Posted in current events, parenting, sports

Something Stinks in Kanata

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Something Stinks in Kanata

Something stinks in Kanata and for once it is not the Carp dump.  Last Thursday (Nov 13th), Earl of March  (EOM) played AY Jackson (AY) in a high school hockey game that would decide which team made the playoffs.  These high school teams are cross town rivals with many of the players playing together on competitive and house league teams within KMHA for many years.  Most have respect for the abilities of the others, and everyone knew it would be an exciting game.  Many of these players had turned down the chance to play competitive hockey at higher levels so they could play high school hockey with and against their friends during their last year of high school.  The fans were out in full force, including a human sized mascot representing each team.  It is most unfortunate that the rival match did not get resolved on the hockey rink as it should have.   Instead, the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association (NCSSAA) chose to protect a referee’s poor decision made because of an overreaction in a heated discussion.

The role of the referee in a hockey game is to supervise the action on the ice, not to control the outcome of a game.  The referee in question made several calls that the EOM coach repeatedly requested clarification of.  The official would not approach the EOM bench, but was quick to go to the AY bench to clarify any questions they had.  When AY scored to tie the game at 1 goal each, the referee finally approached the EOM bench.  This was after the referee had placed the wrong EOM player in the penalty box, but would not allow the assistant captain on the ice at the time to tell him so, had not blown his whistle when a pile up (in a non- contact game) occurred at the EOM net (although he did many times at the opposing net) resulting in the tying goal.  Upon approaching the EOM bench, the referee and coach exchanged words and the ref indicated that he was assigning a gross misconduct to the coach.  From the many written reports from the boys on the bench, their coach did not use foul language or did not threaten the referee in any way.  He certainly did not commit a “travesty of the game” as should be necessary for a gross misconduct call.  The coach explained that he could not leave the game as he was the only coach on the bench.  His understanding at that point was that he worked out the difference of opinion with the referee, promising to keep quiet if the game was to continue.

Continue it did, resulting in a 4-1 victory for EOM.  This score was evident on the scoreboard and on the game sheet that was signed off by both officials as being accurate.  All fans agreed it was a hard fought, well deserved victory for EOM.  The coach apologized to the referee once again at the end of the game, receiving no warning or indication of a forfeit.  As a matter of fact, the gross misconduct was never recorded on the game sheet.  However, after the game, the referee filed an independent report including the gross misconduct for the EOM coach and calling the game a forfeit.

There are many parts of this fiasco that should have been considered in the decision to forfeit the game:

-Why did the game continue if the referee felt so threatened or insulted?  Instead he told the coach they were “good to go” and the game continued.  He continued to report goals and penalties to the score/time keeper for recording on the game sheet. He did not mention the fact that he was planning to recommend a forfeit on a separate form to any of the coaches or players, during or after the game when all of the coaches, officials and players shook hands.

-Why were the coaches and players of both teams as well as the convenor not informed of this decision until much later when a 2-0 score for AY (probably should have read 2-0 for the referee) was questioned and assumed to be a typo on a website that displays results?   Even then, there was no indication of a forfeit!   Was the high and mighty NCSSAA athletic coordinator sitting waiting for the “shit to hit the fan” instead of notifying the coaches and convenor?  When was he planning on telling the teams involved?

-What is the function of the game sheet if not to record details of the game including penalties and score?  It is understandable that a separate report be filed if there is insufficient room on the game sheet for penalties incurred, or if an incident occurs after the game sheet has been signed off and separated for disposition to both teams.  Why bother having a game sheet or scoreboard if their recordings are not to be considered accurate reflections of the game?  A separate report should never overrule the statistics reported on the game sheet.

That is exactly what happened.  The separate report was filed by the referee and the game forfeited by EOM, although no one thought to notify the EOM team.    EOM players did not know they “lost” until the next morning.  I’m sure AY players finding out they won was a much happier scene; they certainly had no reason to believe that they won before that.  Obviously the EOM boys were and continue to be heartbroken. I hope the “powers that be” involved in this mess slept well these past few nights, comfortable in the fact that their cowardly and unjust actions had the potential to rock the world of the innocent EOM players.

Five days later an appeal was finally heard by the NCSSAA board, although I had the sick feeling in my stomach that was telling me it was simply a formality and no justice would be served.    The decision that EOM forfeited the game due to a gross misconduct incurred by their coach was upheld.  I guess I was hoping in my heart that the wrong would be righted, even though I had warned my son that it probably would not happen.

I think the saddest part of this story is the fact that a bigger person, either the referee or the NCSSAA athletic coordinator, could have and should have acknowledged that many mistakes were made, all based on an overreaction to an innocent request for an explanation of a penalty call.

There are those that may argue that referees decisions must be upheld.  I understand the predicament of the officials.  They do get yelled at a lot, but if they want to be a hockey official at this level of the game, they should develop thicker skins.  Again, their role is to supervise the action on the ice, not to control the outcome of the game, especially such an important game.  Perhaps the money saved on printing game sheets and running the score boards could be used on training the officials to handle these situations more effectively.

Another argument raised was that the AY boys would be upset if the ruling was overturned.  At the risk of repeating myself, at no time could the AY boys have felt that they had won the game Thursday.  If fact, I hear many of them do not even want to play in the playoffs due to such a hollow victory over many of their friends.

Then there is the argument of the ugly history involved between AY and EOM fans and players.  Why should the players and coaches this year be tarred with the same brush?  Just because of a brawl years ago, that none of these players or coaches participated in, the referee should feel intimidated and throw a coach out for requesting an explanation?  I think not.

As parents we teach our children to face up to our mistakes so they can be rectified as soon as possible.  In this case, the mistakes could have been easily rectified by reversing the forfeit before the playoffs begin.  There were two chances for this to happen; you failed twice Mr NCSSAA athletic coordinator.

The only travesty committed was one of justice.   Everyone that attended the game knew who won, well maybe except for the referee and the NCSSAA athletic coordinator.

Posted in parenting

Where do the Referees come from in Minor Hockey?

Where do they get these refs??  Is there an IQ test or eye examination on their application form?  Do they get any training regarding the behaviour of children?  Do they have to demonstrate their skating ability and their ability to skate and blow the whistle at the same time?  Are they not told that their main role out there is to keep the game under control?  I am beginning to think NOT!!

The team that can skate faster, pass more efficiently, shoot harder/more accurately, and break out of their end better, (all those things the players spend hours practicing, and the coaches spend teaching, not to mention the $$ the parents spend so their kids can develop these skills)  should come out victorious, with a sense of pride in these achievements.  Even the losing team can recognize the signs they need to work harder to achieve these goals when they are beaten fair and square!

Bad referees can ruin a game, demoralizing and frustrating the players, coaches and parents.  I have witnessed many examples of poorly officiated games over the years, but our last game was the icing on the cake!

By the end of the second period the “Away” team had been assigned eleven penalties for a total of 38 minutes, including two 10 minute misconducts for “unsportsmanlike conduct”  Ironically, the two players getting these major penalties are typically our least aggressive, mildest mannered kids on the team.  The problem was obvious:  frustration!!   When a referee calls that many penalties on one team and only 4 for the “Home” team for a total of 8 minutes, (the favored team quickly learned how to take advantage of the situation) the frustration levels are guaranteed to run high. Especially as both of the unsportsmanlike calls were results of the referee not calling the opposing team for the infraction that caused the unsportsmanlike behaviour!  For example, in one incident, our player was slew-footed (for those of you that don’t know what that means, “slew-footing” is the meaner, dirtier, sneakier, more dangerous cousin of “tripping”, just ask Erik Karlson about that!) in the corner, jumped up (thankfully he wasn’t injured) and yelled “what the BLEEP was that??”  He was given two and ten minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and harassment of the official.  His father was then thrown out of the arena for reacting to the bad call by banging on the glass and holding up his eye glasses for the referee to borrow (LOL, not sure who that man was!)

Needless to say, this game was well out of control at this point.  At the start of the third period, the score was 4 to 1 in favour of the “home” team thanks to several 5 on 3 opportunities in the first two periods.  At this point the referee must have (finally) noticed that the gamesheet was looking a little unbalanced under the penalty section, so he gave out a few more minor penalties to the home team to try to make up for his blatant favoritism (or poor vision, lack of skill, whatever you want to call it).  Some of these calls were poor, wild stretches of the imagination as well.

It is really unfortunate that the rule in hockey is that only the referee can assign minor penalties.  With three officials on the ice surely they all should be able to make calls to keep these games under control?  I’m sure there would be a lot less injuries, including the concerning  “concussion like symptoms” that appear to be on the rise.   Are three pairs of eyes not much better than one??  Maybe I should ask Don Cherry to debate this issue…

At the beginning of each season, the players sign a code of conduct in which respect is a key factor.  Referees demand respect from the players and coaches, what about the other way around?The last I heard, respect is a two-way street.   What respect were the players and coaches shown in this game?  When the players involved questioned the calls, they were given additional penalties.  When one of our assistant captains calmly questioned a call on the ice, he was told “I’ll talk to you later” which never happened.   Is that not a role of the assistant captain?  Our coach repeatedly called the referee over to the bench for explanations to his calls; he refused to go.  At one point, she opened a door on our bench, thinking the ref would come over to close it before proceeding with the game as he should.  Not a chance; he dropped the puck with the door open.  Oblivious?? Maybe.  More than likely he was intimidated by our cute, feisty, young, female coach.  Wake up, this is the 21st century, women can play and coach hockey.  She and other volunteer coaches deserve respect for making the time and effort to coach our children without getting paid to do so!   You want respect, you should try to earn it, not shove it down the players and coaches throats.  This wasn’t hockey, this was a bad rerun of “Who’s the Boss?”

The only lesson taught in this game was  a bad one…when the opposing players blatantly cheated by tripping, hitting from behind, and tackling our players, they were rewarded by receiving a man (or two) advantage for most of the game.  What a great way to win a game!  What a great way to spend a Saturday night!  I think I will encourage my son to give up hockey and take up curling next season, there are no referees to ruin that sport…

Lorieb is the mother of three sons, residing in Kanata, Ontario, Canada.  She is the proud owner of GARDENS4U, and spends most of her time designing, planting, and restoring gardens.  Her other interests include reading and writing.  Please check out her website at www.gardens4u.ca