This past week I had the privilege of trying to right a wrong. Trying to give a kid a break. I say “trying” because, as you may have quickly deduced, I was unsuccessful in the end. However this is also a story about how making an effort can make a difference as well.
It all begins at the end. At the end of a rather strange Bantam mid tier hockey game, one of our players fell in front of the opposing bench. Upon his recovery words were exchanged and the player turned, and made a rude gesture. A typical response from a typical 15 year old. Now the story gets some traction.
The referee had heard the words exchanged and then saw the “gesture” and quickly assessed the player a “Gross Misconduct” under Hockey Canada Rule 4.7b which states, “A Gross Misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player or team official who conducts herself in such a manner as to make a travesty of the game.” (p.57 Hockey Canada 2012-2014 Official Case/Rule Book). For the uninitiated and to give you a sense of the severity of a Gross Misconduct, the previous penalty listed is 4.6 “Game Ejection/Game Misconduct Penalties” and the next penalty listed is 4.8 “Match Penalties”, in which players are immediately sent to the dressing room and are not permitted to take part any further games until their case has been dealt with by the President of the Local Hockey Canada Chapter. You really have to mess up to do that…like hit a referee or linesman…use your equipment as a weapon or something crazy like dance around ignoring everyone yelling.
So let’s go back for a bit. Players who are on the same team as the penalized player heard specific racial slurs and others regarding his sexual orientation. The referee obviously did not hear what was said but saw the “gesture” and thought that it was directed towards him and assessed the penalty.
Watching the game progress it was not the finest refereeing job but at the same time no one is perfect and that’s just fine.
So here’s where I stumble in to the mix. After reading the game sheet and the required referee report (one always accompanies the sheet when a misconduct is assessed) and speaking with other players on the ice, the penalty assessed was wrong. Mounting my trusty steed, I ventured out to into the world of Edmonton Minor Hockey and the Referee Committee. I talked with two current referees and they both said a Gross Misconduct is REALLY bad and that it would be at least a 3 game suspension, possibly more. Based on that conversation and the one with the players, an unsportsmanlike misconduct is reasonable. He reacted to the words as any teenager would, like he’s 10 feet tall and bullet proof. He flipped off, if you will, the other team, not the official.
I looked up how to lodge a complaint. Game number, date, arena, opponent, division and tier. Then, so the process goes, the complaint CANNOT come from a coach, player, manager, parent or spectator. It can ONLY come from the Club level. The coach was fully behind supporting the player. The Division and Club President was behind it, too. In the end however, it was decided that history was against us. No complaint would ever over turn a referee decision. Ever. It may become a study case for Hockey Edmonton or Hockey Alberta, but the assessment will never be overturned. The player was assessed a two game suspension (a lot less than I thought it would be).
Why can’t we get referee calls overturned? Especially major penalties that assess multiple game suspensions. These people, teenagers in many cases, are human and are prone to the same mistakes you and I make – no rocks flying from my glass house.
My windmill, I guess. If only the story ended there.
The coach discovered the opposing team, who uttered the “words” that encouraged the “gesture”, was also not that far off the Hockey Edmonton and Hockey Alberta radar. That team had gained such a notorious reputation that it was determined that for every misconduct assessed a player, the coach would receive two. What could you possibly do to get that type of penalty? There is an explanation.
The coach had been overheard telling his player to “finish the check and hit to hurt”. It was also determined that the coach would target better players on other teams to hit and hopefully injure. Where does this come from?
Let’s try to really boil this down: The tier is so far down that odds of a player becoming a professional player (any league or level) are higher than winning the lottery (any lottery any level). The coaches won’t be headed to a “higher” level of coaching anytime soon. What drives a person to specifically tell a player to target and injure another player? To what end? How can you be proud of winning with those tactics? This is supposed to be ‘get out there skate, play and sweat while having fun’ like all other sports that cater to the majority of athletes.
In the end, I guess, everything will be all right. And if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.
What’s that? It’s not the end ? Playoffs start this weekend? Maybe I won’t stable the steed just yet.