02.20.2013 08:47 PM

Just a game (updated)

As I write this, I’m at Ted Reeve Arena, the rink in my neighbourhood. My son’s team, the Penguins, is playing Ted Reeve Thunder. If we lose, that’s the end of the season, pretty much.

Sitting here, I’m reminded of this story. It’s been on the minds of lots of coaches, players and parents, this week.

The fact that it involves the Penguins and Ted Reeve teams isn’t the only reason. I’m preoccupied with it because my son, Son One, should be playing tonight. But the doctor won’t let him.

About three weeks ago, at a tournament in London, my son was driven into the boards, hard, by a player who used his knee to do it. My son was carried off the ice and couldn’t walk.

He hasn’t played since. Yesterday, I took him to the doctor, and was told that the damage may be significant. Tomorrow, we’re trying to get him an MRI.

It isn’t how we figured the season would end. Why did it happen to our son, and other sons?

Well, other people have their reasons for the bad stuff that happens in amateur hockey. Us? We attribute lousy refs. In the GTHL, we have an abundance of crummy officials. They’re terrible. They’re the dregs.

Kids will continue to get hurt if we continue to have refs who don’t know what they’re doing. To me, to us, it’s that simple.

The kid who ended my kid’s season didn’t get a penalty. And he did it right in front of a ref.

Want kids to be safer when they play? Get better officials.

Oh, and one other thing: it’s just a game. It isn’t worth kids getting hurt.

UPDATE: We won! Not dead yet!


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    WDM says:

    Hate to see stories like this, particularly among younger players. I agree better officials are needed, to send a message about what is and isn’t acceptable. Many believe in order to fix the type of injuries and play we’re seeing in the NHL is to not tolerate dirty play at the lower levels where kids are learning to develop their game. Best way to the cheap stuff is not second nature is to never allow it in the first place.

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    M. Fitzgerald says:

    Most sorry to hear of this. I would get the MRI asap – even if you have to drive somewhere and pay out of pocket. Like the whole bullying thing, it’s disquieting to me how what in almost any other context would be an open and shut case of assault is considered just a game or kid’s stuff…

    Still working through “Fight the Right” – Tea Party Section. I would encourage you and your readers to follow the money – the Tea Party is a pseudo-populist movement. Consider the seminal piece by Jane Mayer, “COVERT OPERATIONS, The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama”:

    “David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

    “Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

    From a public relations perspective, the dark of Genius of the Tea Party campaign is that it simultaneously casts everyday white folks as dumb, racist, neo-National Socialists while demonizing Obama, black people, and progressives as dangerous, socialist, crypto-Islamist radicals. Divide and rule – surely one of the oldest tactics.

    From a psychological perspective, to truly understand the Koch brother’s absolute paranoia of all things collective, one must factor in that Stalin brutally purged several of Fred Koch Soviet colleagues. Koch was deeply affected by the experience, and regretted his collaboration:

    “In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned. Welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot, Koch predicted that Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the President is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.”

    Indeed, I would argue that to truly Fight the Right, one must simultaneously fight Marxism/Communism. That is, almost all far-right movements are a reactionary, societal post-traumatic stress overreaction to the very real and legitimate danger of Marxist-based/Communist/Socialist political movements, often exacerbated by economic contraction, war and social dislocation. This is the reason, for example, many people in Eastern Europe welcomed the Nazis as liberators. This is one of the core failures of the “Left”/Liberals/”progressives” – your ranks have far too many fellow travelers/useful idiots/willfully blind – Fidel Castro is not where it’s at. It is as if the Gulag Archipelago, or the Black Book of Communism, of Foucault’s work ever existed.

    Ultimately, this is about fighting uncontrolled power in all its forms (checks and balances, separation of powers, human rights, the rule of law) – left, right, center or any other ideological schema. What is needed in Canada, America, all the free world, is a non-ideological, non-pathological infusion of intelligence and deep understanding.


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    Swervin' Merv says:

    Best wishes for a full recovery.

    Hockey and football are inherently violent, as research on head injuries continues to demonstrate. I was anxious when my youngest son wanted to play football in gr. 11. In his second and last fall season (as a senior), he cracked a vertebrae (C7 I believe) but healed on his own, for which the family was thankful.

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    Chris says:

    A few years of fun in exchange for a possible lifetime of neck and back problems… The justification gets harder and harder… Might have to pay my kid to not play hockey!

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    Conor says:

    Sounds like Son One is a digger in the corners. Good for him, though too bad keeping his head up also meant he was taken out with a knee from below.

    The best minor hockey officiating I ever saw (as an uncle in the stands rather than when I was a kid on the ice) was by one of my poli sci classmates from UPEI. He was from a reffing family, actually, and that’s a pretty cool thing to pass on to a son/daughter. He could manage the flow of a really fast game and paid his way through university doing it. I think it was a good fit for his major, and he’s now off in the UK doing graduate work.

    Refs are intergral, and good ones to a trained spectator make minor hockey shine.

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    Bruce A says:

    No kid deserves any injury like that.

    Sadly there are too many headhunters in the Canadian game now.

    Not that we were ever innocent but it’s now about hitting anything that moves. That’s something that started with my generation and Howie Meeker’s maxim of ‘finishing the check’.


    Though this is what refs have to deal with


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    Dan says:

    Unfortunate for your son, hope he gets better.

    Though, I know I am in the minority here but I hate it when it all comes down to better officials (whether a penalty was called or not would not have changed the outcome of the incident).

    As a former (minor league player, coach and ref, I’ve been on all sides of the debate.

    While there are many bad refs out there, I think the majority out there are trying to do the best job they can. If I was you, I’d ask the league to have more off-ice training sessions throughout the season and offer more on-ice training sessions for refs (espeiclaly younger ones) -I found them invaluable to my development as an official.

    We also have to remember that depending on the level of hockey, many of these refs aren’t old enough to drink. I started when I was 13 and continued doing it through university.

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    sj says:

    It is a delicate balance for parents. We want our kids involved in sports and activities that keep them active, but any serious injury weighs heavily on our hearts. My son broke his wrist snowboarding at Louise at the end of the season a few years ago. It took a lot for me to drive to the hill the next winter. But he loves it, he is more cautious now and he has had that veil of invinciblity lifted.

    So hope yours recovers quickly and fully.

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    GFMD says:

    The game would probably be a lot safer if it was kept non-contact until the players are 18. Cheaper for insurance, too.

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    Michael S says:

    I’m all for keeping it non-contact in all house leagues. Junior B, Major Junior, fine. Before then however forget it. Not worth it.

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    Greg says:

    Maybe I’m heartless, but I read the news article you linked and think, “so, the kid turtled, and got hurt as a result. He must have had some crappy coaching.” He knew he was about to get hit, so instead of brace to take the hit (as his coach should have taught him), he turned to try to get the other player to not make the check. Often that turn happens too late for the checking player to hold up – it happens most in the lower divisions of hockey, where the skating skills are not necessarily as high and they can’t turn/stop on a dime like more elite players.

    The player getting a penalty and suspension really says nothing as far as the intent of the check – the rule book explicitly states that even when a player turns in order to cause a check from behind, the penalty is to be automatically assessed regardless of the circumstances. The final responsibility of course rests upon the player making the check, however I’m tired of seeing players trying to draw a penalty or avoid a check by putting themselves into danger. I’ve tossed out coaches before who I have overhead telling their players to turn to draw a penalty – they end up getting a slap on the wrist for it, but at least my conscience is clean, knowing that I did what I could do discourage a young boy or girl from taking a huge risk that might end up costing them big.

    I’ve refereed minor hockey for over 15 years now, and have been called everything from the best ref they have had in the season, to the worst ref they have ever seen. For the most part, referees do their absolute best out there. The problem is that there aren’t enough people refereeing, that those few with poor attitudes or skills can be weeded out. We lose literally thousands of officials every year across Canada, most because of the verbal abuse they take from coaches, fans, and players. It takes a certain kind of 13 year old to be able to take the amount of scorn they receive from adults – and without that 13 year old putting up with that, we don’t have the 23 year old officials refereeing the more elite leagues.

    I’d throw a challenge out to you – if you think you can do a better job, go out and do it! Taking the referee clinic won’t put you back too much time or money-wise (in MB, a first year adult official would take a two-day clinic over a weekend, and pay less than $100 for the clinic, registration, and insurance). Referee a few games, and see what the job is like. In some respects it is similar to politics in that everybody can sit and criticize the ref (or politician) from the stands (or from the sofa), but how many are willing to go out and do the job.

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    Jeff Riddall says:

    I’ve complained about my fair share of refs over the last 13 years my kids have been in minor hockey. Sometimes I look back and worry maybe I am seeing the game through rose-coloured glasses when calls don’t go “our” way. I know my father thinks I complain about refs too much. But then on many other occasions I wish I had an opportunity to simply ask a ref how he saw or more often didn’t see something happen. How could you possibly have missed that call when it was right there in front of you? I realize it’s a fast game and difficult to officiate, but it does seem as though sometimes calls are blatantly missed. This is particularly annoying when you realize these refs can be getting paid up to $50 a game. I wish I had a buddy who reffed and who I could grill on calls he made or didn’t make over a beer. So yes, I can sympathize.

    All of this being said, I’m not sure better reffing would drastically change the problems the game is currently facing in terms of injuries. Kids, just like players in the NHL, are getting bigger, stronger, faster and the fastest game on ice is inherently dangerous – a risk we all take when we let our kids play. But I believe a greater effort needs to be made to reinforce the importance of respect in the game. Don’t hit people from behind on purpose, don’t try to take their heads off and just play the game the way it was meant to be played. This season was my Boy’s final year of minor hockey (which coincidentally ended a period early as he was booted out of his last game following his first ever fight…here’s the recap if you’re interested http://www.imahockeydad.com/2013/03/24/a-wild-ride-to-the-hockey-finish/) and we tried from day one to promote the importance of respect for coaches, other players and yes, even refs. I’m happy to report that I think we did a pretty good job. My wish is other minor hockey parents endeavour to do the same.

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