Monday, March 3, 2008

3-3-08: Hockey Mom Attack

Disturbing news in the world of youth hockey. A hockey mom decided to take matters into her own hands last week when her son was apparently knocked down in a game. She allegedly went over to the player bench, grabbed the kid who hit her son, and slammed his head against the boards. She is denying that ever happened, and said she simply scolded the boy and never touched him.

I refereed in the same league in which the incident took place, so I can say firsthand that I'm not surprised, and I think the woman is lying. Witnesses saw her grab the kid. The coach of the boy's team (the victim's, that is) said he saw her grab the kid. Why he didn't go over to stop her is another issue, since the boy's mother ran all the way around to help out her son. I think he was paying attention to the game, which makes sense. It's very, very rare to hear about something like this, but again, I'm not surprised.

To say she simply went over to the player bench to scold the boy is outrageous and unbelievable. She could have done that after the game if she felt it was necessary, though I'd disagree of it ever being appropriate. It's an issue of her feeling her seven year old was being bullied by a bigger 10 year-old. It happens. Going over to the bench to confront the kid in any way is entirely inappropriate and hypocritical. How would that not be a form of bullying? If you have an issue, take it up with the official. I've been in those discussions many, many times. As I got older I began to almost enjoy it, as sick as that sounds. I never allowed a kid to get hurt, though. That's highly, highly immoral. I simply enjoyed it when parents went up to me and questioned me for something either harmless or part of the game. Since I usually couldn't avoid it, I turned the frown upside down and made it a form of post-game entertainment. Parents always felt they knew more about the rules than I did. The funny thing is the parents who actually did know (a few of them were officials themselves), never complained.

Allow me to share my three favorite stories:

1) I was refereeing a "mite" level game when I was 15. I'd been doing games at that level for about three years. It was usually very boring, and very easy. The kids ranged in age from 5 to about 7 or 8. A few of the kids I had even helped to learn to skate at a program my dad and I ran on weekends. Anyway, it was a relatively close game, and one of the teams had the puck behind their opponents net. One of the kids was standing in the crease, and his teammate went around the net, passed to him, and they put the puck in the net. I was about 10 feet away from the net, staring right at the kid standing in the crease. Since it is illegal to stand in the crease, let alone score a goal, I waved it right off. The place went nuts. One of the coaches screamed at me "But he's only five! You've gotta be kidding!" My only response was "Coach, the rules are rules." After the game, he confronted me again, and my response at that time was "If you can find where in the rulebook it says 'This doesn't apply to younger players', I'll correct the error." I'm a jerk, but he did apologize.

2) I was 17 and referring a "pee-wee" level game (12-14 year olds). Since it was legal for them to body check at that age, but few knew how to, most of the penalties were for some variation on an illegal hit. One such incident, which is very common, is when a player takes his stick and nails another player with it by holding it with the hands spread apart and "cross-checking" the other player. I was watching the play, and, sure enough, I see a cross-check. I go to call the penalty, when the kid who got hit gets up and takes a swing at the kid who hit him. I blow the whistle and give them both matching minor penalties. The coach of the team with the kid who was cross-checked was not happy. He used the ol' line of "How can you call that?! He cross-checked him!" To which my response was "That's why he's in the penalty box" (you'll notice that by this time I had become far too cynical). The coach then asked "Well what did you give my son a penalty for?" This was after he told his son to calm down. He later apologized.

3) This is my favorite since it was one of the rare times that I actually thought of a clever response. I was 17 and again refereeing a pee-wee level game. This time the penalty was a simple "too many players on the ice." One team had something like 8 players on the ice at once, and it was a very easy call. Well, the coach was going to try his luck. After I explained to him what the rule was (that you can't have more than 5 skaters on the ice) he sarcastically asked "Do you even know the rule?"... I was in shock at first, but quickly came up with "Well, that one I might be a bit fuzzy on. But I do know another one. That's a bench minor. Put another in the box. Now you have three players on the ice." I didn't smile in front of him, though. He ended up losing, but it wasn't me. The 8-0 score probably had something to do with it.

The moral of the story: parents and coaches really need to calm down. It's just a game.

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