Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Hockey Life: Crossing the line

Something happened last Monday that I'm not exactly proud of. Not only did I embarrass myself, as well as others, but I failed to model a positive behavior for Colin. And that, I believe, is what bothers me the most.

It came at the end of the Big Bear Tournament last weekend, one in which Colin's team, playing up a division, didn't fare so well. Facing a team they had beaten earlier in the tournament -- for their only win in four games -- the so-called consolation game failed to fit the billing.

It wasn't the outcome of the game, though, that caused my frustration to boil over. To be honest, I knew, going in, that the kids would have a tough time of it. While many will move up in the fall, they played against kids two years older, bigger and that much more experienced.

Still, that really wasn't a factor. What was took place at the end of the consolation game. Moments after the final buzzer, just as the teams started to gather at center ice for a postgame handshake, one of the opponent's players, added to the roster for this tournament only, skated into our kids' zone and started showboating for his father's video camera.

Colin, in what I believe to be a show of incredible courage and a sign of leadership, took offense to the kid's actions, skating down to confront the kid. After telling him to leave, Colin "bellied" up to the kid, making his point and wanting to look him squarely in the eyes.

Unfortunately, despite our earlier discussions about not being an instigator, Colin "initiated" the contact. In response, the kid, a few inches taller and much heavier than Colin, responded with a two-handed push and then a punch that sent Colin sprawling into the netting of the goal.

Given that Colin and this kid have a history (he once drilled Colin face-first into the boards, hitting him from behind, during a summer league, three-on-three no-contact scrimmage), I'd had enough. I didn't actually see Colin bump this kid, all I saw was the retaliation. And, like their first encounter, I had words with the kid's father, wondering whether he still condoned such actions.

My mistake, though, was crossing the line. Rather than simply comment that his son's actions were not a surprise, I took a much more personal approach, questioning the father's parenting skills as well as his manliness. Though it was in the heat of the moment, I should have kept my mouth shut. Not only was it stupid for me to do that, but it also showed foolish selfishness on my part.

Even worse, it was an example of behavior that I would never want Colin to display, in public or in private, in any instance. The deed, however, was done and all I can do is apologize. I've reached out to the father, through Colin's coach, to do just that. It's my hope we can meet over a cup of coffee and talk, getting to know each other as fellow hockey dads.

As Colin has grown with this game, I've stressed two things -- respect your opponent and, just as important, stick up for your team.

Win or lose, at game's end, you congratulate the other team for their efforts. If an opponent is hurt, you drop to a knee until he rises and then tap your stick on the ice. If he makes a sweet play, you tell him so. Conversely, if Colin scores a goal, I've told him not to go overboard in celebrating. Raise your stick, point to the teammate who passed him the puck and think of the goal as a team, rather than an individual, accomplishment.

As for sticking up for his team, Colin showed he understands that. Though he might be small in stature, he has the heart of a lion. Bump or not, I was proud of his actions.

In hindsight, though, it looks like I still had something to learn about respect. After last Monday, I'm hoping that lesson has finally sunk into my thick skull.  


  1. Live and learn....everyone "crosses the line" from time to's those who recognize and improve because of it and that my friend is your strength and the ultimate example that you will set....

  2. I agree. There are those who 'get it' and those who don't. You get it. And the fact you mot only recognize, but are rectifying is much more than I say for a lot of hockey dads. Most could care less who sits in the stands with them or skates on the ice with their child.

    I appreciate your thoughts and seriousness you place on your actions.