Associations Upset At No Jail Sentence For Father Who Choked Coach
– But What Have They Done To Address The Real Problem?”
by Robert Kirwan
Publisher of After The Whistle
Let's Address The Real Problem
president of the Greater Toronto Hockey League hopes it "won't be
open season on coaches" following the decision in December not to
jail a hockey parent for a violent, unprovoked attack on a volunteer coach
on January 16, 2004.
Desrocher received a $2000 fine, without jail, for choking coach Mark
Tesky after the benching of Desrocher’s 8-year-old son.
is still under a five-year ban that prohibits from from entering any arena
where a GTHL game or practice is being held. The ban has three years to
run and prohibits him from watching his son play hockey.
by Gardner as the worst act of assault on a minor league coach that
Gardner has seen in the 25 years he has been involved in the GTHL, and the
Crown was seeking a four-month jail term. Both Gardner and Hockey Canada President, Bob Nicholson wrote
letters in support of the most severe sentence possible. Gardner and
Nicholson are afraid that the court’s decision may discourage volunteers
from coming forward to coach at the minor hockey level. Gardner praised the victim, Mark
Teskey, for the courage to continue coaching.
Desrocher is remorseful and wishes he “could have those four seconds
back” so that he could take a different approach in venting his
wasn’t the first time there has been a violent outburst of rage that has
resulted in physical assault. And it is clear that no one involved in
hockey, or even anyone not directly involved in hockey would ever condone
such an act of violence by a parent on a coach.
being said, it would appear, at least on the surface, as if the “root of
the problem” is not being addressed. Rather than attack the judge for
not taking the father away from his son and his family for a full four
months, perhaps Gardner and Nicholson, as well as all other administrative
and board members in minor hockey should reflect upon the situation and
see if they can determine “why” a man would attack his son’s hockey
look at the situation. Desrocher was upset over the recent death of his
father. Apparently his father had suffered a heart attack in October 2004
and it had been several days before hospital officials were able to
contact Desrocher to tell him his father was dead. We all understand how
distressing it is to lose a parent, but in Desrocher’s case, he was
denied the opportunity to be with his father during his final hours and as
a result he went into a depression.
scheduled a trip to Mexico as part of a bereavement
vacation. The Desrocher’s returned to Toronto early in the morning of January 16, 2005. They got home at after a 4 ½ hour flight
delay. At his 8-year-old son’s request, Brad Desrocher got up in the
morning and took his son to the hockey game.
was told that at the game, Teskey, the coach of the Jr. Canadiens AAA
minor atom team, informed Desrocher's son that he would bench him at the
start because he had missed some practice time and had noticed that he
wasn't focusing in the pre-game skate. Teskey wanted to tell the boy’s
father about his decision, but Desrocher had left the dressing room before
he got a chance.
benched the boy at the start of the game and as his rage built, Desrocher
attached Teskey from behind and administered a choke-hold that caused the
coach to black out momentarily.
only wish I had the opportunity to speak to the coach before the game, and
this whole incident would never have happened," Desrocher explained.
mentioned early, there is no justification for the physical attack on the
coach. That was absolutely wrong and was deserving of punishment.
Desrocher must now pay a fine of $2000 and he is still banned from
watching his 10 year-old son from playing hockey for another three years.
Desrocher, his wife and his two sons have gone through two years of hell
awaiting the trial and sentencing. The family has been put through a
tremendous amount of stress.
let’s look at the coach, Mark Teskey.
Mark Teskey punishing when he made the decision to bench the 8-year-old
Desrocher for missing a practice? The family had gone on a vacation to Mexico. Eight year-old boys cannot
drive themselves to hockey practices. So who was being punished by the
benching? To whom was Teskey trying to get the message?
Teskey was upset that the young boy had missed a practice, then it was
Teskey’s responsibility to discuss the matter with the boy’s parents.
It was Teskey’s responsibility to determine why the boy was not at
practice and then to deal with the matter with the parent, who is
ultimately responsible for making sure that players of that age are
brought to practices and games. To say that Desrocher had left the
dressing room before he had a chance to speak to him about the benching is
not acceptable. Prior to punishing a child for the sins of his father (not
making sure that his son attended a practice) it was paramount that Teskey
seek out the parent and discuss the matter prior to the game.
initiated a discussion with Desrocher, he would have discovered that it
was indeed remarkable that the boy was even at the game that morning,
considering the long trip from Mexico. It would have explained why
the boy wasn’t “focusing” during the pre-game skate. The boy was
Hockey coaches are volunteers. We all appreciate the time they put in and
the work they do for our young boys and girls. But that doesn’t give
them license to “abuse their positions”. It doesn’t meant that they
can use their position coach to create situations and policies that are
unfair and unreasonable to the children in their charge. It doesn’t make
them immune from criticism and scrutiny simply because they are
Desrocher did was not only wrong, it was illegal, and he has paid a high
price for his actions.
Teskey did was also wrong, but it was not illegal. That is the difference
between the two. That and the fact that Teskey attacked Desrocher by
benching his son instead of using his fists.
what Teskey did goes on all the time in hockey rinks across Canada every week. The Teskey’s of
this world continue to do irreparable damage to young boys and girls by
implementing policies and decisions that are absolutely “wrong” when
it comes to dealing with impressionable young children such as the
8-year-old Desrocher who was benched for missing a practice and for his
lack of focus during the pre-game skate.
hockey organizations like the Greater Toronto Hockey League will continue
to turn a blind eye to these types of practices because they are having
difficulty attracting enough quality volunteers to run their teams.
Let’s face it. Teskey is not running your normal run-of-the mill hockey
club. He was coaching a ‘AAA’ Minor Atom hockey team filled with elite
players who learn at a young age that the coach is in charge and it is not
in your best interests to “rock the boat”. Teskey has passed all of
the qualifications set out by Hockey Canada. He has been given this
position over others who no doubt would have loved to be considered for
the job of coaching a team in the Jr. Canadiens organization. And despite
all of this training and certification, and despite all of his experience
with young impressionable young hockey players, he still chose to punish
an 8 year-old boy for missing a practice, when the person he should have
been upset with was the boy’s father. The decision of the coach –
wrong, but not illegal – was what caused this terrible incident. An
incident that has torn a whole family apart for two years. An incident
that would have been averted by taking 30 seconds to ask a simple question
to the boy’s father before the game.
has been taught a lesson by the courts. It is very serious to physically
assault another human being. If you do so, expect to be punished, and
expect your family to suffer the consequences of your actions.
also been taught a lesson, and so have all others involved with minor
sports. It is perfectly legal to create an “emotional assault” on
another human being by punishing their child for something which the
parent was responsible in the first place.
And so, as
a final word, don’t worry Mr. Gardner. The decision by the judge won’t
make it “open season” on your coaches. Just make sure you remind your
coaches that they have accepted a tremendous responsibility when they go
behind the bench with young boys and girls and tell them to think
carefully before making decisions.
COMMENTS FROM READERS
Regarding the editorial on the Teskey choking
verdict, I think it goes even deeper. I agree with your point
that it’s not as simple as saying Parent X attacked Coach Y, thus
Parent X bears all the blame. However, I do believe there are
no circumstances that excuse the parent’s behavior in this case,
regardless of him being tired and under stress. I think we all
Your point about the coach’s responsibility
is valid. Coaches do need to seek to understand the root
causes of behaviors more than just judging kids by them on the
surface, and acting according the same old discipline playbook they
use year after year. I think we all believe that as well.
But let’s look further...
This was an 8
year-old boy playing AAA hockey. Do you think if
this same boy played house league and exhibited the same pattern of
behavior that this would have ended up the same? Parents need
to take responsibility for the risks
of putting kids of this age into the “meat grinder” – there
are intense parents and intense coaches, it’s a known fact.
I know of many many parents who have “ringers” for kids of age
novice and atom that hold them outside of the AA and AAA systems
until peewee or so as they feel “the kids are not old enough to
deal with those issues yet”. Good parents, good decisions.
There are endless examples of these types of
issues that stem from very young kids pushed into very intense and
demanding programs at too young an age. Could this player
alone have managed this situation to a better conclusion – I doubt
it; he likely doesn’t understand it to this day. Given the
obvious fact that parents should be fans
only at the rink, what would you expect of your kid in
this situation? And perhaps more importantly, is it possible
your kid is immersed within it already and you are not aware of it?
Very young hockey players and ultra-competitive
hockey teams – all the ingredients you need for disaster.