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Monday, December 6, 2010

Youth coach faces suspension because of principled stand

There is always an “accuracy” risk in writing or commenting about something without knowing all the facts.

I’m referring, in this instance, to recent published reports about a youth hockey team in Peterborough, Ontario. The reports indicate that a coach pulled his team in the middle of a game. Why? One of his players had been subjected to a racial slur and the other team (and player who is alleged to have made the remark) did not immediately apologize to the player in question.

There seems to be no debate that the remark was indeed made. The offending player/team did apologize afterwards, the player evidently showing genuine remorse.

In the interim, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, pending an official hearing, has suspended the coach who pulled his team off the ice. The reason? Teams are not allowed, by rule, to pull their teams off the ice during a game—even in a case such as this.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know those involved and did not witness the incident. It’s always possible there are facts or factors that outsiders are simply not aware of.

The hockey authorities in question stand by their decision to suspend the coach, based on longstanding rules and regulations.

But it is difficult not to question an authority structure that suspends a coach, when, by all accounts, that individual is simply standing up for his players, his team, and an question of principle.

Were there other ways to protest the remark? No doubt. And it makes sense to await a thorough investigation to determine exactly what took place and why and whether the “punishment” is fair.

But this just seems to be, on the surface at least, a case where technicalities over-rule common sense. If the coach who was suspended was, in fact, simply protecting his player and his team from abuse and “taking a stand”, is a suspension really fair?

I’m sure more will come from this story, but for now, an indefinite suspension (it could be up to a full year) would seem to be a peculiar decision, since the coach did not initiate the offensive action. (The player who made the remark and his two coaches were suspended for three days and are all back in action already.)

I’m not sure this all sends a very clear—or good—message to our young people.