Ten Hockey Parent Commandments

Ten Hockey CommandmentsIt’s Easter Sunday and one of my all-time favourite movies is the Hollywood epic The Ten Commandments. What’s not to like with plagues of locusts, rivers turned to blood and the parting of the Red Sea? Or Edward G. Robinson as Dathan? “Where’s your Messiah nooowwww (see)?!”

All of this got me to thinking about commandments for hockey dads and moms. So I grabbed my trusty stick, donned a flowing multi-coloured robe, grew a healthy amount of facial hair in record time and climbed to the top of the stands at a local arena where I came upon a burning net. Here I faintly heard a chorus of low deep voices echoing over the PA system. The Hockey Gods (who do as it turns out happen to have a Twitter handle), in their all-knowing wisdom, decried the following list of strongly worded shalts and shalt nots, which I’ve been instructed to share with you here,b my fellow hockey parents.

1. Thou shalt not try to relive thy childhood hockey career through thine children. Thou had thy chance, now just let the kids play would ya.

2. Thou shalt keep thy opinions about other parents’ children to thyselves. Yes, we all know the kid should PASS THE PUCK, but there’s no need to shout it at the top of thy lungs.

3. Thou shalt not let your children wear jersey numbers 99, 66 or 87. Even numbers 4 and 9 are a stretch, but allowed with understood deference to Mr.’s Orr and Howe.

4. Thou shalt pick up thine own children from practice on time. The coach is not a babysitter and should not be made to wait for you to finish your grocery shopping or mani/pedi appointment.

5. Thou shalt not demand or allow thy children to play hockey 12 months of the year. Kids must be allowed to be kids and engage in a wide variety of sports and other activities in order to ensure well rounded development as athletes and people.

6. Thou shalt not grill thy children in the backseat of thy minivan on the way to or from the arena. Leave the coaching to the coach, otherwise ye will most likely contradict said coach and confuse your young impressionable athletes.

7. Thou shalt not offer monetary or any other form of compensation for goals, lest ye turn thy children into the targets of the parents previously referenced in Commandment #1.

8. Thou shalt do thy best to not shout at the referees. I myself may have challenged this commandment a time or two, but I’ve come to realize the folks in stripes are doing the best they can and generally don’t get paid nearly enough to put up with our catcalls.

9. Thou shalt not embarrass thy child. Cheering along at appropriate times during a game along with the rest of the parents is ok, but frilly costumes, more than one cow bell or giant pictures of thy child’s head are generally frowned upon.

10. Thou shalt put fun ahead of everything else, which it should go without saying is in the best interest of thy children.

The Ten Commandments







These are the words of the Hockey Gods…yea verily. So they are written, so they shalt or shalt not be done.


Ten Commandments image courtesy http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/the-ten-commandments/laws-of-god

So You Wanna Be a Hockey Parent – Take 3

Hockey Parent Rage CartoonLeaning on my vast experience and sage wisdom as a now relatively elder hockey dad, I am digging deep again to give back to the game by laying down some ground rules for would-be hockey dads and moms out there. This guide (as a follow on to my previous rants “So You Wanna Sign Your Kid Up for Hockey, Eh?” and “New Hockey Parent Do’s and Don’ts“) is intended to not-so-subtlely inform and suggest ways to prevent yourself from becoming “That Hockey Parent.” With all the negative hockey parent news bouncing around of late, one would think it wouldn’t be necessary to come up with such an obvious list, but I’m sure we’ll all bounce into one or more of those less than savoury progenitors who cannot help displaying their buffoonery in the face of what should otherwise be junior’s simple, happy pursuit of pucks and fun. So here, for those who need to be told or reminded is another list I welcome anyone to add to from their own hockey dad or mom experience:

  • DO not only let, but actively encourage, Johnny or Susie to play soccer, lacrosse, karate, basketball, Xbox, chess, piano or whatever else catches their fancy and gives them a break from what can be six hectic months of hockey depending on which level they play at. And they don’t need to get back on the ice a couple of weeks early to “get their hockey legs.” Don’t worry, they won’t have forgotten how to skate or lose their stride. Rather, come September, they’ll be chomping at the bit to get back on the ice with renewed enthusiasm, picking up where they left off. Or if they don’t, then maybe hockey just ain’t their thing and that’s ok too.The Devil, for example, tried gymnastics, dance and soccer, while her semi-foolish Dad enrolled her in an Introduction to Mandarin course when she was 8 (from which she would no doubt benefit when she entered the work force several years later). The soccer may have stuck as she was pretty good at it, but we did say only one competitive sport was allowed. She just kept going back to hockey and now in her final year is as eager as ever to get back to it after an unusually long delay thanks to a past season-ending broken fibula. She didn’t make it past one Mandarin class in case you were wondering.
  • If you’re not on the coaching staff, DO NOT try to be another all-knowing coach when transporting your impressionable young player to or from the rink. Positive reinforcement and encouragement is always welcomed…hockey instruction, which may contradict what the actual coaches are saying,  is not.
  • I probably don’t really need to say this one as true hockey parents already get it, but if you’ve played the game, DO get on the ice with the kids as a helper or coach. Especially with younger players, there is no such thing as too much help and we all need to pitch in to keep this great game going. I have been very fortunate the past few years to have a friend and two young adults who want to give back help me with my teams. They and so many others like them are to be commended for their efforts. I’m not sure if I’ll continue coaching beyond this year, but I may after I take a little minor hockey sabbatical.
  • If you coach your own kid, DO NOT hold him or her to a higher or lower standard. Coaching your own can be tough (I know all too well) because if you’re an honest coach you don’t want to be seen favouring your kid. Of course, we also know coaches who seemingly don’t care and put their kid on the ice every second shift. DON’T be that coach. The Devil and I have bumped heads a coupla times before because I know other players look to her for cues as to how hard they have to work in practice or a game. Even this Summer in dry land I’ve had to remind her if she doesn’t put in a full effort, no one else will. Bottom line on this topic – BE FAIR – and treat your kid like any other player on the team.
  • DO let your children watch as much hockey on TV or the Internet as they like on non-school nights. And if they ask for popcorn, make them popcorn.
  • DO allow your kid to miss that early morning or late night practice if they really just don’t feel like it. If it happens more than once, it’s time to find out why, take a break or find another pastime. Making a kid do something they really don’t want to serves no purpose.
  • DO NOT offer to play goal in a ball hockey game with 9 year olds in the dead of winter unless adequate…nay AMPLE…protection is readily available. A frozen tennis ball, or even worse orange hockey ball, is a deadly object, which you should not, under any circumstances, put any part of your insufficiently padded body in front of.
  • DO occasionally boast to your friends about how well your kid or your kid’s hockey team is doing. We’re all allowed to be proud parents. However, DO NOT recite stats including your offspring’s CORSI rating, GAA or current goal scoring streak, re-enact your kid’s recent scoring plays complete with colour commentary or share junior’s 3-hour highlight reel on DVD at friendly get-togethers.
  • During games, cheer loudly for, not at, your kid and the team. To be quite honest, neither really hears you anyway, unless you are “that parent”, who goes over the top and not in a good way.For a couple of years, I developed something of a schtick (appropriately termed under the circumstance thought I) whereby I would scream C-O-L-T, COLTS, COLTS, COLTS prior to the drop of the puck before each period of the Boy’s games ala Fireman Ed in New York. My voice paid the price on more than one occasion following multi-game tournaments. However, I believe the gesture was appreciated, or at least noticed, as I often caught both teams looking up at me. I’m sure the other squad and at least some of our own boys just thought I was nuts. Simple validation came in the form of the Boy saying some of the guys loved it.

As I enter the final year of the Devil’s minor hockey career, the last sentimentally-driven, recommendation I will make for new hockey parents is to cherish the family time you have together with your kids in the car, at the rink or out on the pond. For me anyways, even shivering through the coldest 6am practices top nearly anything else I could have been doing at the time. Watching the Boy and the Devil joyfully skate, pass, check, shoot, score is at a whole nother satisfaction level. #imhockeydad

Cartoon courtesy – 13 Simple Rules for Hockey Parents Everywhere http://www.hsehockeyclub.com/page/show/540055-13-simple-rules-for-hockey-parents-everywhere

Setting Some Hockey Team Rules

Had a chance to see most of the Devil’s and my new team have their first “non-official” skate together and through some expected summer rust there were some really good signs of things to come. While several of the players have not played together, many have, and those connections were readily obvious when they called to each other for a pass or instinctively new where the each other would or should be during a scrimmage. One of the things I’ve dreamed of seeing and more importantly hearing from younger-aged hockey teams is communication. Getting them to look up, call out each other names or simply call for a pass can be like pulling teeth when they’re eight years old. Here, with an older group, the importance of this critical component of the game has sunk in and surely seems natural. Of course, this will likely be true of every other team we face, so our team will also need to excel in other areas if we expect to compete with those squads.

The-Guiding-PrinciplesPrior to taking the ice I decided to lay down some coach/team philosophy and look to get pre-season buy in from the group. What I perhaps grandiosely positioned as “The Guiding Principles”,  jotted down on a bristol board (as I became accustomed to doing in my previous head coaching stint two years ago) and affixed to the dressing room wall for all to see were five simple tenets: Positive Attitude, Respect, Focus, Hard Work and Communication. Though they likely didn’t need much explaining, I took some time to review each in the context of “our” team and what “we” should expect of ourselves and each other. To solidify the importance of those expectations, hockey trainer/Momma had a great idea in suggesting each member of the team, players, coaches and trainers alike, sign the back of our mini sports Magna Carta. We stopped short of signing in blood, but I’m hopeful the messages left a mark and I’ll be re-affixing the document to walls before the next several practices and games for lasting effect. I said, and firmly believe, a team built around the top four principles and anchored by communication will succeed; regardless the finals scores or standings.

Having set some ground rules, I, the coaching staff and the team will start the real work this week beginning with a short practice followed by a minimum four and hopefully five-game tournament where we’ll get our first true glimpse of what we have to work with and on. Would I like a couple more practices before jumping into the fire? Sure. But we’ll go  into this weekend with few preconceived notions and will hopefully be pleasantly surprised…or not. Either way, the real goal of this weekend is to start to build a team and culture based on the aforementioned principles with an eye towards success on and off the ice.


The Body Contact in Hockey Debate


The Body Contact in Hockey Debate

Changing Face of the Game

Hockey Canada is considering a few adjustments to minor hockey to curb recent drops in registration.  Enhancing non-contact leagues appears to be at the top of the list in light of recent concerns around concussions and other injuries.  The NHL, for its part, isn’t setting the best example.  Hockey purists will no doubt claim the sport is just fine the way it is, but hockey does need to react to threats from other sports, video games and rising costs to name a few. Every sport, for that matter, has to grow and evolve in the face of challenges to its popularity.  I appreciate a good hockey hit as much as the next guy, yet you need look no further than women’s hockey to see a high level of skill and really entertaining hockey without head hits, hits from behind and the other bad sides of what can be a pretty violent game at times.  Maybe it is time to take a harder look at non-contact options to get more kids playing and staying in hockey.