I asked my 11-year-old son to break a rule.
And, I’m proud of him.
Last week, we reported on Hockey Calgary’s new “handshake” rule, in which minor hockey players and coaches aren’t supposed to shake hands with referees and linesmen after a game.
Griffin and I talked about this new rule and we both felt it was ridiculous.
After his “coach’s pick” game, the final step in our hockey association’s evaluation process, he and other players made a point of shaking the officials’ hands, and saying thanks.
It was the right thing to do; the sportsmanlike thing to do.
Hockey Calgary is, in essence, trying to protect people from themselves, from their ugliest nature.
It says it brought in the rule after a review and found post-game handshaking, in many cases, led to “more animosity among participants and officials” and resulted in “verbal altercations with officials” and “player and coach suspensions”.
In other words, coaches and kids were behaving like boors, verbally abusing officials who are often teens themselves, working for about $25 a game. The post-game handshake had become an occasion to prolong the aggression of the game instead of a chance to say thank you.
Shouldn’t we expect more from the behaviour of coaches and kids than this?
Believe me, over 11 years as a hockey parent I’ve seen the worst, and also the best, of fellow hockey parents.
My oldest son, Dylan, played minor hockey, too, and at both the community and elite quadrant level, I’ve heard it all.
I’ve heard parents shouting profanities at the top of their lungs when a referee’s call didn’t go their way.
I’ve heard an opposing team’s parent call my son a “f---ng idiot” after a tough body check. I wasn’t certain who in the crowd was responsible for an endless stream of abusive language. They were sitting behind me. I confronted someone who I thought was responsible. He said, “I didn’t say a f---ing thing!” His seatmate, also said nothing, lucky to have escaped my wrath and too gutless to admit responsibility. By the way, my 90-year-old mom and then 10-year-old son were sitting with me. Nice.
I’ve seen a parent write an anonymous e-mail to the coach, complaining about an apparently useless power play – the players were just 10-years-old.
I’ve seen parents complain in the stands about the kids’ lax effort at a weekend tournament. The coach crossed the ice in the middle of the game to have a word with them face-to-face. Good for him!
I’ve heard parents complain loudly about every….single....penalty called against our team and then cheer derisively when the other team gets a penalty.
Generally, it’s not the coaches or the players who are the problem. It’s the parents.
I would hope that Hockey Calgary would continue its role as a trendsetter in Canada’s hockey community. It was the first to bring in the Respect in Sport program, requiring parents to take an online program in respectful and appropriate behaviour. It was at the forefront of the debate to ban body checking in peewee hockey, sparing young players from concussions.
Hockey Calgary’s handshake rule is a step backwards.
I would hope that kids and coaches swallow the dismay at a tough loss or a disputed penalty and behave like good sports, like the adults they are - or hope - to become.
That’s why I’ll support Griffin if he wants to show true sportsmanship with the post-game handshake during the season. That’s an act of civil disobedience I can get behind.