(Tom Mihalek/Associated Press)
I took part this week in the launch of the ThinkFirst SMART HOCKEY video that was put out with the support of Scotiabank and Reebok-CCM. It is an amazing initiative that is expected to help educate parents, coaches and players about how to make the game safer.
The video was launched in March, as it is Brain Awareness Month. It was perfect timing, considering everything that has been going on in the NHL when it comes to concussions. The fact of the matter is that unfortunately concussions are not just an NHL problem or a hockey problem, but a sport problem.
While at this conference I was asked by a reporter "How do we change the culture of hockey?" Many people believe that the culture won't change unless the NHL changes. I do think the NHL has a role, but I truly believe changing the culture of hockey has to start at the minor hockey level and specifically with the adults.
When I was young going to a hockey tournament was so much fun -- it just may have been the most exciting time of my career. Sure, we wanted to win, after all hockey is a competitive sport, but never at the expense of the fun part and never at the expense of the safety of another player.
Today when I go to the arenas I hear adults yelling at children to "hit 'em." That's nothing compared to the screams directed at officials who may only be 16 years old.
When I was young, parents filled milk jugs with rocks and brought air horns and cheered as loud as they could. They were decked out in the child's team jacket with pins scattered across the front representing the tournaments and teams they had played against. They were a dedicated lot and the games were intense and highly competitive, but I never got the sense that hockey was everything.Focus isn't on fun anymore
Today we have kids playing more than 100 games a year, practicing seven days a week. Their lives are defined by hockey. Hey, I love the game just as much as anyone, but I also loved the balance of taking the day off to get away from the rink or playing around with another sport in the off-season.
The good players will get to the NHL or Olympics no matter what, that's the way it works. But it won't work if a player has suffered concussions. Justin Rizek is an example, as he's stopped playing the game because of concussions. Four concussions before the age of 14 is too many.
By no means am I completely blaming the parents for how violent the game seems to have become, as I know there are many dedicated hockey parents out there who are the backbone of our hockey nation. The speed of the game, the equipment with the hard shells and maybe even the rules have all contributed to the current situation.
But, can we please stop and think sometimes what hockey should be about for our children? Instead of yelling "hit 'em," maybe save our comments for after the game when we say "great game!"
Don't be afraid to stand up for what is right. Too often we sit back, afraid of getting our child kicked off the team for not conforming to the "hockey culture."
I always remember my parents never letting me get away with something on the ice that I wasn't allowed to do off the ice. So how do we change the hockey culture?
One good hockey person at a time!Go here
to watch the ThinkFirst SMART HOCKEY video.
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