“You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. I’m even guilty of contributing to it.”
Maybe it’s the rain, but I’ve been thinking about the reality of booing in hockey a lot lately. We’ve all been privy to it. We’ve all chimed in. Hockey games, soccer practices, tennis matches - as parents, it doesn’t matter what game our kids are playing, the pressure and passion we feel for sport has a nasty habit of overpowering our good judgment.
It’s still early in the hockey season though, so I think we can nip this thing before it becomes too difficult to stop. Before we talk about how to deal with it, let’s dig deeper into why it happens. If we’ve all been part of it and we all acknowledge it, why do we keep complaining about youth sports?
Perhaps it’s what brings us together as a nation.
Case in point, last week the hometown Vancouver Canucks found themselves in a spot of bother with cross-country rivals Toronto Maple Leafs. The game featured a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin at the hand of Toronto’s Name Kadri.
The thing is, everyone in Toronto, from the media to the fans, believe it was a clean hit, while everyone this side of the Rocky Mountains is calling for Kadri to be fired into the sun. So who’s right? I’m not going to publish my opinion here (the NSWCHockey twitter account gets enough abuse as it is), but the reality is that my opinion wouldn’t change yours anyway, would it?
Hockey fans everywhere latch onto ideas like a hungry alligator bites onto a clueless antelope at the side of a saharan watering hole. We internalize the idea and hold on for dear life regardless of consequences, new information, or dissimilar viewpoints.
It’s easier to hold onto our anger than it is to let go. It's also easier to blame others for our own issues. Seems silly, right? Again, I’m guilty of this too. I don’t have kids playing hockey, but all my friends do. When you’re not part of the team, it’s easy to become entrenched in the same ideas that, if I were the head coach, would frustrate me to no end.
When it comes to hockey in Canada, we’re all right, all the time. From Don Cherry to Willie Desjardins to Bob and Joe McKenzie sitting on their couch watching Hockey Night In Canada and sipping brews, our nature as Canadians is to dissect every inch of our game.
And that’s ok. Dissecting hockey is natural, informative, and fun.
Unless it comes at the expense of minor hockey players.
The current landscape is filled with people who routinely call out organizations and individuals online without the courtesy of a face to face conversation. It’s easy to complain - again, it’s in our nature to deconstruct the game - but when it comes to kids playing a game?
There are faces behind those masks. Children. People. If you want to call for Nazem Kadri’s expulsion from planet earth or blame Daniel Sedin’s brittle neck for creating such an uproar, then that’s your prerogative I guess. They don’t get paid to take abuse, and while I generally side with the idea that it’s in poor taste to boo athletes while they’re performing (in front of your kids no less), at least these are professional athletes who probably don’t really hear it anyways.
Kids playing hockey in and around the lower mainland, however, is another story. You don’t need to actively cheer for the opponent, but as adults, it’s on us to model the type of behaviour we’d want from our kids when they have children of their own.
In the end, that’s all we can do, because the ultimate reality of poisonous banter in the crowd is you can’t control it. You can’t control other people.
So be the change you wish to see.
Alright, there’s a game on, who wants to come over for a beer and listen to me talk about how great the Edmonton Oilers are?
No one? Guys?