Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Culture of Violence

A bench-clearing brawl involving two minor league teams is under investigation by their league and could result in criminal charges as well. The brawl, which took place between the Duffield Devils and Niagara Falls Thunder of the Niagara Falls Minor Hockey Association, lasted about thirty seconds.

The players on the teams were eight years old.

The incident was caught on tape and submitted to police. Said the NFMHA:

"While it appeared that the incident between the children didn't last more than 30 seconds, it is obvious by this tape that the Niagara Falls players were clearly defending themselves. [...] the tape also demonstrated that members of each coaching staff were equally at fault for escalating the violence of the situation."
Fighting in the NHL has always seemed like somewhat of a necessary evil to me and I continue to believe that. The real issue comes in to play when children start emulating their heroes, spurred on by the people who are supposed to be teaching them the difference between right and wrong.

The pros do it to protect their teammates, right a perceived wrong, or change momentum - fighting like this has no place in children's hockey, though, and the parents and coaches on both teams should be held responsible.


DMG said...

The problem in these types of situations is all too often the parents and/or coaches (many times they are one and the same). At worst they encourage the kids to fight, in less offensive situations they'll fail to make it clear: there is to be no fighting. Period.

Since my youth I've been involved in baseball, soccer and hockey as an official and/or coach and let me tell you - there is no one worse than travel hockey parents. That they're more animated during the game I'll forgive since hockey is so much more a physical game, but there are two problems. One is that they yell things that are totally unacceptable. I don't care what happened on the ice, you simply don't fly off your rocker at an 11 year old. The other is that the behavior often continues far after the games end. More than other sports hockey parents will wallow in the results in their games, criticize their children, criticize other children on the team, criticize the coach and promote a "me-first" (or their kids first, however you want to phrase it) attitude (which is odd given how much a team sport hockey is).

There's no question the behavior of the parents trickle down to their kids. For example the men's league team I now play for has one guy who severely overestimates his own skill level. He very rarely passes the puck (pass attempts literally in single digits most games), constantly pesters other players as to why the didn't successfully make a pass, catch a pass, avoid being fooled on a deke, score a goal, make a save, etc. all while not-so-subtlety intimating that he is the best player on the team and we would have loads of success if we just passed him the puck and got out of the way. He brought his 11-year-old son to a practice we had the other day and not five minutes into getting dressed was his son telling a story about how he (the son) had, in a recent travel game, "had the puck, knocked over three guys on the other team and made a perfect pass to this guy on my team who waited like [counting seconds] one, two, three before he shot, so when he shot the goalie was in position and didn't score" and then threw up his hands and rolled his eyes.

By contact when I was that age I too was playing travel hockey, as a goalie and believe me that in 45 games at the age you will see players make bad plays that result in goals. But my father would never have called out on of my teammates, even if it was only myself and him in the car on the way home. At worst he would say something to the effect of "well it's too bad you guys couldn't make the play there, that was a tough shot you had to face". My father never sat me down and talked sportsmanship with me because he never had to. He led by example, a trait he carried when coached (baseball) as well. As a result, I've never called out a teammate simply for the sake of doing so (as opposed to offering advice). My father was (still is, really) also infinitely patient and never criticized my play, but not hesitant to offer advice if I asked and never criticized my sometimes overblown competitive steak (I had a tendency to break things after making a bad play in any sport). Hopefully when I have children I can set the same kind of example for them.

It can be difficult to explain to children that age why they shouldn't fight when their heroes do it on a nightly basis, but it can be done. All it takes is parents and coaches willing to make it clear.

Elly said...

Oh my, eight years old? That's young, too young, to be fighting like that. They don't even know what they're really fighting for (most likely) at that age. Parents and coaches should really try to discourage that, and yes, hockey is an emotional game, and yelling is great, but the safety of the young players should be the primary concern.

Vincent Lacroix 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?

Chris & Sarah said...

CBC now has video from the fight up on their site for people to assess for themselves.


Gunfighter said...

I coach my daughter's soccer team, and I can tell you that I have seen some examples of really HORRIBLE behavior by children (they are eight-nine years old) encouraged by their coaches and parents. It's shameful.