Sunday, 8 September 2019

Folks, We Need To Talk

Ladies and gentlemen, for the many years I've been writing this blog I've tried to maintain that hockey is a game played for fun and exercise with a social aspect for the most part. Unless one if playing in the professional ranks, there is a grand total of zero reasons for anyone to lose his or her mind over anything as innocuous as a bad call, particularly at the minor hockey levels, but at any level that doesn't involve millions of dollars in pay. Even in that instance, there still are very few reasons for one to blow one's top. Today in Lethbridge, Alberta, however, things went from bad to worse to "are you kidding me" levels of stupidity that I'm struggling to comprehend.

I'll start with the tweet that brought the above image to life that happened at the eighth-annual Quest for the Cup 3-on-3 hockey tournament, a skills-development tournament, at Crossings Ice Centre in Lethbridge.
Watching that video play out as it did is sickening. Adding in the contexts of watching it happen at a 3-on-3 tournament after a player had slashed the official in question makes it worse. The "are you kidding me" part is watching a group of people barge onto the ice to confront the official in question and proceed to assault said official.

After doing some additional digging on social media, it turns out that a ten year-old boy in the tournament had indeed swung his stick and/or slashed the official in question, and the official responded by pushing the player to the ice. I would assume that was done out of self-defence, but I haven't spoken to anyone about the circumstances. Needless to say, that seems logical if the official was having a hockey stick swing at him. And here's where we'll start "the talk", folks.

I don't care who you are, what you do for a living, who you think you are or were, or what title you hold in life, there's a very simple rule in hockey that you never use your stick as a weapon. If you're a parent, this rule needs to be enforced from the get-go when teaching a young player to play, re-enforced as the child gets better, and re-enforced some more as the child moves through the ranks of minor hockey. Slashing in a game is a call made when someone gets a little too aggressive with their stick, but purposefully and intentionally swinging one's stick at another person will always be seen as a criminal act because there is only a single result that one is hoping for when swinging one's stick at another person: injury or harm.

With that ironclad, unwavering rule stated, whoever is the parent or are the parents of this ten year-old who committed the stick-swinging offence at the official has failed at the role of parenting. I'm reluctant to put this on the mother of the child because it seems out of step with how mothers treat their children in sports, but the parent or parents of this young man haven't done enough to instil the respect that an official commands on the field of play nor have there been consequences explained to that child when one decides to either disrespect the officials and/or swing one's stick maliciously. I don't want to speculate on why these things have been missed by the parent or parents, but there will likely be time to explain these things now after it was reported that Lethbridge police were called to the rink and are investigating the matter.

I do understand that some parents are protective of their children, and seeing the official put his or her hands on a child and push him or her to the ice may be cause for concern. It is not, however, a call to arms that results in people being pushed to the ice and officials being assaulted. There are procedures for reporting questionable conduct by officials, and this would be one of those times that one could perhaps question the official's behaviour. Albeit, questioning why an official pushed a stick-swinging child to the ice in self-defence likely isn't going to win anyone any points in the court of public opinion, but the fact is that there are procedures in place where one can speak to coaches, tournament organizers, and higher hockey powers if one is concerned about an official's conduct. There is no - read: ZERO - leeway that even remotely suggests that assaulting an official is an acceptable way to handle any perceived misconduct.

Folks, this needs to end here and now. This is ridiculous. It's a 3-on-3 "skills-development tournament," not some winner-takes-all NHL Draft for elementary-school students. Even if, in some perverse way, it was an NHL Draft for elementary-school students, this behaviour by these two men who assaulted at least two people on the ice still wouldn't be allowed, let alone go unpunished. I suspect that the boy who swung his stick does regret his actions, but the damage may already be done in that he likely will have a hard time finding his way onto any teams, let alone having coaches wanting to run the risk that another incident like the one above may happen with the boy's parent or parents watching from the stands.

If and when the Lethbridge police reveal the findings in their investigation, I hope these two people who took the law into their own hands get the book thrown at them for what they did to at least one other person on the ice and the official. While we may cheer for vigilante justice in the movies and on TV, it never works in the real world where there are real consequences for one's actions. And that's a good lesson to teach our children: every action or inaction we take has consequences, so think before acting. It's fairly obvious that neither the ten year-old boy nor the two people who jumped on the ice did very much thinking before they acted. And that has consequences.

Perhaps, in this case, severe consequences.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: