Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A night of Timbits Terror at the Tourney

Minor Hockey took a black eye on the weekend in Ontario, when eight year old players at a tournament in Guelph emptied the benches and began to brawl, all while their parental coaches were busy arguing with each other and reportedly in one instance spitting at each other.

Guelph police were called on Friday night to investigate the end of the game incident when an organizer of the weekend tournament turned to the Zamboni driver to call them to the arena. The on ice brawl took place at the end of a match featuring the Niagara Falls Thunder Novice AAA team who had just lost 8-1 to the Duffield Devils. On ice chippyness and hard feelings boiled over rapidly leading to the unbelievable display of eight year old kids going toe to toe on the ice.

There were conflicting reports as to how the incident started, with one witness suggesting that the coaches were trying to hold the players back, while at the same time others insisted that not only were the coaches involved in the caustic atmosphere they were urging their young charges to fight.

Sergeant Cate Welsh, spokeswoman for the Guelph police put the weekend events into perspective including the unusual nature of the call. "We've certainly been sent to the arenas for disturbances, but generally it's involving parents or fans,"; "But not sending kids at that age level onto the ice [to fight]. That's the allegation made at this point, that they both cleared their benches, and, wow, it's a pretty young age."

The fingers are pointing with most of them directed to the visiting Niagara Falls squad as the instigators of the dark night for minor hockey.

So far in the minor hockey investigation the Niagara Falls coaches and trainers have been suspended pending further investigation of the events.

Sadly while thousands of games take place over the course of a weekend without incident and in the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship, it will be the events of Guelph that once again draw attention to the way that the national game is being taught to the youngest of players.
They already have an intensive coaching program for minor hockey coaches, but it would seem that more work is required to emphasize the fun and eliminate any of the nonsense that took place on Friday night.

Clearly over the weekend somebody was missing the point of playing the game for the love of the sport, it’s a lesson that hopefully the Ontario Minor Hockey Association will make all participants aware of with any number of sanctions up to and including suspending the coaches for their lack of control.

There’s hardly any place left in the game in the pros for the bench clearing brawl, but when the eight year olds are clearing the benches then there’s a fair amount of work that still needs to be done with the game.

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