Our National Obsession

A criminal case was recently decided in which, I’m sure, many people reading this saw in the national media. It created a brief stir and the news cycle went on. What it left behind is a disturbing glimpse into our national obsession. In this case a minor hockey coach intentionally tripped a player on an opposing team in the handshake line at the end of the game and causing him injury. The purpose of this post is not to draw attention to the individuals involved in this incident or even the case itself, but to highlight the actions that would be considered within the normal parameters of minor hockey prior to the incident in question. (I have removed initials and the names of teams in an effort to further highlight the actions themselves)

[2] At the time of the assault on June 23, 2012, X.X. was 13 years old and X.Y. was 10 years old. They were both members of the …. Steel hockey team. The Accused was the coach of the …Hornets hockey team of which his son was a member. Both teams play in what is called a “Pee Wee” hockey league consisting of children aged 9 to 13 years. The incident occurred at the end of the final game of the spring hockey season – the Gold Medal championship game – won by the …. Hornets by a score of 5 – 4.

[4] The Accused was yelling at X.X. whenever he was on the ice, for the entire game, right from the start. According to a parent of a player on his XXX Hornets team, the Accused was deliberately taunting X.X., calling him names like “twinkle-toes”, ridiculing him when he didn’t score and telling him that he was a poor skater. When that parent tried to tell the Accused that those actions were not needed, the Accused replied that he was just trying to throw X.X. off of his game.

5] Parents of players from the XX team noted that X.X. broke down in tears on the bench as a result of the Accused’s taunting. The … coach held X.X. back from playing while he was crying, with the result that he was not on the ice as much as he would have been otherwise. The parent said it was upsetting to see X.X. crying on the bench.

[6] At one point in the game, X.X. scored and celebrated as he skated by the (opposing) bench. The Accused yelled at X.X.. and X.X. made an obscene gesture by giving the Accused “the finger”.

[8] X.X. got up and swung his stick at the Accused hitting him on the arm. A … coach approached the Accused but was held back by one of the other coaches. People in the stands then started yelling and throwing water bottles onto the ice and the Accused gave “the finger” to them.

[10] The incident was captured on video by various parents and was posted on Youtube where it has had over 2 million “hits”. One video of the incident was copied by Crown, played in Court and filed as an exhibit in the sentencing.

[13] Defence Counsel has submitted that the Accused had no intention of tripping X.X. and X.Y. or anyone when he entered the handshake line-up but that he just “lost it” (emphasis added) when he got closer to X.X.

How does an adult “lose it” when dealing with children playing a game?!?!? As someone who has been on the ice officiating untold hours of minor hockey games over the past 15 years I find this sad, but I can affirm that some of the behaviour mentioned above is not outside the parameters of what can happen at a minor hockey game . Hockey Canada have made efforts recently to try and curtail this type of activity which have had a positive impact, but too many adults still enter a hockey arena and believe that it gives them license to act like a buffoon while watching their child play hockey. I’ve often observed that I don’t believe these people (whom are decent people outside of an arena) realize how they act while watching children play a game, sadly this case exemplifies that. Furthermore, I fear that this case will be cited as a singular incident where one person went “too far” and that the caes will not be observed as a moment for self-reflection for adults involved in minor hockey.


  1. I’m conflicted, you’re of course entirely right, minor hockey breeds sociopathic parents and astoundingly bad behaviour on display in front of kids. The GTHL lawsuits or the Thomas Junta murder conviction in Massachusetts are pretty big waving red flags.

    Buuuuuuuuut, as the former “kenny linesman” type player of my house league, I think some of the coaches I chirped probably should have slugged me and I’d have wound up a better adjusted person earlier on in life.

  2. Well, the Kenny Linesman comment reveals your era (and brings in a player who has some legal significance to the NHL….), you could have also chosen Pat Verbeek and Brad Marchand as the holders as the “Little Ball of Hate” title, and I do have some sympathy bc I was a similar type of player but I doubt that a coach “slugging” you would have worked out for your coach or you.

  3. m. diane kindree

    Why weren’t the final game(s) being refereed by experienced adults when both coaches had been “stoking the bad feelings between the teams” and, when one of the 14 year old girls refereeing was in tears after being “lambasted” by a coach during game 3? Doesn’t the pee-wee league organizers have some duty or responsibility in monitoring the conduct of referees, coaches and players during these play offs?
    What did the players learn from their coaches and peers; that aggression and violence is socially acceptable in the sport? I wonder how this powerful socialization process will translate to the off-ice behavior of these young people.
    Fortunately, the court has an ice-cold penalty box and a criminal record for those who can’t check their behaviour before acting. Incidently, I think the score was ZERO.