‘Rink Rage’ has no place in minor hockey

I had never been more embarrassed to be from Thunder Bay than I was Friday night.
Some background info on why I’d say such a thing would probably help.
Upon meeting the coaching staff of this year’s local KC PeeWee ‘AA’ travelling team in September, assistant coach Bob Dobransky handed me a copy of an article from Maclean’s magazine last March entitled “Rink Rage.”
It focused on how overzealous parents can outright ruin their child’s sporting events, mainly hockey, by taking things way too seriously.
This was a good two months before the busy hockey tournament season began but after Friday, I now understand why Bob suggested I read it.
I admit before I was hired at the Times, I had no experience covering or participating in minor hockey. That’s right. The terms Tom Thumb and PeeWee were foreign to me while growing up in the bad streets of the Lakehead.
Instead, I had “hoop dreams” (or, at least, as many hoops dreams as a slow, flat-footed kid can have.)
So I was taken aback by my first taste of “rink rage” at the ’52 Canadians Arena here during last weekend’s Bantam ‘AA’ tournament.
It happened during a round-robin game between the Thunder Bay Beavers and Baudette, Mn., which ended in a 2-2 tie. But the local ref had made some calls against the Beavers that the Thunder Bay parents didn’t agree with—and were letting him know about it for most of the third period.
I assure you the language was much stronger but we’re a family newspaper so I’ve taken the liberty to edit:
“What about the other call you missed, you jerk?” screamed a father while leaning on the railing before turning to his wife, who was equally as vocal, and said, “Geez, where do they get these guys?”
It was at this point a local tourney organizer, I won’t say who, shot back at them from down below at the zamboni entrance.
“They’re trained in Thunder Bay.”
Missing part of that last sentence, this man, who at first glance looked like any ordinary professional from my hometown, turned to a ruffian before my very eyes.
“What did you say about Thunder Bay?” he demanded, his voice clearly rising to the point something out-of-hand may transpire.
“One more negative comment and you’ll be out of here,” retorted the organizer.
While the couple managed to simmer down, I eventually did see a referee throw some Thunder Bay parents out of the arena during the next game. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.
I kept wanting to tell these people: you are screaming and cursing your heads off at a Bantam game. Step back and consider those 12 words and then go lie down somewhere and be quiet.
Of course, this isn’t only a problem with Thunder Bay. The Maclean’s article highlighted incidents from across the country where parents went well beyond the line—from throwing brooms onto the ice to, what I think is the worst form of abuse, putting negative emotional pressure on their children to be the “best.”
An old co-worker of mine from Thunder Bay named Gwen Fer-guson, who by the way was nothing like the previous fans I’ve described, was in town to watch her grandson play.
She explained to me that I would have a hard time understanding because I don’t have a son or daughter and have never been in that situation.
And even some local officials and coaches I spoke to last weekend about “rink rage” told me they’ve taken abuse with a grain of salt—to some degree shrugging their shoulders and saying it’s just part of the game.
“To me it’s just noise in the background. I don’t hear those voices,” said local referee Robin Wright on how he goes about his job amid some of the rough treatment he’s received from parents.
But you can’t just shake it off like that. It can’t be part of the game—surely not at this age level.
The sad part is that father lobbing insults from the stands Friday is probably a good guy who wants to see his child and team do well.
And if that child, after watching their parents blow a gasket, lose respect for the referees and play with a chip on their shoulder, then the actions and words have proven even more costly.
If you are planning any upcoming sporting events or have any sports-related information, feel free to call 274-5373 or drop by the Times office.
You also can e-mail me at rvillagracia@fortfrances.com

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