Just days ago, in Southern Ontario, a "brawl" of sorts broke out during a hockey game.
That in and of itself is not stirring news. But when we discover that the participants were not professionals or even junior age players, but rather 8 year-olds, it does beg some questions, including:
Where are the "coaches" in these situations? At the NHL level, in this day and age, coaches are suspended in situations where they are seen to not be "in control" of their players—players who themselves are grown men. Are these youth "coaches" not "in control" of their players?
What messages are these young, impressionable children (they are children, not "athletes", at this age) receiving from their coaches?
If we can’t "blame" the children for this kind of event, then where do we look? What influence are parents having, for example? The media?
We’ve all heard time and again that the "problem" is that parents all think their kinds will make it to the pro level, and thus are over-invested in their kids. And this leads, based on that theory, to misplaced priorities, etc.
But surely we’re not having brawls at the age of 8 because ALL the parents of these kids think they are raising future NHL’ers.
Are we taking youth sports way too seriously? Are our priorities in fact messed up? Do we keep score too soon? Is the pervasive ‘winning at all costs’ attitude seeping all the way down to the youngest levels of the game?
It’s too easy to generalize, but this is serious stuff. Not the "sky is falling" kind of serious, perhaps, but it’s serious when little kids start hockey brawls.
Hockey Canada and various provincial Associations have spent tons of money in recent years on education—ad campaigns directed at parents, seminars for coaches, clinics on not hitting from behind, players wearing STOP patches, studies on concussions and much more.
But as long as Canada wins gold every year at the World Juniors, everyone is happy.
What’s a brawl or two on the way to what’s really important?