I was hoping it wasn’t going to come to this.
I was hoping I could make it through the winter months without having to type a single word about misbehaving hockey parents and the guidelines for proper rink conduct.
I certainly didn’t want to write about the topic. Rink etiquette is a tired subject. Countless sports writers from coast to coast have expended thousands upon thousands of words in an effort to bring light to what has become a dark cloud looming over the hockey world.
However, I felt compelled to offer a little refresher course in proper rink behaviour after attending Saturday night’s semi-final game of the Bantam ‘AA’ hockey tournament between the Kenora Thistles and host Taggs Source for Sports.
I’ll preface my comments with the following statement: the vast majority of hockey fans in this town are fantastic. Local hockey teams, at all levels of play, enjoy incredible support from the community.
I believe Rainy River District has an extremely knowledgeable fan base whose main interest is in seeing fast-paced, exciting hockey—regardless of whether or not the home team is victorious.
That having been said, there was a small but very vocal contingent of fans at Saturday night’s game whose behaviour, in my opinion, was unacceptable.
The aforementioned group took it upon themselves to scream at the on-ice officials throughout the game—and went so far as to heckle the Kenora players as they left the ice following their 6-3 win.
Take a minute to consider that last action.
A small group of adults were berating 13- and 14-year-old kids who’d just won a hard-fought hockey game between two evenly-matched teams. It was a classless act and one that happens far too often these days.
Hockey is a great sport that evokes a lot of emotion in players, coaches, and fans alike. The heartfelt emotion is what makes the games so much fun to watch; it would be a pretty boring experience if no one cared about the outcome.
However, emotional involvement is not an excuse to act immaturely. As members of a civilized society we each have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of decorum.
It is with those rules of societal conduct in mind that I’ve formulated two easy rules that will make life at the rink a little more pleasant for everyone:
1. Leave the referees alone
I can think of no job that is more thankless than that of a hockey referee.
An official can make the correct call 99 times out of 100 and yet be crucified for the one call they might miss. It’s an impossible standard to uphold.
The vast majority of officials do a great job ensuring the games are played fairly and safely. What more can we as fans ask of them?
The one thing the referees certainly don’t need are fans up in the stands screaming their opinions concerning how the game should be officiated.
I’ve often thought it’d be fun to turn the tables on the hockey hecklers by sending someone to berate them every time they make a mistake at their job. It would be poetic justice if every time a heckler made a spelling mistake or misspoke on the phone while at work, someone in the office called them a moron at the top of their lungs.
I doubt it would take the hecklers long to realize that being verbally abused isn’t a whole lot of fun.
On a related note, coaches need to learn that screaming at an official might not be the best way to influence the referee’s decision-making process.
More often than not, coaches who express themselves calmly and politely get the calls they were looking for later in the game while coaches who go berserk tend to get tossed.
More importantly, every coach needs to remember they are role models for the players on their team.
When a coach screams at a referee, it completely undermines that official’s authority. The kids see their coach has no respect for the officiating crew and come to the logical conclusion that they don’t need to listen to those in charge, either, which is precisely when things get out of hand.
It’s good to be passionate, but it’s more important to think about the effect your actions are going to have on those you hold a great deal of influence over.
2. Remember that you are watching kids play a game
It never ceases to amaze me how caught up in the action parents can get while watching their children play sports.
Some parents live and die with every shift their child takes, and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe parents should support their kids in every way possible.
Growing up, my mom was on hand for most of my sporting events and it was always comforting to know she was there rooting me on.
However, there’s a small percentage of the parenting population who take their cheering a little too far.
As a parent, you should never boo the kids on the other team. I don’t care if you don’t like the manner in which the other team is playing the game, they are still kids.
I doubt very much any responsible adult would ever go to their local playground and heckle children playing on the swings. So why do people think it’s acceptable behaviour at the hockey rink?
As a fan of minor hockey, it is your job to cheer for your team when they do something well, offer positive encouragement if they are trailing, and be gracious in both victory and defeat.
Kids pick up on adult behaviour more than anyone would like to admit. If the adult fans cannot conduct themselves in a reasonable manner in the stands, how can we expect the players to do so on the ice?
I was hoping it wasn’t going to come to this.