Child’s Play

Child’s Play

Yesterday I witnessed a fight and a hockey game broke out (rimshot).

No – what really happened was that I got to see how ugly we as parents can become when we take youth sports entirely too seriously.

Prior to the game my son was to play at a rink in Tampa, FL, a couple of kids got into a fight on the ice.  Actually, three kids got into the same fight after some “chippy” play that was allowed to continue with no penalty for a good two periods or so of play.

Before it was all over, several kids were thrown out of the game, as well as a few coaches.

Ugly enough, to be sure.

But it got even worse.

While all of the bruhaha was happening on the ice, some parents in the stands started putting their hands on each other.  And before it was all said and done, three sheriffs deputies were summoned to the rink to remove the people who were fighting in the stands.

What was I doing?

Trying to find my son so that I could make sure he was not in harm’s way.  He had just headed to the locker  room moments before, quite near to the stands where all of the fighting had broken out.  With raw emotions like that out into the open, one never knows what people will do – and I didn’t want him somewhere where he could be “collateral damage” if things went from worse to tragically so.

I found my oldest son, but not before almost being bowled over with my four year old by one of the participants of the fight in the stand (a “lady”) on her way to call the cops.

All this, in the span of about five minutes, at a hockey game for 9 and 10 year old kids.

The ingredients for all of this were several:

  • A pair of refs – one of who was in his late fifties / early sixties – who clearly were letting rough play get out of hand (there is no “checking” at this age of play in travel hockey).
  • A pair of teams were playing who are having non-winning seasons, half-way in, in a physical game tied at 1-1 when all the trouble broke out.
  • A kid that had been “checked” one too many times with no sanction.
  • Coaches that allowed the moment to get the best of them.
  • Parents in the stands who projected the play of their kids on their personal self worth.
  • Forgetting that there is never – NEVER – a justification for one parent putting their hands on another spectator at a children’s sports event.  Period.

I guess I could get all touchy-feely and throw in the stress of the holidays and the economy, too.

But in reality, we as parents often place way too much emphasis on equating the performance of our kids with how others perceive us.

At then end of the day, youth team sports are supposed to teach our kids how to compete fairly, how to prepare physically and mentally, how to play together as a team, and how to be gracious whether winning or losing.

Child’s Play.

Yesterday was anything but Child’s Play.

But it did provide an excellent teachable moment – and sad reminder – that many of us never grow up.

Respect Your Customers. Or At Least, Pretend To.

Respect Your Customers. Or At Least, Pretend To.

We had a surreal experience last night at hockey practice.

For those of you involved in the sport, I don’t have to tell you that it requires many hours of driving to a rink somewhere – sometimes, hundreds of miles away – on a frequent basis.  I would conservatively estimate that during season, we are at a rink between six and ten hours a week.  This time is spread across practices, games, scrimmages, and clinics.

In short, it’s not an inconsiderable amount of time.

And while other sports have limitations regarding playing spaces, ice hockey is unique in the high cost of access to the playing surface (at our local rink, the RDV Sportsplex, ice time runs around $300 an hour) and the limited number of ice venues in some areas.

So, where’s the part about “respecting customers?”  I’m getting there.

Each week, our travel teams – about five of them – have 2 hours of practice scheduled and paid for.  Costs are mitigated to a degree by having teams practice half ice.  These practices are scheduled (and are standing) months in advance, and are paid for in advance.

Last night our kids were “shooed” from the ice.  No.  “Shoo” is much too cute a word.

Screamed off the ice is more accurate.

The rink had sold ice time – ice that we had already purchased – to another buyer.  And We were being screamed off the ice.

This was not a mistake.  We’ve been practicing every Thursday since the end of August from 6-7:15.

Usually, when the ice is cleaned at the end of a session, it’s one guy on a Zamboni, honking the horn and waiting for the ice to be cleared.

Last night, it was three people – and the Zamboni pulled halfway onto the ice, with 40 kids on the ice.

The rink workers – particularly the female worker – were yelling at the kids to get off the ice.  Not just yelling.  I really can’t describe how venemous it all was.

So, I really don’t know what the hell was really going on.  Using my g-d given common sense, I know it goes beyond a simple scheduling mix up.

But here’s the thing:

  • Don’t piss off the people paying your salary in the biggest down market in a half century.  It’s bad business, and just plain stupid.
  • Don’t yell at kids when you have a problem with adults.
  • If you have an unpleasant “surprise” you are going to spring, do so before your customers start using your product, and not until they are in the middle of what they * thought * they paid for.

During all of this hub bub, the local hockey organization was holding it’s board meeting – just outside the rink doors – when all of this little slice of heck broke out (I had to beg off the meeting because my three year old is a three year old and needed some Dad face time, and I wanted to watch my nine year old practice).

At the meeting, they were to discuss the future of the organization (name change, bringing more kids into the league, relationship to RDV, etc.).

Sounds like I missed one hell of a meeting, based upon the rink reaction.

Whatever the background story turns out to be, I must say that as a parent I was taken aback by the vitriol and treatment a bunch of 9-12 year old kids received, from the people ostensibly there to serve them and provide a safe practice facility.

Kids who have paid $900 a week since August to play at that facility – not including tournament time and clinics and hockey gear bought in the pro shop and skates sharpened once a week in the pro shop and concessions bought… you get the idea.

Don’t treat your customers like you don’t respect them.

They might start believing you really don’t.

Hockey in the Land of the Mouse

Hockey in the Land of the Mouse

Yesterday my eight year old played his first hockey games of the season here in Central Florida.  I was interested in seeing what the relative level of play in the youth leagues would be here, versus where we came from in Nashville, TN.

I was pleased to find that there are some good skaters here in North and Central Florida, and overall the level of play is fairly comparable to that found in Middle Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, and Georgia, where we played travel hockey last year.

My son more or less fell into a slot on a local travel team.  We hadn’t really planned on playing travel hockey this season – not because of we didn’t like or want the travel, but we were wanting to concentrate on school work after such a big move.  Plus, we played something like 60 games last season and really weren’t sure that we were up for that much travel this year.

My son was asked to participate after one of the coaches saw him at a house league practice and wanted to know if he would be available for three (3) games on Saturday.  Since the first report card a week or so back was better than expected, and since we weren’t committing to the full season, we said yes.

At the end of the day, my son’s team finished with 1 tie, 1 loss, and 1 win, in that order.  The team’s play got progressively better as the day passed, with the last game of the day being their best – not just because they won, but because they were playing good positional team hockey and were making great passes and plays.

I gotta say I forgot how much I missed watching hockey in the months since the end of last season.  And even though it was something 95 degrees outside the rink, it was a touch of home to sit inside an ice rink on a Saturday afternoon to watch my kid play.

So, it looks like in addition to our house league play, we’ll be playing an additional 18-20 travel games this year.  Fortunately, most of the travel will be in and around Orlando, with the visits to Rockledge (Space Coast), Tampa Bay, and an outlier or two to Miami (probably the only trip really requiring an overnight stay).

It’ll be interesting to see how the league play continues to stack up as the season unfolds.

Pred vs. Red Wings, Game 6

Pred vs. Red Wings, Game 6

Captain Jason Arnott is out with concussion-like symptoms.  The Preds get Scotty Nichol and David Legwand back.

The Wings are up 3-2 in the series and can clinch today with a win.  A win for the Preds means a trip back to Detroit for Game 7 at The Joe on Tuesday.

Puck should drop around 2:20 CDT.

I absolutely have no feel for how the team will play after the dagger-in-the-heart loss in OT at The Joe Friday night.  Ellis played a career game Friday with 50+ saves, and like Trotz said, it’s too bad the effort was wasted in a loss.

So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Here’s to writing about this several hours from now in a celebratory mood.