No Place in Hockey for Disrespect
I am self-admittedly not the most politically correct person. I’ve been known to do my fair share of chirping when engaged in sports battle. I do understand trash talk is part of many sports and I realize my 17 year-old Boy and yes, even the Devil at 15, have probably said some nasty, not-for-prime-time things on the ice in the heat of the moment. I’ve seen them both draw penalties based on what appears to be something they said. Over the last several years we’ve seen and heard about plenty of cases of objectionable conduct in hockey, among other sports. However, this weekend the Boy’s team, and specifically a teammate, experienced something in a tournament game, which can simply be described as line crossing. Gladly they weren’t the ones doing the crossing and presumably wouldn’t be . I will clearly state I was not in attendance either on the ice or even in the building, so this is being relayed from a third-person perspective. The incident, or incidents, apparently occurred during the third and must-win game against a group of American boys during the team’s participation in the International Silver Stick tourney; a 54-year old institution who’s self-stated motto is “Citizenship and International Goodwill through Silver Stick® Hockey”. During this game, one of the Boy’s teammates, whose skin is dark-coloured was repeatedly berated with racial epithets; along the lines of “f*#%ing Arab” or something thereabouts. This is not the first time he’s been a target as he’s been the Boy’s teammate for several years. He’s actually been called a “dirty Mexican” as well, which he quickly answered with a goal followed by an emphatic celebration in front of the opposing bench. A little funny in that he’s neither of Arab or Mexican descent; still not funny in its objectionable intent.
I believe this particular boy will readily admit he is a fine trash talker in his own right. However, this group of opponents were reportedly relentless in their taunts, which could be heard on the bench. Unfortunately, the barbs went unchecked by on-ice officials who were made aware on more than one occasion by the team’s coaching staff. The same staff were advised to stop complaining. The slurs continued unabated. As the final buzzer rang, the understandably frustrated target found himself trapped in the opponents end after the coach did not hold his bench as per standard post-game protocol. The boy, now outnumbered, decided to take matters into his own hands by applying a cross-check to the head of an oncoming taunter; an action which did not escape the attention of the refs who quickly awarded him a major penalty and three-game suspension. Anyone who watches hockey knows refs are always able to catch the retaliator. After the game, the coaching staff pleaded with the tournament officials to consider the circumstances surrounding the boy’s actions. Their objections to the suspension fell on deaf ears in stark contrast to the verse following the same officials’ motto on silverstick.org “We believe those words, and with the help of our Board of Directors, Tournament Directors and volunteers, we diligently work to bring those words to life with each of our Tournaments.” Again, I wasn’t there, but it seems diligence fell a bit short.
The Boy’s team, by the way, lost the game and were eliminated from playoff contention, which I realize will paint much of what I’ve written here as sour grapes. My intention however, rather than simply bemoaning a loss, is to illuminate a decidedly negative situation and hopefully encourage the Boy, the Devil, their respective teammates and anyone else willing to listen to stay far clear of lines not meant to be crossed. To hopefully reinforce the importance of showing respect on and off the ice; a notion at the heart of all sports and life in general. A more important lesson than winning or losing methinks.
I’m not naive enough to think something like this won’t happen again or that my admonitions will have any sort of lasting effect, but I figured it was enough of a story worth telling. Trust me, I would much rather be spinning stories about the game of hockey and not a bunch of negative stuff better kept on the periphery.