DRAWING THE LINE WHEN
IT COMES TO
SAFETY OF PLAYERS
This is a special feature on After The
Whistle that addresses a very real concern among coaches of minor hockey.
We would like your comments on this issue. To see what others have said
about this article, click here.
BANTAM COACH SUSPENDED FOR PULLING HIS
TEAM FROM THE ICE IN EDMONTON
Tim Gmeinweser, coach of the Knights of Columbus Sabres
Bantams is being considered a hero by some. He is also being condemned by
others. His 'heroic' actions may have resulted in his suspension for the
balance of the year. The Sabres are based in Edmonton.
THE STORY: While playing in a tournament during the Christmas holidays,
Gmeinweser found his team down 7 to 1 in the second period of a game
against a team from New Sarepta. Several of his players had been injured
and he feared for the safety of the rest of his players.
In his opinion, even though the game was becoming increasingly violent
and out of control, leading to mounting injuries, the referee was
not calling enough penalties to curb the violence.
The outcome of the game was no longer in question since it was obvious
that New Sarepta was the superior team and was giving his Sabres a severe
beating. Near the end of he second period, Gmeinweser decided to order his
team to the dressing room and refuse to continue.
A SEVERE PENALTY IN MINOR HOCKEY The Canadian Hockey Association makes it clear that Gmeinweser may
be suspended for a year or longer for his decision during that game. The
key to this is the word "may". This means that he might not
receive any suspension if his local association so chooses.
This raises an interesting issue - one which most coaches have faced at
one time or another.
We have all been in games which have been allowed to get "out of
At the bantam and midget levels and beyond, this can happen as a result
of a single play and be totally unexpected. In these situations, even the
top referee in the world wouldn't have made a difference. However, there
are other situations where a referee decides to "let the kids
play" and allows a lot of rough activity to take place. When this
happens the players tend to go overboard with the checking, slashing,
elbowing and roughing. There are also situations, such as in tournaments, where you find
yourself up against a strange team which is way above your calibre.
For example, it was pointed out that the Sabres are a Tier 5 or 6 level
club. They play in a seven tier system with Tier 1 being the highest
calibre. The New Sarepta club had asked to be entered into the lowest
calibre possible in the tournament and were thus placed in a division with
the Sabres. Obviously, with such a difference in the score, something was
you have no idea what the other teams are like when you enter the
tournament, you could easily find yourself like the Sabres - down 7 to 1
and being injured by a physically stronger team which is being allowed to
run roughshod over your club. In defense of the referee, it is also
possible that the stronger team is not doing anything illegal, but merely
causing injuries because they are that much stronger than their opponents.
So what can you do when you find yourself in such a game? Just cross
your fingers and hope that the kids escape with as few injuries as
possible? Yell at the referee to call more penalties? If you pick up
penalties and have to play short-handed your players will be in even more
Are Only A Few Options Left
To The Coach and The Parents When You Run Into a Similar
by Robert Kirwan
Publisher of After The Whistle
SO WHAT IS THE
YOU CAN RUN OUT OF PLAYERS: Unfortunately, there is not much a coach can do once the game has
begun. I personally found myself in such a game in the early 1990's. Our
minor peewee team was playing in the championship game of a tournament
against a team which was from a smaller community but which consisted of
mostly major peewee aged players. They were allowed into the tournament
because the organizers needed another team and they were from a
The arena was filled to capacity with spectators. During the 2nd period
our team was being "hammered", both in terms of the score and
physically. The older, bigger players were taking liberty with the fact
that the referee, who was local and went to school with them, was too
young to be doing the game in the first place and was not very
self-confident in front of the large crowd that was enjoying the
My captain was slammed into the boards and said something
to the referee who quickly gave him a misconduct. Three of my players were
injured and taken to the dressing room, and since I had started the game
short a couple of players to begin with I was in real trouble. The parents
of the players on the team were very upset that nothing was being done to
penalize the rough play and were absolutely terrified about the dangerous
situation their children were in. I did not want to risk a suspension for
the remainder of the year, but I too was very concerned about the safety
of the players since my son was one of them.
Then, when I was down to only seven skaters, the captain of the
opposing team was skating in on a one-on-one against my lone defenseman.
He was skating at a full head of steam and as he approached the
defenseman, and instead of moving to the left or right to get around, he
went straight forward and jumped on top of my player's back, bending him
in half and landing heavily on top causing another injury. The player got
up laughing and watched as his team mate picked up the puck and scored yet
I then told one of my remaining players to go out on the ice and
when they lined up for the face off to push the player beside him.
The referee saw this and called a two-minute roughing penalty. When they
lined up again, I told another player to do the same thing and once again
the referee gave a two-minute penalty. This happened again two more times.
A more experienced referee may have noticed what was happening, but as I
said, this one was not qualified for a championship game of this calibre.
Now I had my captain and four of my players in the penalty box with minor
penalties for roughing. The referee laughed at me when he brought the
final two to the box.
When they lined up for the face-off, I only had two skaters on the ice.
The referee motioned for me to send another person on the ice, but the
only player left was my defenseman who was injured on the previous play.
The game had to be stopped because I had run out of players.
Needless to say I faced a lot of heat from the tournament organizer who
wrote up a long report about my terrible behaviour. They realized
what had happened but there was nothing that they could accuse me of in
the rule book. We had run out of players and could not continue. There is
no penalty for running out of players and the referee could not cancel out
any penalty after it was given and announced. My players were safe and
they received the silver medal, but I was not happy at what I was forced
to do. It still leaves me with a bad taste when I recall the game.
THE PARENTS CAN TAKE THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE GAME: Another
possible solution when involved in a game such as this is for the parents
to pull their children off the ice and out of the game. There is not much
a coach can do if a parent comes along and takes her child off the bench.
The coach can remain to continue the game, but once again, if he doesn't
have enough players the game will have to be forfeited.
The CHA rule also states that the players of the team could be
suspended for one year or more for refusing to play the game. However, it
is highly unlikely that any association would take that action and risk
the potential political fall-out if a parent was the one who took the
child away. For example, how could you determine whether or not the parent
was concerned about a previous injury which might be aggravated by playing
A CHANGE OF ATTITUDE IS THE BEST SOLUTION: It is suggested here that the best way to prevent this type of
thing from happening is for coaches, parents, fans and players to change
their attitude towards penalties. I have been at many games at the bantam
and midget levels where the parents have been very vocal when penalties
have been called. Shouts of, "Let them play the game" and
"We didn't come here to see you call penalties" and "There
is body-checking at this level" are heard all the time. Referees soon
find that it is much easier to please everyone in the arena by
"letting a lot go" than to call it "by the
This is not a comment on how the rules should be applied. We all know
that "all" infractions should be called regardless of the level
or the game situation. However, when you ask coaches, they will usually
say that they would rather see no penalties called than have a lot of
penalties called. As they often say, penalties affect the "flow of
We have to encourage referees at all levels to "use the
book". And hockey associations must back up the referees who have the
courage to call the game the way it should be called. Just because the
players are older and stronger is no reason to allow them to get away with
infractions which would have been called at younger levels - yet it
happens all the time.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THIS ISSUE?
It looks as if Gmeinweser will be suspended for the rest of the year. It
is also quite likely that there are other coaches who will be taking
similar action during the year when they come up against the same type of
situation. We very seldom hear about coaches stopping play because the
vast majority of games never get that much out of control. Referees for
the most part do an excellent job of managing the safety factor. However,
it does happen, and it may happen more often in the future.
SPECIAL NOTE: Tim Gmeinweser appealed to Hockey
Alberta to have his suspension overturned. His appeal was denied and
he will remain suspended for the remainder of the season.
To: After The Whistle, CHA From: Tim Gmeinweser Date: Feb. 9, 2003
My name is Tim Gmeinweser. I have been suspended
from coaching my Bantam hockey team for pulling my team off the ice during
a Christmas tournament game. You may have heard about my situation. I had
a hearing at the EMHA office and was suspended for the rest of the year. I
appealed the decision, with the backing from my association, the Knights
of Columbus, with Alberta Hockey Assoc. They upheld the suspension.
I pulled my team off the ice due to safety concerns.
The game was turning violent. The parentís were getting upset. I had
four injured players. The young official did nothing and did not respond
to my calls for a conference with him. After I had parents coming down to
the bench and asked me what I was going to do about this, I pulled my
team. What concerns me the most about the EMHA hearing and the following
appeal is the committee did not acknowledge our injured players but rather
they seemed to focus on the point that I was unhappy with the officiating.
I was unhappy, because the lack of penalties called, resulted in the game
getting out of control and players were getting hurt. It appears to me
that the two governing bodies of the EMHA and AHA do not have the best
interest of the kids at heart, instead they were more intent of teaching a
volunteer coach a lesson for breaking a rule. I sat through the EMHA
hearing, listening to one of the judicial committee members refer to our
situation as garbage. During the appeal with AHA I had to listen to a
committee member call our parents names. If this is what minor hockey has
come to I do not want to be part of it.
I am thankful for the support I received from every
parent of my team. They wrote letters of support that were included in the
appeal package. In the end, I did as the parents wanted. It should not
matter what the other team says or does, which the appeal committee seemed
to take at face value. The point is the parents from my team agreed with
my position and my decision, they didnít want to see their kids
seriously hurt, in what is just a game.
As a volunteer coach I have taking all sorts of
courses dealing with childrenís safety. As a coach I am responsible for
these kids wheneverthey are
involved in a hockey activity with the team. However, as I have realized,
I apparently am not responsible during a game situation, this doesnít
make sense. A coaches responsibility should not end in a game situation
and be relinquished to a young official. If I was to let a young man run a
practice and one of my players got hurt I would be negligent. How does the
game situation change this?I
was told I broke a rule and therefore I should be punished. The only
people being punished here are the children playing on my team,they do not have a coach. As stated, I have the support of the
parents and that is the most important factor because at the end of the
day they are who I have to answer to. A rule should not be more important
than the childrenís safety which I have found out IS.
First of all, I would like to thank Tim Gmeinweser for providing us
with this letter. It gives our readers insight into the situation
and also clears up any misunderstandings as to why the action was
The safety of players is a real concern for all people involved
in a hockey game. Coaches, officials, convenors, the players
themselves, and most of all, parents are concerned about safe
play. However, once the contest begins, the rules of the game
do not seem to provide a reasonable way for a coach to make a
judgement call with respect to the safety of his players. This is
obviously a serious issue. The question that it begs is, "Can a
coach be found negligent in a court of law for failing to protect
his players if it is proven that the safety of his players was in
On the other hand, if players are seriously injured in a game,
and the referee must defend his handling of the contest, can a judge
rule that the referee was negligent in his duties to enforce the
rules? Or will the judge rule that both the coach and the referee
were equally negligent?
Another thing to consider is whether players are left completely
on their own during the course of a game with respect to safety. If
their safety is in jeopardy, and if the coach and the referee both
fail to do anything to remove players from this inherent danger, is
the responsibility then shifted to the player to remove himself from
the game and leave the ice surface? If so, at what age can a player
be expected to take on this responsibility from his coach? What is
the age of reason in hockey? When does a player have the ability to
realize he is in a dangerous situation?
We are not blaming the other team in this case. The other team
may have been physically more dominant. The rules do not penalize a
player for being stronger than his opponents. But if you find
yourself completely "out of your league" and completely
over matched, what can you do? If you know your players are in
jeopardy, and if you do nothing, are you not being negligent? If the
reason you do nothing is because you do not want to be suspended
from the league for the rest of the year, is that rule going to
protect you from a verdict of negligence if a player is seriously
These are questions which must be addressed. Safety of players is
not a small responsibility. It is huge! It cannot be taken lightly.
In the meantime, with the rules as they are, the only advice that
makes any sense must be given to referees. In order to protect
yourself from possible charges of negligence, use the the rule book.
When in doubt, penalize. If a player argues, give him a ten minute
misconduct. If a coach complains, explain that it is for his own
good and then give him a game misconduct. Give out enough penalties
and the game will have to be called anyway because of a lack of
I'm not sure if this is the answer, but until the responsibility
for the safety of the players is clearly defined, and unless it is
shared by all parties, the referee is the only one legally in
control according to the rule book. It's no longer worth the risk to
"let the kids play the game" if the game is going to get
violent and there is a question of safety. It won't make for very
exciting games, but it will sure allow the referee to sleep well at
night and to prove that they did everything possible to maintain a
safe environment on the ice.
After The Whistle would like to hear you comments on this matter.
Publisher - After The Whistle
Sheldon Craigen has a son who plays goal on a midget team
in the Millwoods SEERA Hockey association. He sent a comment
to After The Whistle which raised a very interesting point. While he takes
issue with the referee who handled all three games in which his son's team
played during a recent tournament, his comments should not be seen as a
criticism of the particular referee, but rather as an indication of a much
larger problem which is facing minor hockey today. I would like
to repeat his comment here for discussion purposes.
I am the parent of a Midget Goaltender who participated in a
Christmas tournament in New Sarepta. We had the same referee for
three games. He was consistently bad for all three games. I hope
it was not the same referee who was involved in the bantam
tournament. If by chance it was then that referee should be
suspended forever. He was not consistent in calling the play for
either team and let our games get out of hand. We won the first
game and lost the last two. In the last game one of our players
was slashed with a two handed slash that broke his wrist. No
penalty! My son was repeatedly run by the other team and when he
said something to the referee , the referee , told him to keep
his head up. After about the 7 time my son lost his cool and
fought back He slashed the offending player with his goal stick,
the referee did not see it no penalty was called, the slashed
player jumped my son from behind. My son wrestled himself on top
of the other player and started to punch him. This resulted in a
match penalty because my son had never been in a fight before
and did not know enough to remove his gloves in a fight. He received
a three game suspension from the Millwoods SEERA Hockey
association. He did deserve this and has served his suspension.
If the refereeing had not been so bad I feel that this horrible
incident would not have happened. I strongly feel the coach
should have questioned the tournament organizer about being
given the same referee for all three games in a tournament and
requested an alternate for the third game. At the start of the
game I said out loud to a parent beside me " I wonder if
the referee is going to take up where he left off in the last
game?" The referee heard me and looked right at us and said
"yes". I fight hard to keep from be-littling the
referees as I referee seniors and I know how hard it is . If I
was as incompetent as this one was I would hang up my skates.
ARE THEY DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD?
Editorial By: Robert Kirwan
POPULARITY OF TOURNAMENTS HAS INCREASED OVER THE YEARS
Hockey tournaments have become extremely popular in the last ten or
fifteen years. It is not uncommon for teams - whether they are house
league or rep clubs - to take part in as many as five, six or more
tournaments each season. These tournaments are usually held from Friday to
Sunday and guarantee each team a minimum of three games. A good team may
get as many as six games on a weekend if they get to the championship
Say what you want - tournaments are used as a way for hockey
associations to raise money. Many years ago, someone got the bright idea
that if you gathered a lot of teams together for a "compressed
competition"; charged a high entry fee for the teams; sell tickets to
parents who came to the games to watch their children; operated a
concession with a licensed bar; and sold advertising in programs, you
could make a lot of money and keep the local registration fees from rising
THE 'RAFFLE-TICKET' PHENOMENON
Eventually, all hockey associations got wind of this and we now have
what I will call the "raffle-ticket phenomenon" in minor hockey.
By this, I mean that it is almost expected that if a team comes to your
tournament, you should be going to theirs. For example, if someone sells
you a raffle ticket, you expect them to buy one from you when it is your
turn to sell. I also see this phenomenon being used with respect to 50-50
draws. Many minor hockey teams designate a parent to sell 50-50 tickets to
fans as a way to raise money. So, if you buy tickets when you visit
another arena, you expect those people to buy tickets when they come to
HOCKEY TOURNAMENTS ARE NOW OUT OF HAND
Hockey tournaments have now gotten out of hand. It is becoming
increasingly expensive to run tournaments, so games are shortened, entry
fees are increased and admission prices have sky-rocketed. Furthermore,
municipalities have found that they can make more money renting out ice
during tournaments than they can during regular weekends, so they schedule
as many as they possibly can during the season. Coaches sometimes have to
go to tournaments just so that their team can keep active. And many of
them are out of town.
ENTERING A TOURNAMENT IS RISKY BUSINESS
Whenever you go to a hockey tournament, you are risking disaster as a
First of all, parents would like to play different teams when they go
to a tournament. However, when you play different teams from different
associations, you have no idea of the calibre of their clubs. The
situation is worse in house league and lower tier levels. Once you get to
the AAA level, you find the competition pretty much even.
Another thing you often find when you go to a tournament is that the
style of officiating is not what you are accustomed to. Sure, we will
always say that the rule book is the same regardless of where you play,
but the reality is that the supervisor of officials has a lot to do with
the consistency of his or her referees. On top of this, it is extremely
difficult to find officials who have time to do games during the day at
tournaments - especially if they are held on weekdays. Therefore, you can
sometimes find inexperienced referees on the ice in situations which will
be hard to handle merely because they were the only ones available.
IT IS NOT EASY TO REFEREE A TOURNAMENT
Tournament organizers also try to squeeze in as many games as possible.
This leads to another problem when it comes to officiating. It is not
uncommon to find referees doing up to 20 games during a weekend
tournament. Not only is this tiring, but it is also extremely difficult to
keep sharp and on top of your game as an official when you are on the ice
for three or four intense games in a row. And yet, it is often hard to
avoid this type of scheduling simply because we don't have enough
The fact that Mr. Craigen's son had the same referee for all three of
his games is not surprising. While it doesn't happen often, it is
possible. Referees must be scheduled prior to the beginning of a
tournament. They have a life too and cannot all be sitting around the
entire weekend not knowing when they will be going on the ice. So when the
game is scheduled, the referee-in-chief may not have any idea of who will
be playing. He is given times and must make sure that the officials are
scheduled. The assignment of the referees for the championship games may
be done during the tournament, but the majority of games are assigned in
A referee is not too impressed when he is forced to do the same team
more than once or twice in a tournament. Time is the best healer, so
during the season if you are in a difficult game there is usually a period
of time before you do the same team again. In a tournament, you may have
an extremely difficult contest in the morning and find yourself on the ice
with the same team a few hours later. This is unfortunate, but it can't be
helped. The referee knows the players, coaches and fans will be on his
case from the opening whistle because of the problems which arose in the
previous game. Add to this the fact that the emotions increase as you get
deeper into the tournament and you can well imagine the pressure that a
referee feels if he is doing a team for the 3rd time in a day or two.
TOURNAMENTS BRING OUT THE WORST
Tournaments tend to bring out the worst in parents and coaches. The
games are emotional powder kegs. If you have traveled a long way to get to
the tournament, and if each family has spent hundreds of dollars for
hotels, food and other expenses, you want to win at all cost. Add to that
the fact that the games may have been shortened a bit for scheduling
purposes, and it is easy to see why people lose their tempers easily. We
also realize that tournaments often provide alcoholic beverages as
refreshment and it is obvious what that does as you get later into the
TOURNAMENTS OR LEAGUE PLAY - WHERE ARE THE PRIORITIES?
It is time for hockey associations to re-evaluate their priorities. The
most important thing they do is organize a league for their member teams.
It is time for everyone to stop being so concerned about attending
tournaments and pay more attention to using the time and money for
additional practices and games with local competition in a situation where
they have control over the environment. Tournaments are fine at the end of
the season to determine a regional champion, but they have long lost their
usefulness as a form of competition during the season.
Tournaments have also lost their usefulness as a fund-raiser for the
most part. The expenses have risen so much that the profits have fallen.
As a parent, I felt that hockey tournaments were nothing more than a big
waste of money. I would spend up to $500 on a weekend to watch my son play
3 to 5 games in order to get a medal that he could hang on the wall. That
works out to over $100 per game. When I coached minor hockey teams, I
often rationalized with parents who wanted to go on out of town trips. I
told them that I would rather have them all pay me $500. That would give
me $8000 that I could use to purchase extra ice-time for up to 80 games
and practices instead of using that money to buy five games and 16 medals.
Perhaps the most important reason for cutting back on tournaments is
because of what tournaments tend to do to the image of minor hockey. Many
of the most notorious negative incidents occur during tournaments.
Players, coaches, parents and fans get all caught up in the emotional
atmosphere surrounding the intense tournament play and then anything can
For the time being, it looks as if tournaments are going to be a big
part of the hockey scene for a while yet. Therefore, it is up to
tournament organizers and coaches to try to keep a handle on the situation
in order to ensure positive experiences for all participants. However, do
not bury your head in the sand. If you plan on attending a tournament, be
prepared for anything.
After The Whistle would like to hear your comments on this issue. CONTACT
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS ON
I am the Trainer / Safety person for my Atom level team.
I had to take a day-long course on how to look out for the safety of my
team. Recently, we played a game where the Referee didn't show up,
which I didn't notice until a couple minutes into the game. The
linesman, who were not trained or empowered to give penalties, never
called a penalty for the whole game. We were playing a team much
bigger and stronger than us, and this team began to take liberties with
their sticks and elbows, with no consequence. I began
to consider pulling the team, not knowing of this consequence.
I think it is a stupid rule to suspend a coach who is looking out for the
safety of his players. What is being communicated by the CHA
is that it is more important to finish a game than it is if a player gets
hurt, seriously hurt or even killed. It makes me want to applaud the
lawsuits when they come, because we deserve it for having such a stupid
rule such as this. It should be considered on a case by case basis,
rather than a flat one size
fits all kind of rule. David Ernst
What about the Coach of the
team that is allowing his players to run the opposition. Does he not have
the responsibility to teach fair play? He should be held responsible for
not adhering to the "fair play" policy. But alas he won't be
suspended. Minor hockey has become a joke, and it is at the top levels of
administration. Grant Fecho
Publisher's Comment: The problem of how to curb excessive
physical play on the ice has been with us for a long time. The issue
which must now be addressed is how can the responsibility for the
safety of the players be shared among the people who are directly
responsible for this safety. The referee and the two coaches are the
ones who ultimately must decide. Right now, the rules are quite
clear. Once a game begins, it takes something pretty big to stop a
contest. A referee who stops a contest for unnecessary roughness
will have to face his supervisor to answer a lot of questions. A
coach who refuses to continue playing will be suspended. There has
to be a policy put in place which allows a game to be stopped, or at
least suspended pending a ruling. Perhaps one coach can initiate the
discussion by calling a time out to meet with the referee, linesmen
and the other coach. Both coaches can have their say and the referee
and linesmen will take a vote on the matter. Perhaps it should be up
to the team which is losing to make the call to forfeit the game.
Regardless of what is decided, right now it is not fair to place the
responsibility directly on the shoulders of the referee alone. In
many of these contests which get out of control, it is through no
fault of the referee. Your comments will be appreciated.
I would like to know where Mr. Shaw got his information he used in
his letter to the editor, his quote was as follows.
"Why did the Edmonton parents and coaches allow
their low level Bantam team - Tier 5 or 6 in Edmonton to enter a
tournament hosted by a team traditionally equivalent to a Tier 2
or 3 team"?
Mr. Shaw, the team entered into the tournament in Tier 6, not into tier
2 or 3. There were 7 tiers in the tournament, Coach Gmeinweser
entered his team into the same level he had played up to that point in
the season. The opposition for Mr. Gmeinweser's team requested to
go into as high a tier as possible! The New Sarepta team
never played any exhibition games before entering the Edmonton
tournament and the organizing committee was just following New Sarepta's
Your statement that the lack of attention to the safety of their kids
began before they even left home to play this game is unfounded. Before
you make a statement like this next time, I hope you would have more
facts!! Thanks, Rod McMahon
K of C Sabres Bantam Director.
Editor's Note: Tier 1 is the level at which
the highest calibre teams play. Therefore, with seven different
levels of competition, it is difficult to determine where a team
should be placed. Since the New Sarepta club may not have anything
to which to compare its calibre, the coach may have simply asked
to enter the lowest division possible in order to avoid running
into the same situation as Mr. Gmeinweser found himself. Once the
game begins, it is too late to stop the competition, however, the
safety factor certainly does come into play and it is clear that
Mr. Gmeinweser chose to take a course of action which he felt best
at the time under the circumstances.
I have a son in minor hockey now. in the event I witnessed
escalating violence in a game, I would not hesitate to pull my son from
the ice, and encourage other parents to do likewise. For the record, my
son has very good coaches who both love the game and respect the children.
They encourage excellent skill development while respecting fair and
BUT IN REGARDS TO THE GEMEINWESSER CASE, I VOTE FOR HIM PULLING
HIS TEAM OFF THE ICE.
AS WELL, I VOTE FOR AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE OTHER TEAM'S
COACH TO DETERMINE IF HE ENCOURAGES VIOLENCE ON THE ICE. ANYONE
WHO FEELS THAT HOCKEY PLAYERS AND COACHES NEED NOT CONCERN THEMSELVES
WITH THIS ISSUE, NEED ONLY TO BRIEFLY READ THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA.
IN THE HOPE OF RESOLVING THIS ISSUE, I WILL PERSONALLY
EXPLORE IT IN DEPTH TO DETERMINE IF SOME MINOR HOCKEY LEAGUE COACHES
CAN ON OCCASION BE IN VIOLATION OF THE CRIMINAL CODE IN THEIR
COACHING PRACTICES BOTH DURING PRACTICES AND GAMES.
Again, suspending this coach was A huge mistake. This poor
judgment has set in motion much activity and publicity that
"Canada's Game" certainly does not need. BUT I FEEL AS A PARENT
OF A SON AND A DAUGHTER WHO PLAY HOCKEY, THE TIME FOR ARMCHAIR DEBATING IS
OVER. IT IS TIME TO ACT!
A VERY VERY CONCERNED HOCKEY PARENT
As a hockey parent I know what the
risks are with hockey. I know that in PeeWee there is body contact. I
know that they will be looking at the Atom level for body contact. I
also know that I support body contact at all levels like Mr. Gretzky.
You need to teach these kids early on how to take a hit and how to give
a hit. Its called safety management.
Having said this I totally agree with the
Coachs decision to pull the team. Enough is enough. I know a few teams
that have played against New Serepta and those that were at the game
watching and said the same thing that team took it to the extreme and
the Referees lost control.
Edmonton Minor Hockey said only the Referees
can call a game and only parents can pull there children off the ice.
Well they must not read the rule book. How
are we parents to get to the Coach to tell him we want our child pulled
from the game. We can't the minute we tough the glass we are looking at
being thrown out of the arena.
....and if they think the referees are going
to call a game that is a joke. Most of these ref's are kids and do you
think they would make it to their cars to go home after calling a game.
There are a lot of scary parents out there.
The team was losing, they still would have
lost. But lets not sacrifice a child for a win.
I read your article on Gmeinweser pulling
his team from the ice. It is imperative that a coach protect his
players in all situations. No matter how you accomplish the
pulling of players from the ice, it is the right thing to do when a game
is out of hand. I would not want to see my son or any one else
injured, as a result of a minor hockey league game that is meant to be
My hat is off to Mr. Gmeinweser and I hope
that his action will not affect his ability to continue coaching.
It takes great courage to stand up for what is right, and clearly what
he did is right.
How can rules be set up to take away the
rights of children to show up at the rink and be safe. Mr. Orr and
Mr. Bossy were here in St. Albert last year and sent a clear message
along with their sponsor Chevrolet, 'Safe and Fun Hockey'.
When are we all going to get it. Our
kids show up at the rink to have fun, and in the process shouldn't we
make it safe so they want to go back? We need to change rules to
favor the participants in hockey, not the organization they belong to.
Ted Durham, St. Albert
In Coaches WE TRUST! I am a parent of a minor hockey Pee Wee player in the City of Edmonton
and I support any coaches decision to place the interest of his kids ahead
of the interest of his own personal jeopardy and the "outcome of a
game". I have seen coaches in the past who would not make that
decision and I would far prefer a coach who is concerned about his players
first and foremost than having someone who doesn't. That having been
said, I also agree that rules be put in place to prevent abuse of the
system and that all of us need to strive to improve hockey. It is
perhaps "not fair" that this coach was suspended for the rest of
the season but he made a decision knowing full well the risk he was taking
and can get up in the mornings smiling because he believes he made the
right choice. Those parents, the Sabres and this coach need to now
put their focus on working together to come up with solutions to prevent
this from happening again and put their energies into ideas.
All of us has the right, ability and voice to make positive changes and
it is far too easy to talk the talk, we all have to walk the walk as
I am not involved in hockey, but my 4
children play soccer (outdoor and indoor), my husband coaches
house-league and club soccer and I am on the soccer board.
I cannot believe that the associations for Edmonton
Hockey and Canadian Hockey do not support the coach in this matter.
From what I have read, everyone agrees
that the coach did not pull the team off the ice because they were
losing. Isn't that the main reason for the rule of suspension?
It has been said that the parents were
out of control and stirring things up. If that's true, wasn't it
just a matter of time before the players got out of control?
Players were already getting hurt.
On the hockey website, 'Relax It's Just
a Game' the very first paragraph and item is as follows:
The Game The Canadian Hockey Association asks you to consider your role in
showing "Respect" for the game, and for the people who
make this the great game it is. How much do you RESPECT the game
of hockey and all its participants? Take this simple test to see
how you rate.
Check off the statements that apply to you.
safety of the participants in the game is more important than the
How can you punish a coach who followed
rule #1 - in putting the safety of the players before
Further on, this is stated:
10 Ways To Become A Good Hockey Parent
Get involved with your son Make safety, respect, fair play and fun a
Do you or do you not believe that
"Safety of Players" is first and foremost?
It has been said that the coach
overreacted. Isn't it better to err on the side of caution or
should he have waited for a bench clearing brawl? Then the
damage is done and it's too late. He was trying to save the
players from getting hurt, not wait until they all got hurt.
This coach should be commended for his
spontaneous action and foresight. He did in fact put the safety
of his players first.
What is children sports coming to when an
adult cares for the kids, makes sure that nothing dangerous happens to
the kids and he is punished for it.
Do you really wonder why kids keep quiet
about abuse by coaches?
I for one as a former hockey player and minor hockey coach
do support and agree that the coach did the right thing in view of the
Hockey is supposed to be a game and a sport based on skills especially
at that level so if the players stand to be injured by the type of play
that is going on then the coach was correct in pulling his team. The
fact that none of the players had yet suffered any severe injury should
have no bearing. Does a player have to become paralysed before a
coach should feel entitled to pull his team off the ice for their safety.
Remember the game is supposed to be fun for all players on the ice and
not just the winning team as in this case. I applaud the coach for
his actions as I would have done exactly the same thing under the
For the love of the game, A. Pascal
I am the parent of a minor hockey player in Edmonton.
When our children play a minor hockey game, we parents give the coach
and officials a sacred trust: we give them our children.
During games in Edmonton, parents often have no way to communicate with
the players, the coaches, or the officials. They are likely
separated by the ice surface with the only building access being through a
locked dressing room. Therefore we parents must trust the coaches
and officials to act for us in our absence.
In my years as a hockey parent, I have watched many games where the
referees have taken good care to keep the play safe. I have also
watched many games where the referees have failed to notice an injured
young player collapsed on the ice, immobilized while play continues around
In Edmonton's minor hockey games, it seems two officials are required
on the ice. In practice, sometimes only one referee is present.
Yet even with two officials on the ice, it must be very difficult for the
referees to observe everything that happens during a game. If they
miss an offside call or a two-line pass, we might not like it, and some
parents or coaches might get really loud about it, but we accept it, and
no real harm is done.
But if the officials don't see a child's head slam into a goalpost, or
a child's leg get sliced open by someone's skate, or if the officials
don't call penalties for dangerous behaviour, those officials are acting
If the referees do not listen to the coaches who express their concern
and frustration about dangerous play, they are acting even more
And what can the parents, coaches, and young players do when harm is
occurring and the officials do not act?
During an Edmonton minor hockey game, the answer is: Nothing.
Nothing, except what Mr. Gmeinweser did. He pulled his players
out of harm's way.
That is exactly what I would expect of a coach to whom I have entrusted
my child. This coach placed safety above anything else.
And now, because Hockey Alberta regulations say that any coach who
refuses to have his team play must automatically be suspended, Mr.
Gmeinweser and his players and their families are going to be punished.
Punished for doing the right thing.
Hockey Alberta needs to change the regulations and policy: player
safety must become absolutely paramount, not only in regulation but also
No child should be subject to harm because of a wrong-headed adherence
to a paper regulation.
It's time for Hockey Alberta and the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association
to do the right thing too. The safety of thousands of young hockey
players depends on it.
Concerned Hockey Parent
As the Bantam Director for the K of C Sabres hockey team
involved in this incident I would like to say that the entire executive of
the Sabres organization stands behind Tim in his decision to remove his
kids from this game. The safety of his kids was the only concern Tim had
at the time, not the suspension he may incur.
The EMHA has applied a suspension lasting till the end of this current
hockey season. In a message from the Discipline chair from the EMHA
he stated that Tim pulled his team off the ice because he was losing, this
is a joke. Simply stated, Tim did what was best for his team, safety
was an issue, if Tim had not pulled his kids at that stage the parents
would have done it! Every Sabre parent in attendance has written a
letter of support for Tim.
As an organization I ask our coach's to be responsible for the players
they coach, they attend the CHA sponsored Speak out Safety program where
they are taught to make sure the kids are in a safe environment at
practices, pre game & post game yet when something happens
during the game they are to let it go, the ref is always in charge. If the
situation gets out of control on the ice, as what happened here, is the
coach being negligent in letting his players continue to get hurt?
Hopefully something positive comes out of this, I do not advocate
coach's pulling their teams off the ice because they are losing badly or
they don't like the referees, but this incident was a safety issue.
Thanks, Rod McMahon
K of C Sabres Bantam Director.
I think, given the situation of a stronger physical team
which is clearly going to win, that I as a parent should pull my son off
the bench. The parent holds ultimate responsibility for his child's
safety. Personally I would not risk injury for the sake of one game.
Hopefully, if we can encourage better attitudes towards referees and their
responsibilities, I won't have to face this situation.
All the opinions I've seen (or heard on the
radio) so far on this matter take the side of the Edmonton coach
who pulled out of the game- and maybe the coach was right but how do I
know? I wasn't at the game. I haven't heard New Sarepta's point of view.
I haven't heard the referee's point of view. In fact, I haven't heard
specifically what the Edmonton team's complaint or complaints were. Were
the kids a little unlucky in how they fell after a check? Were the New
Sarepta kids playing dirty- sticks in the groin and neck or were they
just bigger or stronger? I haven't heard that the New Sarepta team has a
bad reputation- do they? (They play in the 1660 league, I think and they
are #3 of 15 teams in PIM's - but only average 18 PIM's per game which
isn't extreme.) All these unanswered questions are why they have a
hearing on such an issue. They had a hearing and the coach was found in
But I do have a really key
Why did the Edmonton
parents and coaches allow their low level Bantam team - Tier 5
or 6 in Edmonton to enter a tournament hosted by a team traditionally
equivalent to a Tier 2 or 3 team?
The lack of attention to the safety of their kids began before they even
left home to play this game.
After reading your article, I have a number of mixed
emotions about this topic. I feel that really it comes down to
coaching. We had a Peewee A game not so long ago, and a scruff
happened in the corner between two players, and the one coach was yelling
from the bench acknowledging to his player to finish what had started, and
the once again young refs did not call it. But in saying that the
coach did get a 3 game suspension.
I feel that a lot of coaches get too much freedom from their
organization, and if the team is winning then no one definitely wants to
say anything to the coach. The coaches who want to play as a team
with finesse and skill, are being forced to play a killing game because
some coaches are teaching their players to crash and bang, and wear them
down, and then to go and play the game after they have accomplished
So it seems to me that maybe we should control and monitor our
coaches. Whether that be through our provincial hockey organizations
which in affect would affect our home organizations as a whole. I
feel that to many times coaches are put on the bench not because they
actually have the skills, but rather that they have the time.
Just because they take the coaches courses, does not mean they have the
ability to coach. I have also pleaded with our organization to have
someone whose job would be to assess the coaches, and treat like a
new job application. Maybe they need on the job training, and it
might take a lot of time but once this is complete maybe we would
have everyone in hockey with a common objective. For what its
worth I really think we have to make the coaches accountable, as they have
more influence over our kids than anyone.
The following comment raises some serious questions with respect to
tournaments. After you read this comment, please read the article on
tournaments by clicking here >>>>
I am the parent of a Midget Goaltender who participated in a Christmas
tournament in New Sarepta. We had the same referee for three games. He
was consistently bad for all three games. I hope it was not the same
referee who was involved in the bantam tournament. If by chance it
was then that referee should be suspended forever. He was not consistent
in calling the play for either team and let our games get out of hand.
We won the first game and lost the last two. In the last game one of our
players was slashed with a two handed slash that broke his wrist. No
penalty! My son was repeatedly run by the other team and when he said
something to the referee , the referee , told him to keep his head up.
After about the 7 time my son lost his cool and fought back He slashed
the offending player with his goal stick, the referee did not see it no
penalty was called, the slashed player jumped my son from behind. My son
wrestled himself on top of the other player and started to punch him.
This resulted in a match penalty because my son had never been in a
fight before and did not know enough to remove his gloves in a fight. He
recieved a three game suspension from the Millwoods SEERA Hockey
association. He did deserve this and has served his suspension. If the
refereeing had not been so bad I feel that this horrible incident would
not have happened. By the way in the first game my son was given the
award for the player who "showed the most hussle and bustle''.
Hussle should be spelled hustle but was misspelled on his trophy. I
strongly feel the coach should have questioned the tournament organizer
about being given the same referee for all three games in a tournament
and requested an alternate for the third game. At the start of the game
I said out loud to a parent beside me " I wander if the referee is
going to take up where he left off in the last game?" The referee
heard me and looked right at us and said "yes"
I fight hard to keep from be-littling the referees as I referee seniors
and I know how hard it is . If I was as incompetent as this one was I
would hang up my skates.
Thank you for replying to the
afterthewhistle.com website with your experience with a
referee in your district. As both you and I know,
for the most part everyone involved in Minor Hockey has at
some point run into an inconsistent referee, a coach who is
not familiar with the game, a fan who constantly yells
obscenities, and players who are malicious to each other on
the ice. I'm certain that you are very proud of your
son's accomplishments and that the positive aspects of the
game have outweighed the negative otherwise your son would
probably have left the game long ago.
My goal for the website is to improve
the image of hockey. Most people have the misconception
that hockey is always an unfair, brutal sport. In order
to change this image, I am promoting the positive aspects of
the sport. If you could share with us some of the
positive experiences or accomplishments of your son and or his
team, I would gladly publish the story on the website.
Thank you again for expressing your
interest in www.afterthewhistle.com.
I look forward to reading about your son's positive
accomplishments and experiences.
Unfortunately there was another incident in Rockland
on December 14, 2006 where the coach was suspended for 60 days for
teh same type of incident. His appeal was denied by the ODMHA. The
salient point is what happens if play continues and a player is
seriously hurt, would the coach be guilty of negligence for
permitting play to continue when he felt it was unsafe to do so?
I can't offer a legal opinion in this matter,
but let's just say that it might be hard for a coach to defend
himself in front of a judge if asked that question.
On the other hand, once the game begins the safety of the
players is entirely in the hands of the referee. I have often
told referees that they would be the ones held the most
accountable if it was found that they knowingly put the safety
of players in jeopardy.
You almost have to develop a plan in advance with your parents
to anticipate such an occurance taking place. If you have some
way of getting a message to the parents so that they come down
to the ice level and "pull their children" out of
the game, there is nothing a coach can do. A coach cannot be
held accountable for the actions of his parents and if the
coach still intended to play, the referee would have to call
the game once he ran out of players.
The current rules do not help a coach who finds himself in a
situation where it is necessary to pull his team. When the
investigation is held, the parents of the "aggressive
team" will all state that the game was not out of hand
and that there was never any danger to their players. It
becomes one side against the other.
Another way to unofficially pull the team is to ask your
trainers and assistant coaches to leave the bench area. The
head coach can easily get himself tossed from the game by
starting an argument with the referee. The game cannot
continue unless there are "carded" coaches behind
the bench. Once again, the referee would have to call the
game. The team would not have been pulled, but rather ran out
Unfortunately, all of this must be planned out in advance,
especially at the beginning of the season. No one ever expects
to run into such a situation, but there should be a plan.
After all, we all have a fire escape plan, but we all hope
that we never have to use it.
Just something to think about in the future.
Thanks for the comment.
Publisher, After The Whistle
Basically, coaches need an Emergency Action Plan (to
steal a concept for the Trainer's Manual) in the case that a game
gets out of hand. In my position as a business management consultant,
it would appear that the rule, although it was made with good
intentions, should be abolished sine it runs
contrary to Hockey Canada's mission to provide a safe and
sportsmanlike environment. In the book Reinventing Government,
the authors talk about rule driven versus mission driven
organizations. The current rules permit the suspension of
a coach for pulling his team off the ice
and puts the onus on the coach to prove his motives were for the
safety of the team; guilty until proven innocent.
If the mission statements of Hockey Canada were used as the driving
force of the organization, the coach would be permitted to pull the
team off the ice when the safety of his players was in jeopardy and
then the onus would be on the association to prove the contrary: innocent until proven guilty.
The fear is that if you revoke the rule, coaches will pull their
team off the ice with great regularity. I hardly think this
will be the case. Yes, there will be a few coaches that will
try to exploit the rule, but it will be a trivial exercise to spot
them and they can be dealt with accordingly.
More importantly, this puts the safety of the players in the hands
of the referee and the two caoches especially since most of the
minor hockey referees are teenagers.
I am the Trainer / Safety person for my Atom level team.
I had to take a
day-long course on how to look out for the safety of my team.
played a game where the Referee didn't show up, which I didn't notice
a couple minutes into the game. The linesman, who were not trained
empowered to give penalties, never called a penalty for the whole game.
were playing a team much bigger and stronger than us, and this team began
take liberties with their sticks and elbows, with no consequence. I
to consider pulling the team, not knowing of this consequence.
I think it is a stupid rule to suspend a coach who is looking out for the
safety of his players. What is being communicated by the CHA is that
more important to finish a game than it is if a player gets hurt,
hurt or even killed. It makes me want to applaud the lawsuits when
come, because we deserve it for having such a stupid rule such as this.
should be considered on a case by case basis, rather than a flat one size
fits all kind of rule.
In the last year or so we had a very well respected coach,
loved by parents
and players placed in a situation where his players were taking a beating.
He traveled to Ont. (Thunder Bay I believe) from NS, with his Midget AAA
team for a tournament. This team was the best in Nova Scotia for some
They were recruited by organizers who lied and tricked them into entering
this tournament which was not meant for 15 to 17 year olds but JUNIOR aged
players. Some players were close to 80 or more pounds heavier than their
His attempts to speak with the officials to stop what he considered down
right dirty play were rebuffed by the referee. The coach took a brave
when his players were being injured and pulled his team from the ice. For
this, the Ont association where this occurred contacted NS officials
demanded action. If the article is correct even some of the major
sponsors put pressure on NS to discipline him.He was suspended for 6
( Some of my facts may be off but if you wish to research ,it you can find
in the Daily NEWS in Nova Scotia)
In situations like this, if it can be shown that the organizers of the
tournament mislead teams to enter tournaments, that organizer should be
disciplined severely. I would support a ban on his/her personal activity
3-5 years with any Minor Hockey tournament. Secondly, the tournament
should be suspended for 1-3 years for disreputable conduct and lastly the
association hosting the tournament should be made to pay all expenses of
affected team. You now have put personal, group and financial
responsibility on all parties and would send a strong message to everyone
that the game of hockey is still about teens having fun and competing on
even playing field .
I am referee and a coach in NS and have worked with some obnoxious
that create more problems than their worth. A better vehicle is needed to
assess and determine whose personality does NOT belong in stripes. (Having
said that there are also many, many coaches who have no business behind
bench.) Too many assessments are being done by co-referees in the same
organization. Perhaps its time to have outside assessors for all
To whom it may concern;
Although this is now an older article, it is an ongoing issue, this
1st I've seen of the writing in question. I have been a player, a
and am currently an official in the area where this team resides (Although
was not involved in this tournament). I found a one sidedness
a key bad attitude that is typical among the coaching and yes the hockey
establishment in general. Your article implys that it is up to the
alone to keep control of a game and if it gets rough...unless its a one
incident thing,,that it is a referee's fault. You then tell other
focusing on your percieved problems with refereeing and casting us in the
worst possible light. I would hesitate to count the amount of times
games where the coaches begin to whine at the 1st hit agianst their
players..start karping at close calls that don't go thier way, and that
costantly agling for something every time I go by the bench. You as
will likely tell me thats part of my job and part of hockey to put up with
this. I would tell you back that this kind of attitude contributes
games getting out of control, especially at younger levels, than anything
official does or does not call.
How often have I heard "Call that..or its gonna get outta
"Someone's gonna get hurt", "Well we'll just have to
protect him ourself
then" "Ok guys, I guess Slashes/elbows/punches (insert
thing that may or
may not have happend depending on the point of view or vantage of the
viewer) are legal guys"..or the like...all delivered with almost a
gleefull..."if you wont call it like I (coach) see it then I will
myself of all responsibility for encouraging fairness" tone of
voice..usually delivierd across the ice at full volume.
is reading this..if you are a coach of any length of experience, I can
almost garantee that you have either used these, or been in a game where a
coach has. Incidently this kind of thing usually ruins the coaches
credibility with the official within 15 seconds, resulting in him not
taken at all seriously when he may have a legitimate concern to discuss.
Think about it. You are your teams role model as a coach!
You are now
teaching them that A) authourity doesnt know best...that dishonest mind
games are the way to gain an advantage..to whine and cry (and possibly
scream and swear), to get revenge if the ref wont do it for you, that you
have no control about how the game will be played and its all up to him,
that 2 wrongs make at least a fairness, and that its ok to treat people
crap if they don't do things your way, and that it's ok to be willing to
hurt to win, if someone esle thinks the same way.
Then we are expected to keep these kids under controll??? We
penalties, but you have the relationship with the players. If you
they will respect you 1000% more than us no matter what we call.
need to realize that in 99.9999999% of hockey no one is going anywhere and
the biggest thing the kids will take from this is LIFE LESSONS!!!
our coaches teaching?
There are so many coaches that get their team jacket, strut around behind
the benches with it, and spend more time focused on what I'm doing than in
growing thier players as people and hockey players. THESE are the
that are dangerous to your children. Not some poor guy that may be
his 1st bantam game, his 1st playoff final, or just mabey a bad day
have those, just like you do at work! We don't like it any more than
do, but if we appologize usually it is in turn used against us next time
see you. You wonder why we seem aloof?). In any case, the
offiial has to
learn and improve somewhere, just like the players do.
There is also the fact that the majority of refs work hard to
thier game every time, to give a good effort, and to keep the game safe
fair. That last is our mandate by the way, not to call everything
happens to your team that MAY be a foul, or that MAY look nasty. We
be fair to BOTH SIDES. If it was not a foul, it is NOT A PENALTY.
If I see
no way that player can be more than just winded, I will NOT be calling a 5
minute major for an injury. This would not be fair to your opponent,
tho yes, he may have committed a foul I must be fair to them as well.
know you don't like to see your players lying on the ice. Neither do
But that will not change what I saw. You may have seen it
have a different angle, mabey no one skating in front of you, a better
of more of the ice, and a LOT more time to make your decisio...oh
don't need to make a snap decision here do you? I do, and I get 1-2
max to do so. By the way, in my years of coaching, I never saw a
Most coaches I talk to are in the same boat. As a referee
however I am
required to own and know this book. I spend time studying it, I talk
my colleuges, and every year I have to prove that knowlege. I would
that after their 1st year, most officails REALLY DO know more about the
rules than most coaching staffs or players. Honest!
I don't mean to attack anyone personally, but I want you and any who would
see this to stop and think about what is happening at the rink and on the
bench. There are lots of good coaches who add to the game out
there are many many, who's behavior I wouldnt want modeled to my kids win
lose. If you want to protect young hockey players, start within the
Is the lesson we want to teach that if you don't like whats happening, to
take your ball and go home? Is this something we want to
If the players don't commit foul play, I don't need to miss anything do I?
Thank you for your comments.
I will post it on the site as soon as I have a chance.
Just a couple of comments, however, with respect to the issue.
All three of my sons were hockey officials. One is in the Ontario
League and even refereed at the Under 17 World Championships in
The main point I am making throughout the web site is that an
not make the rules - he simply administers the rules. He is much the
way as a police officer who issues a speeding ticket. Most speeders
upset with the police officer, but they are really upset at being
Some referees would rather "not make difficult calls".One
of the most
difficult calls is the ejection of a coach. However, in many games,
ejection of a coach or a couple of players is all that is needed to
message across and keep the game safe for the players.
You should never allow a coach to yell at you about calls. It only
infuriates the players and fans. Toss the coach and demonstrate that
in control. Demonstrate that all coaches and players must respect
"position" you occupy as the referee. If you ever have a
chance to meet
President Bush, you will be forced to call him "Mr.
"George". You may not respect George Bush the person, but
you must respect
the position of the President of the United States.
I always maintain that the referee is the one who controls the
safety of the
players once the puck is dropped. However, when it comes to a court
I wouldn't want to try to explain to a judge why I allowed my
take part in a contest which I knew was unsafe. Just look at the
which has been filed against Bertuzzi. It also names about a dozen
players and management.
Good luck with your officiating. And don't be afraid to use your
to make the game better for the players.
I bought my first pair of skates this year. I have
two young boys in Novice and Initiation. I figured I better learn to
skate a bit just in case they needed some help during a practice.
This to say that I am not a product of a minor hockey program and know
little of it, save the horror stories of parents gone wild around the
coffee machines at work.
I learned of this situation during a recent tournament. Our team of
7 and 8 year old children were involved in a game against an overly
aggressive team. It was during this game that I learned of the coaches
suspension for protecting his players. I was infuriated. How
can an individual, whom I assumed was legal bound to protect my children,
be forced to do nothing. Sure I can step in and pull my child. Know
when would ever question my right as a parent to do so. I see that a
"young" official was involved. If
the coach is unable to action to protect the children, and the young
official is unable to control the situation, I am curious if the
Tournament Organizers would be found negligent in not protecting the
children from harm.
Tim Gmeinweser had a moral obligation, one that transcends any ridiculous
bylaw or regulation passed by a governing body of an organization that
publishes a document entitled "safety for all". Travis Brassington
Editor's Comment Thank you for your letter, Travis. I agree with you in
everything you say. It is frustrating, but those are the rules. The
Tournament Organizers could stop a game if they felt it was getting
out of hand. At that point, the coach would be "off the
hook". However, you will seldom see a tournament organizer take
that kind of action.
There is no way that a coach should have to sit and watch
his team get slaughtered without having any type of recourse. This is the
major issue in Minor Hockey, the coaches or team managers do not have
enough power to control their team or the situations that may arise. The
referees are given absolute power while the coaches have absolutley none.
This is totally wrong, as a minor hockey coach myself I am charged with
for 15 kids, their parents in the stands and my assistant coaches
and yet their is no way for me to protect them from the opposition, the
refereeing or unsafe conditions. I think that any coach who feels that
their team or players are being abused then should have the right to
forfeit the game and take their team off the ice. This would serve two
purposes, the first one is the immediate danger on the ice and the second
is it might get the associations looking at the refereeing (which in most
cases is the root cause of the escalating danger on the ice) and the teams
that play under them. The game is meant to be fun and most people know
that getting hurt is not much fun. Let's get rid of the teams, players,
coaches, and referees who refuse to play the game fairly and cleanly.
Suspending coaches who are
usually volunteers for PROTECTING their teams is not the answer. Let's
stop the power tripping in Minor Hockey and find out why these types of
games are escalating every year and why it always seems to be the coaches
A Tired of Being Blamed Minor Hockey Coach
I am the
head coach of a Midget Minor A team in Colorado. After reading some of
your comments I can't say strongly enough that there has to be one
person that decides whether players are at risk and make the call to
pull the team. Being a coach on a bench where the hockey knowledge of
the parents varies, several of my parents would pull their kids in the
middle of each game in fear for their safety. It cannot be up to the
parent to pre-emptively decide to pull their player otherwise the coach
has no control over the team and never will.
Coaches also have the ability to communicate with each other and I have
sent notes over to other benches requesting that they tone down the hits
or we would walk and in one case I walked over to the other bench and
told the coach the score speaks for itself so tone down the hitting.
There wasn't a case where that didn't work out. Another thing I do as a
coach is scout my opponents especially at tournaments. I know prior to
the drop of the puck what I think is going to happen and when I have
known I was facing a far superior team I have communicated with the
coach before hand. In every game the score was inevitable but the
experience had by both teams fostered sportsmanship and growth.
is that there is no standard for referees, they have authority without
accountability and in the end your not going to have the game experience
you are looking for if you expect them to control the game. Understand
what you are walking into and prepare your team your staff and your
opponent by letting them know specifically what you are willing to
tolerate and what you are not willing to tolerate and maybe at the end
of the day our kids will still grow up loving a great game independent
of the success of the teams they have been on or the game to game
experiences they have encountered.
The following is the description of the Canadian Hockey
(extracted from the EMHA website), a program that EMHA requires for each
every team to participate in - one that assists us parents in keeping our
players safe on and off the ice as stated below.
I read below that injury prevention is knowledge the trainer should
Well, pulling a team in my opinion is injury prevention.
I as a parent of a Bantam player and hockey volunteer understand that many
factors influence how a game is played and the ultimate outcome. Safety
not only the players, but the refs, coaches and even spectators should be
the first and foremost concern.
Would there be as much debate on this if his team was winning!?!?!
CANADIAN HOCKEY SAFETY PROGRAM
The ultimate goal of the program is for all hockey trainers to implement
effective risk management programs with their own teams where safety is
first priority at all times, both on and off the ice.
"The trainer is as important as the best player on any team.
is important that the trainer have as much knowledge and awareness as
possible related to safety, injury prevention, emergency planning, and
dealing with injuries until medical assistance can be
-- Gaetan Lefebvre, Athletic Trainer for the Montreal Canadians and the
Spokesman for the Trainers Program
WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
This program is targeted at volunteers who find themselves in the role of
trainer. It may be the:
Parent who helps out
Drivers for out of town games
I as a parent take responsibility for my players' safety -
I ensure the equipment meets standards
I ensure that all equipment is worn
I ensure that my player respects his teammates, coach, opponents and
I ensure that I drive safely to and from the arena
However as a parent (of numerous hockey years) it has never crossed my
that I should read the EMHA bylaw to ensure that I would know what to do
if I felt my player was unsafe.
I put my trust in the coaching staff (there tends to be more than one)
and yet understand that they as parents have probably not taken on the
of reading the bylaws either.
Maybe EMHA is at fault here
Maybe EMHA needs to inform all players, parents, coaches and spectators of
their RIGHTS while at a MINOR hockey game.
Maybe EMHA needs to assist us all in making this a safe and FUN game for
I'm currently a USA Hockey Level 3 Official in Connecticut.
I've coached in the area for 15 years at all levels. I've been
involved on both ends in some great games and some really ugly ones.
Sometimes they just happen and there's not much an official can do to
avoid it, but it seems to me that most times when it becomes necessary for
a coach to decide whether or not to pull his/her team off the ice it's
because of a combination of ineffective and/or inadequate
officiating as well as ineffective and/or inadequate coaching.
I had an experience as an assistant coach in a game with my son once.
It was a peewee A-level game on the road and the officials assigned to the
game were, as in the case in the article, not up to the challenge in that
they were very young and inexperienced. They were both also
officials from the local area. Three minutes into the game two of
our players were already hurt due to hard checks from behind into the
boards. On one of the plays one of our injured players was even
penalized while he lay prone on the ice. Subsequently our head coach was
ejected from the game for his outburst following the play. After
another three minutes and further play along the same lines I pulled our
team from the ice to avoid further injuries. I wouldn't hesitate to
do it again given the same situation. As a coach I feel responsible
for the safety of my players and in this case I was concerned about that
safety enough to warrant this extreme measure to protect it. This is
not something I would do without serious consideration, and it's the only
time in my coaching career I've ever done it, but given the same situation
again, I wouldn't hesitate at all. There are times when we as
parents and coaches need to risk the possible sanctions in order to uphold
our responsibilities to our children. But I also believe that the
opposing coach was partially at fault for allowing the illegal and
dangerous hits to continue. We as coaches need to be instructing our
players, especially those just learning the checking part of the game, on
how and when to give AND TAKE a legal and effective check. Too many
coaches have taken the hit-to-intimidate attitude instead.
As a side note, as we were leaving the bench area with our players I
was approached by a mother from the home team who was amazed that we were
leaving and who screamed to me that I needed to remember that this game
was for the kids, to which I calmly replied "Exactly".
John G. Saitta, Connecticut
I have a son in Peewee level minor hockey in Edmonton. Our
Peewee team also had an opposing team coach pull their team during minor
hockey week. Really the only thing to say here is this: All coaches know
the rules about pulling teams during a game - they can't do it! They all
should also know that the parents CAN pull their team. Anyone involved in
minor sports of any kind knows that they as parents have the right to pull
their kids at any time and should exercise that right if they feel it
In reading many of the comments sent in by both readers and coaches
many people seem to think that the coach is responsible for the safety of
their kids - WRONG!. We, as parents have that responsibility. If the
parents deem that their child is getting hurt or will be hurt then parents
are responsible to do something about it - whatever they deem right. It's
far to easy now a days to push that responsibility onto someone else. The
coach's are there to teach our children how to play the game as well as how
to belong to and play as a team.
Although this coach may have done this for all the right reasons I
don't agree with the coach pulling his team. The parents should have
pulled the team if they thought it necessary. Had the parents exercised
this option their coach would still be on the bench where they want him to
Thank you, Wendy
Minor hockey needs more coaches like Mr. Gmeinweser who are concerned for their
players well-being. He should definitely NOT have been suspended for
his actions. Some would say that by allowing coaches to do this without fear of
penalty, that it would happen all the time. SO WHAT!
If that is what it takes to bring the problem to light, then so be it. The three words I really
hate to hear, "Let them play". Penalties need to be called. Until referees start calling all
all the time, we will always have a problem in hockey at all levels. Yes, it slows
down the game.
It won't take long for players and coaches to wise up. Some would say that
the problem is that referees doing house league games are also doing
competitive games. SO WHAT!
I am fairly certain that a slash or a trip or a high stick or a punch, are
the same at all levels. Unless there is a more competitive way of doing
them that I am unaware of, please tell me. I would not tolerate being
sworn at or called names. Why should referees. Call penalties. Yes, some will get called that aren't penalties.
We need to put RESPECT back into the game. That has to start with coaches.
I hope I don't lose any sleep, knowing Mr. Cherry won't agree with me. Maybe if he were to say
something that would help, the problem would
change over-night. But that won't happen. Enough said. Let's do something.
Coach and concerned parent.
I am a parent with a son who played
minor hockey, coached in minor hockey for 14 years, reffed for 10
years in minor hockey, and am a referee coordinator. I am amazed how one
sided all the articles and opinions are of this incident. I to was
concerned about safety and refering quality while my son played but
decided it was better to get involved rather than bitch, blame and
I'm not trying to say dangerous situations
don't occur because they do. There are four main componets to a
safe hockey game in two coaching staffs, the referees and the
parent/fans. If any one of these or especially two of these components
does not have control, the players will soon respond and emotions take
over and dangerous play occurs. Each have their responsibilites to
First many parents set the tone in the arenas and
fail to control their emotions. Any time their side isn't given the
upper hand by the officals, they yell and scream at young kids reffing hoping
to sway the next call. Parents and fans can and should cheer their team
but do they need to yell and scream at unfavorable plays or calls?
Remember even if they don't agree it won't make it any safer by
screaming at the ref. I never heard it asked if the fans were
civil in this case?
A coaching staff can control and have a huge
influence on the tone of the game. Although the coach in this situation,
has been congratulated for his actions, he has never been questioned
whether he used tactics such as sending his captain to the ref to ask
for explainations, or ask the ref to come to the bench to discuss the
situation rather than just yelling at him about his calls. He could of
also used delaying tactics, late line changes, send out one player to
many or one player short just to delay, or icing the puck
frequently. If the game result is no longer in question what's a
delay of game penalty or a missed scoring oppertunity. These games do
have ice time limits and the clock is turned down with five minutes
in the ice time. Another responsibility of the coach is to not
enter games which the skill level is unbalanced. Body checking at the
Bantam lower teirs is always a concern because of the
size and skating ability differances. Unbalanced abilities adds to the
Referees do have an equal responsiblity, to keep it
fair and safe. It has always seemed to be implied that the refing was
unfair. But the responsibility is equal to the other components not over
It is very evident the people in this incident
knew how to work the media for some attention. It's not like this has
never happened before, but it sure got a lot of attention. All the
focus was on how the coach should be supported for pulling his team
rather than how he might of been able to communicate with the referee
better and or change the pace and the mood. Pulling teams will not make
it safer. Since this incident we have already had some copy cats looking
for attention. If this trend continues to grow soon all or many 4
or 5 goal leads will result in teams leaving claiming it's unsafe.
If you really want to make it safer, we can use some
more adult referees, but make sure you do your part at the arena,
because you are part of it, even when you are just the reporter.
First of all only the players, coaches, parents and referee attending the game can really
comment on what happened. Secondly, the players, coaches and parents
are seeing the game through tainted vision. They only see their son or their team being hit. The only non
bias person in the rink is the referee. If you don't believe me go to any rink sometime and
watch a full game. Listen to the parents screaming at their own kids, the other team, and the
officials. This is how the referee sees the game. From what I have heard
around the rink and from all the other postings it sounds to me that the New Sarepta team was not playing
dirty but just physical stronger than the other team. During the coarse of a hockey game
there are hundreds of instances where a strong player hits a weaker one and occasionally
someone gets hurt. Usually this happens to both teams. Unfortunately in this case the
other team had the majority of the stronger players. If the check is clean and someone get hurt this
is part of the game. The referee will not and should not call a penalty. The weaker player
has to learn how to protect them self when along the boards or keep their head up. The
only way you develop theses skills is by playing stronger players. Unfortunately this case
sounds a little more sever, and the players were getting hurt. I didn't hear how many players
were injured or the extent of their injuries. Did some players go to the hospital? Were there
any concussions or broken bones? If anyone knows I would appreciate the stats.
I do think that if a team is getting physically hurt that something has to be done. However if
we give power to the coaches to remove the teams from a game I assure you it will be
abused. There are many good coaches around and a couple of exceptional ones but
there are a few bad apples that would abuse this privilege.
Where do you draw the line? Can a coach pull his team if he feels his players are in
jeopardy. Or, how many players have to be injure to call it.
Part of the game is learning how to lose and sometimes it is a hard lesson to take. Some
people would rather quite then go through it. I am not saying that is
what happened in this case because I wasn't there but I am saying it would happen. I raise this question,
do you think the coach would have pulled his team if they were winning??? Despite the fact that they
were getting beaten physically.
There is one way to avoid the 1 year suspension and stop the game. You can run out of
players. This can be achieved by injuries and/or penalties. This is an
unfortunate way to end a game but you are in an unfortunate situation.
Fan, Player, and Official
After The Whistle would like to hear your comments on this issue. CONTACT