Minor Hockey Talk, a website that serves as an open forum for parents, coaches, and other members of the hockey community to voice their opinion, acts as a platform that glorifies individual achievements at the expense of collective achievements from a team’s perspective. The website clearly illustrates the polarity between the rich, poor, and the middle class stuck in between that believes everything is earned and nothing is given.
Coaches always have to deal with hockey entitlement that systematically destroys an athlete’s accountability. The trend in sports typically enforces individual achievements rather than team culture, it propagates the notion that only the wealthy should succeed in the sport itself. Indeed there are many factors why hockey participation is down including new entertainment technology for kids, high divorce rates, expenses associated directly with hockey, hockey politics, and of course the dedication of time that restricts many families in making a commitment to the sport.
Minor Hockey Talk gives us a real gateway as to how parents push their kids to get noticed in the memorable world of the selfie age. In competitive youth hockey, coaches can no longer lead by example because of the parents with money closely observing them. Over the past two decades, significant changes in the structure of the Canadian hockey family have taken place. The industry is now fueled by money, but hasn’t it always been fueled by money? The difference now however is that social worth and individual merit is based on economic indicators. The ones who have the money call the shots. The social order of hockey means that if you do not have the money for the best instructors, coaches, and spring hockey tournaments, you need not apply.
Anonymously, one elite hockey coached told me, “What the website Minor Hockey Talk does is show how parents significantly influence their child’s perception of sportsmanship and their lost sight in what sports are truly intended for. It is a necessary site because it shows that hockey has created a climate for unsportsmanlike behavior. The internet became a dog-eat-dog world of big business for hockey parents, just like a corporation a competitive team has to attract the best players regardless of individual status; a superstar hockey player can not achieve their status without the team.”
He continued, “However on this website the parents manufacture and fabricate stories that they believe are necessary in attacking the competition. Not only is it a website that attacks competition, they also attack the coach if their kid is cut in an effort to maintain their reputation. Remember, if you have 2 or 3 competitive teams and the rest are mediocre, the organization is not going to get better. Now coaches have to defend themselves from disgruntled parents. I learned from the internet that one of my colleagues was accused of sleeping with the mother of a kid on his team. The rumor was that he received $50,000 for the team and himself in doing so. I know the individual and I can assure you that he did not receive $50,000. Even though the rumor was true, there should be greater rights as to control how information is disseminated and used.”
What parents are trying to do is influence certain factors in a child’s behavior as competitors in the arena. The parents see other 9 and 10 year olds that are valued highly by their peers and the community. This triggers an avalanche of criticism by other parents stemming from jealousy. An example was clearly illustrated to me by a hockey parent I’m close with. He indicated, “Another parent on the team couldn’t stand that two kids playing on his son’s team exhibited higher levels of scoring ability as opposed to his son. Sure enough, that parent was on the internet attacking the two kids constantly calling them puck hogs and detrimental to the team.”
Another coach I know stated, “As a coach and trainer of elite hockey players, I have been on both sides in blowout games which the winning won by a huge margin. On many occasions I’ve been on the winning side, after the game I’d be gracious towards the competitors with a common view of sportsmanship. Perhaps the real issue with sportsmanship involves the basic view of the nature of sports and our attitudes towards competition and towards victory. In minor hockey stacking the best players on the team only means the competitive field never gets wider. It is done primarily because of the parents that foot the bill. AAA hockey is the top competition level in youth hockey, remember that not all AAA parents and kids are the right fit for the team.”
He continued, “The dynamic of the team has to work as a collective unit in the competitive sportsmanship that is the foundation of work ethics in an effort to succeed or fail. It is nothing new that parents are constantly trashing each other, but unfortunately the internet has made this easily accessible to the world. By recruiting the best players, you would think you’d develop the best team. Sometimes to fill my roster I have no choice but to get rich parents with mediocre kids to sign up so that I can get bigger and more powerful players that can hopefully help us win some more games. I remember being an assistant coach having lunch with the head coach at a bar. A mother of one of the kids who played for us but wasn’t legally eligible stormed into the bar and started yelling at the coach for not paying attention to her even though her husband is living in another city.”
Unfortunately this is the type of garbage and political backroom behavior that deteriorates our national sport. The uneducated will say that AAA hockey is based on supply and demand. What the NHL really wants are big boys who are not only talented but know the value of hard work that encompasses victory. Ask any professional hockey player what hockey is all about, and they’ll tell you the truth, it’s a job that doesn’t involve parents.