Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 2, 2004
Unfair penalty for hockey hero
Shame, shame on the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association and Hockey Alberta for suspending pee-wee coach Scott Vickery for supposedly pulling his team off the ice in a roughhouse final at a Christmas tournament.
The Dec. 28 game at Castledowns Arena was tied 4-4 in the third period when parents of the 11- and 12-year-old players on Vickery's team - the Knights of Columbus Xtreme - became upset with the dirty play of the opposing team and the referee's failure to do anything to stop it. "The play was getting so dirty that I was getting injuries (to my players) on every play," Vickery said in one interview. The referee was ignoring slashes to the arms of players and blatant spearing.
Vickery said he went to ask the referee to stop the dirty play. His plea fell on deaf ears. Finally, one player was slashed to the throat and an ambulance was called. Parents of Vickery's players came forward and pulled their boys off the ice. The referee came over to the coach and gave him five minutes to get his team back on the ice or they would forfeit the game.
Vickery said he had no intention of ordering the players back on the ice and his team forfeited the game and tournament championship.
What happened next was a disgrace to minor hockey. Instead of investigating the parents' complaints about the violent hockey that was being played and putting the referee and the opposing coach under the microscope, the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association suspended Vickery pending an investigation. Following the so-called investigation, Vickery got a 10-game suspension from Hockey Alberta for pulling his team off the ice.
Hockey Alberta started suspending coaches for pulling their teams after coaches of some weak teams who were losing badly took their teams off the ice a few years ago. Perhaps that is justified. But it is surely not justified to punish a coach who is only protecting the children on his team from the goon tactics of an opponent and the indifference of the referee.
Coaches who take such action should be lauded for their ability to put the welfare of their players ahead of an attitude of win-at-all-costs thuggery. Minor hockey officials should have enough discernment to be able to tell when a coach is upholding the honour of the game and when he or she is undermining it.
The best reason parents have for putting their children in minor sports is to teach them character - to try their best despite all obstacles, to teach them to hold their heads high even when they lose, to learn to treat opposing players as people with dignity, and to win graciously. By those criteria, Vickery should be given a medal and the officials of the EMHA and Hockey Alberta sent to the penalty box.
Further, this is not the first episode of its kind. Last year, a coach was suspended for a year for pulling his team off the ice under similar circumstances.
Hockey became a great game in Canada when young players focused on developing their skills at the basics of skating, puck-handling, shooting and sure defensive play. Canada became the best in the world at the game. But when sportsmanship began to give way to emphasis on thuggery and physically undermining the skills of the best players on the other team, Canada's standing began to slip.
But more important than Canada's standing among the world's hockey elite is the health and welfare of the players. Scott Vickery and the parents of players on the K of C Xtreme are our new hockey heroes because they understand the human values of sport. The rule-mongers of the EMHA and Hockey Alberta are the hockey goats of today. It is time they learned that part of their job is to uphold the values of human decency and to keep the goons under control.
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