Hockey behaviour still hasn’t evolved

Instead of spring cleaning, I figured this week I would beat the rush and partake in some pre-winter cleaning.
No specific theme today—just doing some housekeeping on some leftover sports news items of recent weeks.
Now, if I could only find the dustpan. . . .
• • •
It’s 2013 but apparently the evolution of the hockey-watching community still has not progressed to the point it should have by now.
This season undoubtedly has seen some brilliant displays of skill, coaching strategy, and positive fan support in the arenas of Fort Frances and the newest addition to the sports facility roster at Couchiching.
Unfortunately, at least by my eyewitness account, it also still has seen far too much in the way of excessively violent behaviour by players, disrespect of officials by coaches, and outlandishly inappropriate (and, at times, profane) comments by disgruntled spectators.
Somehow, the signs posted in area rinks promoting dignity and tolerance by all those involved in the game are ignored on a consistent basis by those who feel the 1960s culture of the game—when seemingly the rule was anything goes—should continue to live on.
I’m not saying bring in no-check hockey at all levels. But hitting from behind, or other acts with an intent to injure attached, have no place in the game.
I’m also not saying coaches, players, and even fans can’t question an on-ice official’s call. But swearing at them and going out of the way to verbally browbeat a referee or linesman is not only unnecessary, it’s also counterproductive.
What, you think attacking the men in stripes is going to earn you the benefit of the doubt on the next close call?
And I’m not saying fans can’t voice their frustration at an incident during a game. But all fans need to remember: it’s a hockey arena, not a barroom or an NFL locker-room.
Standing up and hollering your anger using profanity doesn’t make you right. Rather, it makes you a poor role model to the younger people around who watch your enraged soliloquy unfold.
Oh, don’t worry. I’m not naive enough to expect anyone who reads this, and who may be guilty of any of the above, to change their behaviour just because some media guy takes issue with them.
But maybe if one person takes note of my frustrations, and changes how they approach playing, coaching, or watching the game, then we’re one step closer to creating a more pleasant hockey environment for all in attendance.
• • •
It was a good news day for the SIJHL last Friday with the announcement Gongshow Gear Inc. has signed on as the league’s official lifestyle hockey apparel supplier.
The company, founded by three Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League players back in 2002, sells a wide array of merchandise for men and women from bucket hats, hoodies, and tops to underwear, footwear, and hockey bags.
You even can buy T-shirts and posters promoting the 2011 hockey movie, “Goon,” starting Seann William Scott, which largely was filmed in Manitoba (including all the hockey scenes in the Portage Credit Union Centre in my old newspaper stomping grounds of Portage la Prairie).
Gongshow Gear, which claims to have more than 500 retail locations in 15 countries, also will sponsor the SIJHL’s performer-of-the-month award (the Lakers’ Lucas DeBenedet being named the first) and the season’s MVP award.
This is an important move forward for the SIJHL.
The hope of league executives is if they can pull in a reportedly well-known sponsor like Gongshow Gear, others may follow suit—providing a crucial financial boost to a league that isn’t even 15 years old yet.
• • •
Former district resident Trevor Bonot, who now curls out of Thunder Bay, put a little money in his pocket on the cashspiel circuit earlier this month.
Bonot and his rink of Al Macsemcuk, Chris Briand, and Tim Jewett defeated Bryan Burgess of Thunder Bay 5-1 in the final of the Courtesy Freight Northern Ontario Superspiel at the Port Arthur Curling Club on Nov. 3.
The victory meant a first-place cheque of $1,500 for Bonot and his crew, plus an extra $400 for their victories during the round-robin portion of the 12-team event.
That’s some nice green for tossing a few stones around on a Sunday afternoon.
• • •
The Muskie football team can take solace in the fact the team that ended their WHSFL season nearly walked away with the Currie Division championship.
The Elmwood Giants, who eliminated the Muskies with a 35-0 victory in the quarter-finals, reached the CanadInns Bowl title game against the West Kildonan Wolverines having registered an impressive three-straight shutouts—two over the black-and-gold and then another over the St. Norbert Celtics in the semi-finals.
But the Wolverines, who lost only once all year in 10 games, showed they could play pretty solid defence themselves and outlasted the Giants 14-7 to capture the crown.
No word if a young boy named Jack, wielding a handful of magic beans and an axe, was seen anywhere in the vicinity of the Giants’ demise.
• • •
Finally, hats off to the Muskie senior girls’ basketball team for a fantastic season which ended on home court Saturday morning against an extremely-talented Hammarskjold Vikings’ squad in the NWOSSAA championships.
Other teams that lost by 35 and 42 points, respectively, in back-to-back games would have found it easy to pack it in effort-wise, or to turn to overly-aggressive play to vent their frustrations.
But not this Muskie crew, which defended its NorWOSSA title in flawless style with an undefeated regular season, followed by a victory in the league final over the Kenora Broncos.
Despite facing what turned out to be a vastly-superior opponent, the black-and-gold never quit trying and, to their credit, both they and the Vikings stayed classy throughout the two games.
Two moments stand out for me. The first came in the second quarter of Game 1 on Friday afternoon, with the Vikings already up 19-2.
After some cheerful banter was spotted between the two sides by eyewitnesses on the Muskie bench, a joking comment was made in regards to being friendly with the opposition.
In response, Muskie guard Sierra Cousineau turned to the bench and uttered, “Just because they’re beating us doesn’t mean we can’t be nice to them.”
Well put and well played.
The second came during and after the closing ceremonies Saturday. After each Viking received her gold medal, every player went back to the Muskies’ line of coaches and players and shook hands with each one of them.
When that was done, the two teams—the victors and the vanquished—stood together for a group photo under the basket with nothing but happy grins decorating their faces.
It was a fitting ending to a weekend of model sportsmanship by both sides.
Be proud of yourselves, ladies. You have every right to be.

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