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High School Ice Hockey:
Just An Opinion From A Fan And Parent

Sunday, October 14, 2001

By A Hockey Mom
SJSports Special Correspondent

Everybody has an opinion. Everybody is entitled to express their opinions. I'm putting in my two cents here about the opinion expressed a couple of weeks ago by one of SJSports ice hockey writer regarding last week's Clearview versus Township game along with the subsequent "flak" that has circulated since then.

My first impression of the coverage was one of annoyance. I thought to myself, "hmph, who does he think he is, Angelo Cataldi"? But after a second look and little introspection, I think his article has a point that players, parents, officials and coaches alike should take to heart. This is a game that young people play in a very physically competitive setting, among very competitive peers. To the players the stakes are high, self-esteem at a time of life when self-esteem can be fragile. Who among us would do these years over again? To the parent and the coaches the high stakes are a mixed bag of worries about injuries, worries about how your kid will rally after a loss, and let's be honest here, at the top of most our lists we want our kid to shine like a star and be a winner on a winning team. The thinking that "winning is all" is not the point of sportsmanship.

Those of us sitting in the stands are there to cheer on for the kids and for that chance to do the proud parent dance when our kid shines like the star we know them to be. It's supposed to be fun and the focus is supposed to be, as in any team sport, on the teams.

In ice hockey some folks in the stands don't seem to know all the applicable rules. That's why there are officials, they make the calls as they see 'em. It is an "us and them" thing. The biggest problem with officiating is the human factor. It is inconsistent and often unpredictable. Like the mom who claims to not have a "favorite" child, that same hogwash flows down to the officials. Although they can't admit it, they have their favorites, they are biased toward (or against) a particular team and the way the game is called is often the indicator of what is going on in the ref's head. Being the official is being the one with the "biggest stick". They have the power. I get the feeling that some refs want the game to be about them and not about the kids. They're not all like that, but enough of them are, at least partially, to make the game either unfair or downright dangerous. On any level of sports, amateur or pro, you will at any time find controversy in how the game is called by the officials. Whether the calls were good or bad sometimes depends on whether your team won or lost.

When the game gets totally out of hand, penalties are called, but nonetheless this is part of hockey. Especially with the head butts, checks from behind, abusing of the official, we (parents, coaches and fans) get indignant (and often just as verbally abusive) about the penalties imposed. What kind of sportsmanship is that? Since when don't we punish a kid for "flipping the bird"? When and where did that kid get the gall to think it alright to be so openly disrespectful of an authority figure? We need to look to ourselves, because we are our parents, and our kids will be us.

As a parent I worry that the increasing physicality of this game may not be worth it on many levels. This sport is expensive in outfitting the kids with the proper equipment. It is time consuming with the practice times, the games and the travel (during the school year) and let's not even talk about the league fees. It is yet another potential opportunity for my child to get seriously injured while doing something he thinks is "fun". So why does my kid play? Because he loves it and we love it and we want to do what we can for our kids. Whether or not you want to believe it, the officials love it too. That's why they're on the ice. While the officials on the ice for the youth hockey leagues do get paid, it's more like a little "mad money". They would be hard pressed to put food on the table with it.

We need to remember that it's still a game. A game played by KIDS of all sizes. As much as we'd like to remember what is was like when we played as kids, it is just not the same. Our memories are kind. We need to support the coaches and officials in their decisions, whether or not we agree.

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