.

To put this in perspective, allow yourself the luxury of being one of the parents of the children who was involved in the brawl. Would you respect a man who sent your child out to fight another child? According to Lorne Willis, the Zamboni driver at Exhibition Park Arena in Guelph, Ontario, "[t]he melee was the culmination of a game in which players were taking 'cheap shots' at each other throughout". Again, do you respect a man who can't have his team play the game with respect for both their teammates and opponents? What do you say to your child when he or she asks "did you see the fight"?

The right answer is, of course, that you tell them that fighting is wrong. However, your hockey-playing child has learned to listen to his or her coach since he or she first laced up a pair of skates. If you tell your child what he or she did is wrong, you raise doubt in the child's mind as to what the coach has told him or her. That's not good, which is why both of these men should be relieved of their coaching duties immediately with prejudice towards their disgusting actions.

As a result of the Friday evening brawl, six players and their coaches were suspended from the tournament that was eventually won by the Duffield Devils, the team that won the brawl-filled game. The Niagara Falls team withdrew from the tournament after the four members of its coaching staff were suspended.

The Guelph police were shocked at the melee. "We've certainly been sent to the arenas for disturbances, but generally it's involving parents or fans," said Sergeant Cate Welsh, spokeswoman for the Guelph police. "But not sending kids at that age level onto the ice. That's the allegation made at this point, that they both cleared their benches, and, wow, it's a pretty young age."

The authors of the story also contacted Don Cherry, who had this to say about it: "'It's a bad thing when you hear stuff like that, it's ridiculous, it never should have happened. But nobody ever says anything about the thousands and thousands of games where it never happened,' he said in an interview last night."

"'It's our national game and we as Canadians like to eat our own, and we have to rip anything that we're good at.'"

Now, I like Don Cherry. He's an entertaining guy. However, he's way off-base here. Eight year-olds engaging in hockey fights should be the furthest thing from any Canadian's mind. In response to Mr. Cherry, I would sincerely hope he gives this a little thought and speaks out against the actions of the coaches and players on his next installment of Coach's Corner on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada. After all, it's Coach's Corner with a guy who was formerly a National Hockey League player and coach. I'm still surprised at Cherry's comments, and am not sure what to say about them. However, I firmly disagree with his comments based on how he framed them.

"Duffield team president Frank Carbone, who stepped in as coach over the weekend for the Toronto-based team, said his players and coaches did nothing wrong. 'From our standpoint, this incident was completely initiated and caused by the Niagara Falls coaching staff.'"

According to the article, "[t]he Ontario Minor Hockey Association is still investigating. Officials from the Niagara Falls Thunder were meeting last night", and were unable to be reached for comment.

The punishment for these coaches should be swift and brutal. There is no way that any minor hockey association should tolerate this kind of reprehensible behaviour.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

The Washington Post has a great opinions piece on this essentially wondering whether aspiring goons and enforcers deserve any less encouragement than aspiring keepers and goal scorers?

Marie said...

I don't know much about youth hockey (especially in Canada), but are most coaches at that age fathers of players on the team or someone brought in just to coach?

I completely agree with your post. I think it's absurd that fighting occurs in youth hockey even at the high school age level. Kids are easily influenced and molded and most are probably too scared to stand up to their coaches if he or she doesn't want to fight. I didn't play hockey but I grew up playing soccer and while on the field my coaches were like parent figures. They're there to teach you and you trust them that they're going to help you become a better player and person.