By Darren Lum
A new Ontario Minor Hockey Association in partnership with Respect Group Inc. video is making the rounds and is leaving an impression with viewers like Haliburton’s Jason Glecoff a father of two children with a 11-year-old son who plays for the Peewee A Highland Storm.
The three-minute video depicts several young hockey players wearing hockey jerseys of the teams they play for giving answers about why they play and what they love about hockey but most importantly what bothers them about the game.
Glecoff found it engaging because of the message coming from the children that they just want to have fun.
He spoke to his son after seeing it. He said his son said “he loves to play hockey because he gets to be part of the team with all his friends. He doesn’t feel any pressure just wants to have fun.”
It’s early to gauge the video’s impact but could be a discussion starter as voiced by Glecoff following his correspondence with the Echo.
“I’m curious to know what others may think of me at the game. Sometimes I do cheer loud but I keep it positive” he wrote in an email.
The OMHA is encouraging everyone involved with minor hockey which includes players parents/guardians game officials and team officials to see the short video. It’s just one aspect of the Respect in Hockey initiative by the OMHA to re-emphasize the importance of fairness integrity and mutual respect for everyone that is part of the game.
Part of the initiative included education. As of Aug. 31 2014 team officials on-ice volunteers on-ice officials and parents were required to take the “Respect” education specific to each group.
The Highland Storm’s president Jaime Dollo appreciated the video particularly for how children are the focus to deliver a message.
“I think the message hits home. I really do. I think it’s a great little video. There’s no adults in it right? Just the narrator. These kids are the ones telling you what they see. How much better can it get than that” he said. “They’re [giving the] impression of what a bunch of us donkeys are doing to them. They just want to have fun.”
Dollo a father of three teenaged hockey playing boys has been involved with hockey all of his life.
Born in the Highlands he started playing hockey as a child and then played junior and college hockey. His love of the game extends beyond the sport as he appreciates the team concept the friendships he has made over the years. Although he didn’t notice problems growing up playing hockey he admits there must be a problem now if children are saying it in the video.
“Here they are. The reason they have these little kids saying that is because obviously those little kids are seeing it. If it’s got bad enough that they’re seeing it … they’re some knuckle heads out there” he said.
Glecoff said the overall atmosphere at games when it comes to respect hasn’t really changed that much since the “Respect” course became a requirement for registration.
He adds he still sees examples of disrespect at the arena such as parents screaming at other parents in the stands officials on the ice and the opposing team’s coaching staff including children playing.
This behaviour is often associated to certain places his child’s team travels to for a game he points out.
In Muskoka he remembers hearing a coach for the home team tell his players to hit. At the Peewee age level hitting is not permitted he said.
“I can understand it when it’s part of the game. That’s no problem. I played it too but this is in Pee Wee. It does get pretty rough out there but still the coach shouldn’t be instructing them to break the rules” he said.
Although his son has voiced a displeasure with the parents in Huntsville Glecoff is quick to point out that it is not everyone there.
“I realize it’s not all of them. It’s a few bad ones and they make everyone else look bad” he said.
While he played house league and rep hockey growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in London Glecoff said he has fought many times but never off the ice. Fighting is part of the game as far as he is concerned. However the abuse he has seen in the stands is unacceptable. He believes it is part of a bigger problem in general.
Parents and people in the hockey stands he said just forget about acceptable social behaviour.
“It’s like they’re in a different kind of arena. Everything changes. All the rules don’t apply” he said. “It’s crazy.”
For all the things he criticizes Glecoff said the game overall is better for children now when compared to when he played. As a young player he remembers mothers standing at the boards standing over the glass screaming.
Dollo said the league deals with disrespectful and bad behaviour with a meeting and a reminder.
“If someone crosses a line we put [the signed code of conduct document] in their face and go look you signed this” he said.
Although code of conduct has always been part of the league’s constitution this is the second year for the sign off sheet for mutual respect said Dollo. He admits it’s effectiveness isn’t 100 per cent but does work for most at reminding what is not tolerated.
“I’m never going to name names but there’s always some every year [who don’t]” he said.
Gaining the trust and ensuring hockey is fun and enjoyable to children is important for the league’s vitality that has seen a decrease in registration every year for the last five years Dollo said.
“Our push is to get grassroots back. They’re the future. We’re doing everything we can to get kids to start hockey and hopefully they’ll stay there” he said.
Local Brian Mulholland who has coached two Haliburton minor hockey teams to the provincial championships and been an on-ice official for more than 15 years for all age groups of organized hockey including the senior games calls the video exceptional.
“[It] certainly reinforces the OMHA initiative for maintaining a healthy environment around the game. Our young athletes are wanting to excel and they place a tremendous amount of trust and admiration in the adult volunteers around them. Their impressions of this experience is what will shape them for later in life. Further I think the recent video truly demonstrates how much information that our young players absorb and process during their time at the arena. The interaction and dialogue that often takes place between officials and the team coaching staff is maybe intended for only the main parties but like social media is out there for many others to consider” he wrote in an email.
His “greatest pet peeve” while officiating is when he has to give a bench minor penalty to a team because of a coach official’s “inappropriate conduct and/or language” which also punishes the players who did nothing wrong.
He commends the OMHA “with instilling the need for positive growth and development in our young athletes.”
The association’s overall efforts with its initiative to encourage respect has improved things.
“I believe the campaign is a good one and has had a marked impact around most of the communities that I have visited. However there are still situations where it seems that organizations have inserted first-time and/or newer coaches to their system that have yet to recognize the importance of their role. Their expertise with teaching the fundamentals of hockey is certainly important but the nurturing of life skills and the camaraderie afforded working/playing together vastly outweighs the hockey component” he said.
Watch the video on YouTube by searching “respec in hockey.”