Syd Oliveira is a father and minor hockey league coach. These days, neither is an easy job. Oliveira recalls one incident in which a parent didn’t like the fact that he (Oliveira) had benched his son for playing to aggressively.
“In one game, he yelled at me (using a) racial slur; it was very disturbing,” Oliveira said. “He was removed from the association and minor hockey for two years.”
As a consequence, Oliveira believes that parents should not be allowed in a minor hockey league dressing room.
“These kids need to be more independent. It bothers me to see parents dressing their kid. When parents are doing that, the kids aren’t learning the basic fundamental skills,” Oliveira said. “The reality is, when they come to the rink, they are my kids. I’m responsible for them. If you don’t like it, then look to play another sport.”
Some parents would agree that coaches are too harsh, too demanding of their kids. On the other hand, some coaches say that parents coddle their child too much and that parents need to encourage their kids to be independent and responsible for their sport.
Rosemary Mezik’s eight-year-old son Ryan has played hockey for a few seasons. He was third in scoring in the Etobicoke league. Susan DeRyck’s son Mason started his hockey career in the 2014-2015 season at age seven and loves to play with his energetic teammate Ryan.
The boys won gold for the championship at the MasterCard Centre, where Mason scored the final goal assisted by Ryan. The hockey moms believe that it’s important for coaches, especially parents, to push their kids to be more independent and competitive.
“I think it’s totally fine if coaches are pushing the boys to be better hockey players on the ice, and be more self-sufficient in the dressing room,” Mezik said.
DeRyck on the other hand, thinks it is crucial that parents should motivate their kids, and that coaches should be teachers of the game.
“There are certainly parents who push their kids to be more competitive hoping for their kids to be superstars,” DeRyck said. “I do think we as parents can offer encouragement and guidance. The trick is keeping it positive and constructive.”
Too often however, parents or spectators become too vocal in their children’s hockey games and trigger altercations.
One event took place this past month in Pickering, Ont., where as many as 20 parents and fans were involved in a brawl in the stands during a midget AA game between the Pickering Panthers and Peterborough Petes.
Sometimes, even referees experience abuse. Referees are paid to make sure games are policed correctly; when a bad call is made, it can set a few people off in the stands. Oliveira remembers an occasion when a referee received physical abuse, from a parent!
“I’ve experienced a game where kids believed they scored and started to celebrate. The puck never went in the net! The other team ended up scoring in overtime winning the game,” Oliveira said. “One mother waited for the ref in the parking lot and attacked him, punching him in the face!”
Kids develop hockey skills at different times. When kids start playing hockey, the introduction must be a positive one.
“Kids who experience negative feedback eventually hate the sport and no longer want to play. Parents should always support the child and encourage his play,” Oliveira said. “Positive and negative feedback are equally important; two positives for every one negative.”
Hockey moms DeRyck and Mezik agree with Oliveira, saying that parents should always offer encouragement and constructive feedback.
“Being a vocal fan or spectator is appropriate,” Mezik said.
“Parents and spectators in this house league seem to be quite civil,” DeRyck said.
Coaching minor hockey involves significant commitment of time and dedication to the team. Oliveira believes that parents should volunteer in their kids’ hockey.
“The problem is that parents don’t have the courage to step to the plate,” he said. “They would rather be in the background being negative. They are cowards. If you have something to say, take the coaching course and let’s hear what you would like done with the team.”