If you ever find yourself searching for a
topic of conversation that will generate all kinds of emotional reactions
from any group of people, no matter where they live or what heir
background, just ask them what they think about the state of hockey today.
It doesn’t matter who is in the group. It
doesn’t even matter if anyone in the group is actually involved in
hockey. Everyone will have an opinion. Unfortunately, most people won’t
have much to say which is positive.
The sport of hockey has always generated
passionate conversation among followers. This is not something new and it
is not something that will ever disappear. That is simply the nature of
the beast. Hockey is a popular sport on which everyone has an opinion.
Unfortunately, hockey seems to have entered
the 21st century at an all-time low in terms of public image,
but strangely enough, the game itself still seems to be as popular as
ever. Total registrations are increasing, especially at the younger ages;
more professional teams and leagues are springing up in new market
regions; corporate sponsorship revenue is up; and television ratings are
Yet, despite the popularity, hockey is also
witnessing an increasing level of violence, both on and off the ice; very
unhealthy attitudes on the part of parents; many coaches who definitely do
not belong in a role-model position with young children; a serious
drop-out rate among officials; and an escalating obsession among players
and parents to ‘make it to the big leagues’ at any cost.
of the main issues facing hockey in Canada and the United States today is
demonstrated in an analysis of the enrolment statistics in minor hockey.
While we will not spend much time examining the numbers in this book, you
will find that the data points out several interesting things that are
happening in hockey today.
of all, there seems to be a healthy growth in the number of young children
who are entering the sport. We
have plenty of children under the age of 8 or 9 who are being registered
by their parents in special “Initiation or Novice Programs”. These
introductory programs concentrate on skill development and having fun. The
programs are extremely popular with the parents and the kids have a blast.
area that is growing in leaps and bounds across North America is adult
recreation hockey. More and more men are coming back to the sport in their
20’s and 30’s, and playing until their 50’s and 60’s. These adult
recreational leagues allow men to play once or twice a week in a non-body
contact environment where they can simply have fun and compete with their
third area that is experiencing tremendous growth in numbers is girls
hockey, at all ages, but especially at the secondary school and college
there is one age group that continues to experience a disturbing drop in
enrolment. That is the group of 12
to 17 year old boys.
all of the efforts of volunteers and organizers to provide a healthy,
enjoyable initial introduction to the game to children under the age of
10, by the time they have reached the age of 12, boys begin to leave the
sport in droves. In fact, over half of the 12-year-old boys will make a
decision to quit hockey some time during the following five years.
This is a problem that must be addressed for the sake of the game.
And the way to address the problem is to try to find out why they are
DO TEENAGE BOYS LEAVE HOCKEY?
there are many reasonable explanations as to why we should expect to see
some drop off of participation levels among teenagers. Nevertheless, these
explanations do not justify such a large drop out rate.
of the main reasons for the drop off in participation is that after a
child enters secondary school, there are so many other sports and
recreational options available. High school sports and a multitude of
extracurricular activities are provided to students. However, it is still
possible for students to continue to play hockey while taking part in
these new activities. At least 50% of teenage hockey players continue to
enjoy the sport while they are going through secondary school, so it would
stand to reason that the rest of them might also maintain their hockey
jobs also come into play for some students. This would cut into leisure
and homework time, so it is another important factor. However, one would
expect that it would be possible to find a few hours a week to continue to
play at least house league hockey.
it would appear as if entry into secondary school, while a factor, cannot
be considered the sole reason for the decline, nor can it explain such a
large reduction in participation rate. There must be something else which
is affecting the rate.
order to give you an understanding of why we feel young people leave the
game once they enter their teenage years, we would like to examine some of
the reasons why they join hockey in the first place.
DO PARENTS WANT THEIR CHILDREN TO PLAY HOCKEY?
think we can safely assume that for the vast majority of young people the
decision to play hockey in the first place was not the child’s. Parents
put skates on their young boys and girls almost as soon as they can walk.
We have all seen children learning to skate by leaning on a hockey stick
or a chair. Therefore, in order to understand why children play hockey, it
is necessary to examine why parents made the decision to register their
children in the sport.
course, when asked, parents will come up with all of the right reasons.
During a focus group study we once conducted, parents were asked to
provide us with the main reasons why they wanted their children to play
hockey. Here are the top ten responses:
To have their child learn to be part of
a group and develop the ability to work as part of a team in order to
achieve goals and objectives which are established by the coach;
To have their child develop good
sportsmanship by learning how to accept victory and defeat with poise and
To have their child learn to respect
elders and figures of authority such as coaches, other parents and
To develop self-confidence;
To have the child learn how to combine
sports and school, always keeping in mind that academics must be the top
priority; To have the child become physically fit and learn to enjoy
hockey as a form of exercise;
To develop effective communication
skills and learn how to speak to adults, teammates and hockey officials;
To make new friends;
To develop moral guidelines which will
help in a child’s character development;
To have fun playing hockey.
would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with the motives of parents
who register their children in hockey for any or all of the above reasons.
A visit to the arena when the young 5, 6 and 7 year olds are on the ice
will easily confirm to any observer that the children and their parents
are in fact having fun and are definitely working to achieve their
original objectives. It is a very enjoyable and satisfying environment.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE A CHILD BEGINS PLAYING HOCKEY?
what happens between the ages of 9 and 12? Children seem to maintain a
high participation rate through the beginning years at the Novice, Atom
and Peewee levels, but clearly half of them will be looking for reasons to
leave by the end of their Midget years.
we make any attempt to identify the specific reasons why young players
drop out after Peewee, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why these
children were registered in hockey to begin with. It seems as if the
original goals and objectives of the parents were achieved at some point
since most children continue to play until the end of Peewee, but what
happens after that is the real question.
#1: To have children learn to be part of a group and develop the ability
to work as part of a team in order to achieve the goals and objectives
which are established by the coach:
is a very noble objective and in the early years of development parents
tend to sit back and enjoy the coffee and camaraderie of other parents,
who themselves are being introduced to the world of hockey.
is very similar to the situation that exists when parents register their
first child in Junior Kindergarten. It is a new experience as they try to
be concerned parents with little or no interference with the teacher.
after a few years in hockey, and after watching a number of coaches
provide instruction to their child, a strange thing happens to a lot of
parents. All of a sudden, they become critics. They also discover that the
lesson from the popular classic, Animal Farm holds true in hockey. The
modern version of the phrase would go like this: “All children are
created equal, but some are more equal than others”.
a child is identified as having ‘raw talent’, he is elevated to a
special status above most of the others. Today, Rep team coaches are
speaking to you about “moving your child up” to the play with children
of his own ability. This certainly makes sense, especially since the
school system has been doing this kind of thing forever. In school,
children are grouped according to ability and everyone knows who the top
group is. Everyone also knows who the bottom group is. The middle group is
in a state of limbo. So, for most parents, it is easy to understand that
there is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd line and that
usually the 1st line consists of the best players on the team.
If your child is on the 1st line, his services are usually in
demand by a team that plays at a higher level. For example, the 1st
line of an ‘A’ level team will catch the attention of ‘AA’
coaches. The 1st line of a ‘AA’ team will be noticed by
from personal experience, I can tell you that when you, as a parent,
especially if you are a father, are told that your son is good enough to
make the Rep or Traveling Team, it gives you a strange feeling of pride
inside. I say a “strange feeling” because it is more than just a
normal feeling of parental pride for a father. It is almost as if you are
being told that ‘you, personally’ are good enough to make the team.
I played hockey as a young boy, no one ever asked me to try out for the
Rep team. And when I finally made the high school team, I was on the 4th
line and hardly ever saw any game time. It was a totally humiliating
experience. Even though I
loved the sport and would spend hours on end playing pick-up games on the
road or on the outdoor rink, it still hurt a bit that I wasn’t “good
enough” to be on a rep team.
MY DREAM THROUGH MY SON
another coach came up to me and told me that my offspring was capable of
playing at the elite level, it was like a dream come true – my dream –
not my son’s. He was only 9
years old. He didn’t know what was happening. He was just glad to be
vicariously through your children is not something new, and despite the
negative connotation, it can be extremely exhilarating, if not addictive
for most parents. When this happened to me, it became a second chance for
me to make up for my own frustrations and limitations as a child.
of a sudden, once you are told that your son or daughter has been
identified as having special talents, working as a team isn’t quite as
important as it once was. Parents who see a dream coming true want their
child to stand out – to play on the ‘top’ line with the other
‘top’ players who will make their child stand out even more. When the
coach breaks up his top players so that each line is more balanced, the
parents of the ‘talented’ children aren’t too happy. After all, it
may be good for the weaker kids to have a stronger line mate who will help
them enjoy the game and be more competitive as a team, but what is it
doing to advance the skills of the better players? Moreover, what is it
doing to make the advanced players get noticed?
is when you begin to see parents on the team forming little groups or
‘cliques’. The parents of the top kids spend more time together. They
offer suggestions to the coach, or even voice personal concerns.
Their confidence level rises because they know how valuable their
son is to the success of the team. Parents
become the initial ‘agents’ for their children, concerned about
increasing their value even more. Look at the popularity of hockey schools
and development camps for evidence of how parents are trying to do
everything they can to increase the value of their children.
begin to keep track of how many seconds their child is on the ice, and
further, keep track of the ice time of the other kids to make sure that
they are getting their fair share. But,
as a parent of one of the top players on the team, they feel that a
‘fair share’ is not the same as for others on the club. They also
begin to look around for another place to play. Forget about teamwork.
This now about being a good parent/agent for your child. Where is the best
place for your child to live out “your dream”? Sorry about that. I
obviously meant “his dream”. Right?
#2: To have children develop good sportsmanship by learning how to accept
victory and defeat with poise and class;
is a very important lesson for children. Just think about it. There is
only one team in any league that is going to win the last game of the
season. There can only be one champion. Learning how to accept defeat is
something which is not only vital in sports, but in life itself.
the entry levels of hockey programs, winning isn’t quite as important.
Parents, coaches and players have a great time. When my own sons were just
starting out in hockey, the most important thing to them was getting
french fries and pop after the game. Half the time no one even remembered
the score of the games. Then sometime around the end of Novice or Atom, at
about the age of 9 or 10, winning begins to become more and more
are many theories about this whole issue of sportsmanship and how it seems
to be disappearing from hockey. My own theory is that the deterioration of
sportsmanship is directly related to the increase in the number of
tournaments that teams play during modern hockey seasons. This is
obviously not the only reason, but I submit that it is a very important
issues surrounding tournament play deserve a great deal more attention
that we can give in this book, but for now, suffice it to say that
tournaments have not done much to enhance the image of hockey. Tournaments
tend to bring out the worse in all parties, largely because of the
tremendous emotions that they bring out in coaches, players and most of
the early years, parents, coaches and players are content to play once or
twice a week in their own league, and at the end of the year everyone gets
a “gold medal”. However, human nature being what it is, we are
constantly comparing ourselves to others. Hockey is no different.
We want to compare ourselves to other teams, especially teams from
other communities. Hence, Rep teams and traveling teams are established
where we can put our best against another community’s best. Take it to a
higher level and you see why professional teams develop rivalries and why
international hockey creates such high emotion.
you put your best players up against the best players from neighboring
communities; neighboring provinces; and even neighboring countries. When
this happens, despite what hockey purists will say about developing good
sportsmanship, it is community pride that takes over. Lose the game and
you’ve brought shame and humiliation to your community. Win and you
demonstrate domination, not only over the opposing team, but moreover, you
have demonstrated domination over the other community. The game of hockey
merely becomes a ‘weapon of pride’, and the players are the
anyone wants to argue or dispute this point, I need only bring out the
tapes of the 1972 Series between Canada and Russia. By the end of the
eight games it was clear that the two countries were involved in much more
than a mere hockey series. Canada only won the series by a single goal in
the dying seconds of the final game, but that was enough for Canada to
declare that it had maintained its hockey supremacy. Many hockey experts
have declared that the 1972 Series was a significant turning point in
international hockey development. Suddenly, other countries realized that
Canada was not invincible and stepped up their programs. The United States
hockey program has seen tremendous advances since then as well.
once again, it would appear as if the objective of developing good
sportsmanship among young hockey players is in jeopardy as soon as
competition becomes a priority. Indeed, while we hope that players will
learn to accept defeat in a healthy manner, many minor hockey leagues
across the continent have decided to eliminate the traditional hand-shake
‘after’ hockey games in order to avoid trouble. What does this say
about sportsmanship when responsible adults refuse to allow children to
experience an opportunity to demonstrate sportsmanship with a simple
handshake? Why do players feel the need to get in a parting jab or punch
after a game? Where is the pressure coming from?
#3: To have children learn to respect elders and figures of authority,
such as coaches, other parents and officials;
again, this is a very noble objective. Children are always ‘told’ to
respect their coaches and definitely to respect on-ice officials. However,
it must be confusing for a young 10 year-old to watch the same parents and
coaches who have told them to show respect, yelling and screaming
themselves at referees. It must be equally confusing for a child driving
home from the game to listen to his parents running down the coach and
criticizing his particular strategies and policies.
must remember that most of what a child learns is ‘caught’ not
‘taught’. If you tell a child one thing and then you do the opposite,
you can bet that the child will likely copy your actions, not your words.
Therefore, if we expect children to respect officials and coaches, we must
provide exemplary examples for them to model.
now, one does not have to be in an arena very long to witness examples of
disrespectful behaviour from children and adults alike. Therefore, we must
ask, what are we teaching our children?
#4: To develop self-confidence;
who learn new skills will definitely develop a high level of
self-confidence. There is nothing quite like helping a child become a
better skater, stick handler, shooter or passer. The look of satisfaction
in the eyes of the child who has done something well, or who has learned a
new skill, is something that is hard to beat.
the other hand, as children get older, especially as they enter the
unstable world of the ‘teenager’, self-confidence takes on a whole
different meaning. This is another factor that may be leading to a rapid
drop-off after Peewees.
a child is first registered in hockey as a 5 or 6 year-old, there is so
much to learn and positive development is constant. By the time he is 11
or 12 years of age, the learning progression slows down.
a classroom teacher for 28 years, I saw this time and time again among
elementary school children. Research has been done providing significant
evidence to prove that by the time a child is in Grade 5 or 6, he has
pretty much developed his basic skills. All that remains is to refine and
enhance those skills through a wide variety of experiences. Up until that
point, learning is quite pronounced and continuous. After Grade 6,
advancement is slower and skill improvement is not quite as obvious as in
hockey, this means that by the time a child is 10 or 11 years old, his
basic skill development is almost complete. If he is going to be a good
skater, he will be a good skater by the age of 11. If he is going to be a
good stick handler, he will be a good stick handler by the age of 11. This
doesn’t mean that he won’t improve on those skills, but if he is a
poor skater at the age of 11, it likely has something to do with the
development of his physical motor skills. We know that some people are
gifted and talented in certain fields while not in others. It is nothing
against the child – it is just a fact of life.
inability of young teenagers to continue to learn and develop new skills
at the same rapid pace as in previous years, can actually erode
self-confidence. It is a known fact that a teenager will avoid anything
that is unpleasant, so it is no wonder that so many players drop out of
hockey once they reach their teens and have the ability to make their own
decisions on this matter.
is a very difficult game to master. Throw in body checking, coupled with
raging hormones, and you have the perfect mixture for a time bomb. Teens
are also very self-critical, and despite their often loud and aggressive
behaviour, most have very little self-confidence. Once hockey skills stop
developing, and once they have trouble showing domination over their peers
in the sport of hockey, they naturally begin to drop out in search of
other areas where they can excel.
#5: To help children learn how to combine sports and school, always
keeping in mind that academics must be the top priority;
is another objective that is easy to accomplish in the early years of
hockey. However, as the child gets older and begins play in the Atom and
Peewee levels, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance sports and
school for many young boys and girls. The school curriculum is getting
more complex every year and in order to cover the course content, teachers
often expect students to complete a great deal more homework in Grades 5,
6, 7, 8 and beyond.
mentioned earlier, even though I spent 28 years as a classroom teacher at
the elementary school level, once my own sons began playing hockey, my
opinion of homework changed dramatically. My wife and I both loved to
attend all of the games our children played. This meant that if one of our
sons played a 7:00 p.m. game, the entire family had to eat dinner at
around 5:00 so that we could be in the car on the way to the rink in time
for the game. In larger metropolitan cities, it takes even longer to get
to the arena, so there is even less time to get ready.
our kids were dropped off from school at around 4:00 p.m., they needed
time to unwind before dinner, so homework was understandably put on the
back burner. By the time the game ended and we had our French fries and
pop, it was often after 9:00 p.m. before we returned home and it was time
for bed. We wrote many notes to teachers during those years, explaining
why homework was not done.
soon discovered that it was extremely unfair to expect a child to complete
up to two hours of homework after spending six hours in the classroom
during the day. Furthermore, I saw how homework created extra stress on
family life if one parent had to remain home to help with homework while
the other took one of the children to play a hockey game. Teachers do not
always recognize the negative impact of homework on the life of a hockey
family, and indeed, it was something I wasn’t aware of until I
experienced the problem myself. Needless to say,
once my own children began playing hockey, I stopped assigning
homework to my own students. When questioned about this personal homework
policy I merely pointed out that a child’s family life is equally, if
not more important, than his formal education and that I had no right to
impose on that part of their life by assigning homework.
where does that leave this noble objective of helping children learn to
combine sports and school? Because of the imbedded commitment to ‘the
team’, when it comes to choosing between the two, school and homework
often lose out.
also force children to miss up to five or six Fridays per year. In order
to make money, organizers want to register as many teams as possible in
their tournament. This means that games must often be scheduled on
Thursdays and Fridays. An out-of-town game on a Friday morning means that
a parent often must take a child out of school on Thursday to travel. If
the family accompanies the child on the trip to the tournament, which is
often the case, not only does the ‘player’ miss school, but so too do
his brothers or sisters
it comes to placing school as the top priority, children soon see that it
is only a top priority as long as it doesn’t interfere with hockey. In
the battle between hockey and school, hockey is definitely in first place
and it gets a stranglehold on this position as a child gets older.
therefore, becomes another reason why there is such a high drop out rate
among children as they enter high school. The demands of school begin to
conflict with the demands of the team. Something has to give. For players
who are at the elite level, the dream of a lucrative professional contract
sometimes takes control. For others who see that they will never “make
it” as a hockey pro, the decision to leave the game to devote more time
to schoolwork is one that they see is necessary at the time.
it is often the case that as we get to the more advanced levels of hockey,
such as bantam and midget, teams experience an increasing number of games
and practices each season. Perhaps reducing the number of practices and
games would be one way of decreasing the drop out level at this age. It
seems as if the demands of hockey and school are both increasing at the
same time. Since a teenager spends five hours a day at school, it is only
natural that school will play a significant role in his/her life. When
push comes to shove, hockey seems to be the loser. While children are
younger, school is not seen as significant in the eyes of most parents, so
hockey is the winner. Hence, the participation rate drops out once
children make up their own minds whether or not to remain in the game. It
seems as if as children get older, they are able to determine for
themselves what is in their best interest. Parents who are obsessed with
hockey often have their vision blocked by the ‘silver lining’.
#6: To have children become physically fit and learn to enjoy hockey as a
form of exercise;
is no doubt that hockey is an excellent source of exercise. Well-organized
practices can keep players moving constantly for up to an hour and a half.
Most teams today also expect their players to follow some sort of off-ice
exercise routine. Add to this the fact that teams often play in excess of
80 games during a season, counting exhibition, league, playoffs and
tournaments, and you have a lot of exercise over the course of
approximately eight months.
observers, however, may have noticed over the years that there seems to be
a problem with the exercise component of hockey. On the one hand,
practices that are organized by expert coaches are simply wonderful to
watch. Players are moving all the time and they use the entire ice
surface. At the end of the practice the players have been in constant
motion for a full hour.
the younger age levels, you often see many volunteers working with small
groups of players, keeping them active and developing their skills in a
number of areas. Parents love to see their children having so much fun and
alas, there are very few expert coaches around. And as you get into the older age categories, the number of
assistant coaches and volunteers on the ice diminish.
has also become very expensive. So it makes me wonder what is going on
when I see a team of players lying on the ice doing stretching exercises,
push-ups, sit-ups, etc. for ten minutes at the beginning of a practice. I
ask myself why this couldn’t have been done in the dressing room or the
lobby where the ‘rent’ is much cheaper.
also see many coaches spending as much as 50% of a practice session
talking to players and providing them with graphic instructions. They will
stand by the side of the rink with a chalkboard, discussing strategies and
plays with the players, or have the entire group watch a demonstration put
on by two or three other players. All of this is done with a gaping empty
ice surface behind them. It is nothing for players practicing at the
peewee level and above to spend at least half of the time standing around
for the game itself, a 90-minute game slot loses 20 minutes for flood time
– five minutes at each end and one in between two of the periods. There
are usually three 13-minute stop-time periods. I often wondered about
stop-time periods. This leaves 39 minutes of actual playing time.
Therefore, out of a 90-minute time slot, an amazing total of 51 minutes is
devoted to flooding the ice surface, warm-ups and changing lines. Only 39
minutes is actual playing time.
asked for suggestions on how I would utilize ice time more efficiently, I
tell people that I would allow 10 minutes for flooding (five minutes at
each end) and a four-minute warm-up. The remaining 76 minutes would be
played straight time with no change of ends and only one period. To
further maximize the actual amount of time playing the game, I would only
allow changing of players on-the-fly. There would be no line changing
during stoppages of play and the hurry-up face-off rule would be in force.
Players would have to rush to the face-off circle. This is one way of
making sure that a larger percentage of time is spent in game action and
not simply standing around or wasting valuable time.
get me wrong – I still think hockey can be a tremendous form of
exercise. When we played our four-hour road hockey games we were in great
shape. It just seems as if the more advanced we get with respect to the
development of coaches and elite level players, we actually spend more
time “talking about the game” rather
that “playing the game” .
#7: To develop effective communication skills and learn how to speak to
adults, teammates and hockey officials;
When a young child is registered in a hockey
program, parents are hopeful that the child will benefit positively from
having other key adults in his or her life. It is also an opportunity to
make friends with children from other neighborhoods who may come from a
much different background.
It doesn’t take very long before parents
realize that their children are developing communication skills all right.
It’s just that these communication skills are not necessarily the ones
they want in their children, nor are they ones that will be socially
acceptable other than on satellite movie stations.
I have always maintained that communication is
a sign of respect. However, there are many coaches who want to be
‘buddies’ and see no problem with 6 and 7 year olds calling them by
their first name. They also see no problem using gruff language, more
conducive to what you would expect to hear coming from a drill sergeant in
the army. Stand outside the dressing room door, and you will certainly see
that your child is developing an ability to communicate with his
teammates. You may wish you
hadn’t. Listen to what opponents say to each other under the umbrella of
‘trash talking’, and you will see what kind of communication is taking
place on the ice. I don’t think we even have to mention how players
speak to, and about, hockey officials.
#8: To help children make new friends;
Hockey is a wonderful activity for meeting and
making new friends. Old hockey teammates often get together and discuss
the “good old days”. When parents put their kids in hockey for the
first time, they recall how things were when they played hockey and how
much camaraderie there was on the team.
However, it doesn’t take very long to
realize that unless you are one of the top players on the Rep or Traveling
team, the chance of being on the same team for any length of time is
negligible. House league teams are usually subject to an in-house draft
system in order to balance the competition. The elite players tend to
remain on the traveling club for many years, so they have a chance to
develop the old-time bonds, but even they may have trouble getting close
to their teammates since some are being ‘brought up’ to higher levels
or moving to other communities.
One of the problems with hockey teams today is
that the players often come from all over the city. The territory is so
large, that it is virtually impossible for players to get together in
between games and practices. They may not even attend the same schools. In
fact, they may only get together for 20 minutes in the dressing room
before practices and games. Much of that time is spent immersed in loud
music and the rest of the time is spent listening to the coach give them
the pre-game talk. Then they play on a line with two other players, but
there is seldom any time to talk during the game. After the game they have
to rush out so that their parents can take them home.
Coming together for a hockey game has almost
become like a job. Children meet as a group and are given instructions by
the coach on how to play the game. They go out and do their job to the
best of their ability and then go home when it is over, waiting until the
next game or practice. They do this three or four times a week, go on a
few out of town tournaments and then try to beat each other out during
tryouts for the next season. It is hard to make friends this way.
On the other hand, when children get into high
school, they meet up with new friends and experience other forms of
recreation and personal fulfillment. They spend six or more hours a day
with these new friends who may actually live within walking distance.
Suddenly good friends become more important than ever and hockey doesn’t
provide that kind of fulfillment. Once again, this is the age at which the
participation rate in hockey declines rapidly. This could be one of the
Students who play on the high school hockey
team have the best of both worlds, and this may be something that should
be looked at in the future. Players on the school team often come from the
same part of town and certainly go to the same school. They spend a lot of
time together and develop strong friendships. Perhaps we should be
promoting hockey programs at the school level instead of at the ‘club
level’ to eliminate some of the concerns which have been addressed in
Objective #9: To help children develop
moral guidelines that will help in character development;
It’s hard for me to understand how this
objective was included in this list. The whole issue of morality in hockey
deserves a lot of serious attention, but I guess it is understandable that
parents would see hockey as a stepping-stone to building and developing a
child’s moral character. Among the younger groups, this is something
that is easy to identify.
However, once again, after a few years of
play, the words hockey and morality are seldom used in the same sentence.
Children soon learn that hockey is about two main things: 1) doing
whatever your coach tells you to do if you want to play, and; 2) doing
whatever it takes to win.
In order to get players “up for the game”
coaches often come up with cheers that are meant to intimidate the
opposition. Parent behaviour in the stands has become anything but moral
with respect to their language and comments to officials, other players
and other parents.
I have always been amazed at how young hockey
players can come walking into the arena dressed up in a nice shirt and
tie, and then 30 minutes later be acting like a mad-man on the ice, armed
with a wooden stick and filled with intense hatred for their opponents.
Then after the game they return to the lobby with shirt and tie, acting
sweet and innocent. I’m not sure where character building comes into
play in the actual game. Perhaps it is from their interaction in between
games, but as we discussed earlier, they spend so little time together
that it is hard to see this as building character.
#10: To have fun playing hockey.
Most people will agree that hockey is supposed
to be about having fun. If you’re not having fun, then what’s the
If you examine the previous 9 objectives, it
is clear that if those goals and objectives guided hockey programs at all
age levels, it is likely that there would be a very small drop out rate
among hockey players.
The potential for personal enjoyment and
satisfaction through the sport of hockey is tremendous. Indeed, the
popularity of the game among old-timers (men over the age of 25) is worthy
of investigation. With no body checking, no slap shots, and no fear of
being cut from the team, old-timer clubs seem to have found the secret of
what hockey is supposed to be all about. Fun seems to have returned, and
it is not uncommon to find old-timers playing until they are in their
What we will try to do during the rest of this
book is find out why hockey loses its ‘fun quotient’ after the age of
10 or 11. We will also attempt to provide our readers with some food for
thought on how to address the challenges that face this wonderful sport
and perhaps begin to turn the tide a bit. What a wonderful place this
would be if hockey could become an activity that retains its place as a
form of recreation that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.