The three-year suspension of a couple for violent behaviour at a minor hockey game was more than justified, but it is not a complete response to the problem of parental misconduct.
It is relatively easy to manage isolated cases of aggression, quite another to deal with the systemic behaviour problems that have been an issue in minor hockey for decades.
It is long past time that Hockey Canada got serious, really serious, about the problem, which is harmful to children and the game itself.
Hockey Winnipeg and other associations in Canada have introduced respectful hockey policies, social-media-use policies and a mandatory online course to show parents how their behaviour affects others.
They’re good starts, but there’s no evidence so far they will alter the conduct of the worst offenders.
As experience shows, it only takes one or two hyperventilating parents to set off a mob mentality. That’s when everyone goes feral in a cascading disaster that drags children, coaches and even referees into mad melees.
Let’s also remember most hockey parents are decent people, except when they enter an arena where their kid is playing. We’re not talking about controlling bad people, but about holding to account parents whose pathetic, fragile egos are linked to little Johnny’s performance on the ice.
Hockey Consultants International, a group of professional hockey experts who provide individuals, teams, leagues and associations in Canada and the United States with a range of services, including how to deal with disrespectful behaviour, has produced extensive literature on the problem.
Among other things, it had considered a program that would have cracked down on parental misbehaviour with a system that ejected troublesome parents from games and gave their child a bench penalty, thus putting the game at risk.
Another solution could see parents banned from arenas during games for part of a season to test whether it actually benefits young players. It’s clear more must be done to reverse a trend that is doing kids and hockey itself more harm than good.
» Versions of these editorials ran recently in the Winnipeg Free Press.