His eyes glowed as the fire roared within him. He’d been prepping for months and finally this was his moment. The crazed father sits up in the stands, more excited than he was for his wedding, as his house league peewee kid begins another year and steps on the ice. After thousands of dollars and months of training, his kid is one step closer to living out his father’s dream of being a star in the NHL.
To all hockey parents across the world, your kids are not making the NHL. There are only 48 active NHL players who were born in Alberta, 17 in Edmonton. Studies have shown that the likelihood of a youth hockey player making the NHL are under 0.001 per cent. Other studies have shown that raising a kid who plays AAA hockey will cost a parent over $100,000 over the years. Parents devote their kids’ lives to hockey. Ice hockey, ball hockey, spring hockey, three-on-three hockey and more fill up kids’ lives year round.
Hockey parents take the sport too far. Throughout my playing days as a crappy house league goalie, the chaos in the stands always equalled or exceeded the chaos on the ice. In the sacred rinks of Edmonton, you can get away with things that would put you in jail elsewhere.
In order to try and stop any fights, the parents sit behind their own teams’ benches, creating an imaginary wall between the two parent groups.
If you cross the wall, you will pay for it.
A few years ago, a parent on the team was stuck in a wheelchair. The only way she could watch her son play was to sit in the handicapped zone. It was on the opponents’ side. The opposing parents berated her with insults all game, going so far as to tell her that her kid would end up in a wheelchair by the end of the game as well.
Those insults pale in comparison to the ones directed at my assistant coach. An opposing parent threatened to rape his wife.
Parents aren’t above insulting the kids, either.
When I was about nine, I played with a kid who was slightly overweight, not fat by any means. In the midst of the season, we were playing a game in St. Albert. The game on the ice was clean, the game in the stands was not. After my teammate made a small hit, one opposing parent took offence. “get off the ice you fat fuck! Go eat another fuckin’ cheeseburger!”
After insulting opposing parents and kids, you can’t imagine what they do to refs.
Every single youth game features a parent’s favourite pastime of abusing the innocent refs. I’ve heard refs being called racist names, as parents diss more than their eyesight. “Two teams!” and “That goal’s on you, ref!” Are some of the common insults I’ve heard at my 14-year-old brother’s games lately. But this is encouraged, as I’m also witnessing parents telling others that they are being too easy on the ref, applauding and laughing when the yelling starts. The lobby can turn into a jungle after games, when opposing parents fight until they unite to abuse the refs on their way out.
In my first year of midget hockey after an aggressive game, my team was sitting in our dressing room but before our coaches could make it in, a mother from the other team decided it was a smart idea to lock herself into our room surrounded by 16 adrenaline filled teenagers to give them a piece of her mind. Another time a parent followed my coach to the room and choked him against a wall, which was the last of many times the cops had to be called at one of my games.
I’ve seen people move houses to play in different organizations. A goalie I knew admitted that his mom slept with the coach to help her kid make the team. I have even heard of a parent who hacked the evaluation system to upgrade his kid’s numbers. Failure is not accepted. I will always remember being scared for my teammates after poor performances, knowing what lay ahead for them at home. Sometimes we housed teammates for days with the fear of giving them up to their crazed parents.
The most vile, predatory, disgraceful life form known to mankind are hockey parents. If we want hockey to truly become a great youth sport, something needs to change.
– Conner Toffan, Co-Sports Editor