'My son is one of 3 goalies on the team: what can we do?'

A hockey dad asks Our Game's experts how to handle a situation where his son is one of three goalies on a house league team. He says he's 'written off' the season.

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Q: It's been a tough year.  Not only did my 12-year-old son not make the rep team, he ended up on a house team with two other goalies, the only team in the 10-team Peewee house league in Kelowna, B.C., with three goalies.

We made the best of a bad situation, as the coach rotated goalies, allowing two of our three to play out (the third was not interested in playing out). Then around January, the coach claimed the goalies playing out was "disruptive" to the team, so each goalie was to play one period per game.

I'm afraid I found that totally unacceptable, and spoke to the minor hockey executive, but that proved to be worthless, as they did not want to take one side or the other. 

I have more or less written off this year, not expressing my frustrations to my son whatsoever. I'd appreciate your thoughts in this matter. Ross Jones, Kelowna, B.C.

A:  Now that's a tough situation. Teams with two goalies have enough trouble figuring out ice time, let alone a team with three.

Our Game expert Don Power  is going to tackle this one. He coaches peewee house league, he's president of a minor hockey association in Newfoundland, and he's been reporting and writing about sports for more than 20 years.

Here's what Don had to say:

"It sounds like you personally are having a difficult season, but you don't mention whether your son is feeling the same way. Has he expressed these feelings to you, or is this something that is bothering you more than him?

"That's the most important thing here: whether it's him or you who feels discouraged.

"Any time a young player doesn't make his rep, or all-star team and is returned to house league, it can be a taxing time, because they feel like they have failed. This is especially true when their friends have made the rep team.

"I assume your son has played all-star in the past and feels like he's been 'relegated' to house league. We've had situations in my own association where kids have threatened to quit hockey because of that exact situation, but after a sober second thought, the kids continue to play hockey, and actually enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of house league play.

"Three goalies on a team is indeed a situation nobody wants to face. It doesn't allow for enough playing time for anybody, and it would also make practice difficult, again assuming all three netminders dress as goalies for practice. However, I'm not sure how your executive could have handled the situation. From the sounds of it, there is an extra goalie in peewee, effectively tying their hands.

"Perhaps your son or another goalie could have been moved to bantam house for this season, with the understanding that the bantam division could use another goaltender. That would leave 20 goalies for 10 teams, a workable situation.

"I was impressed with the coach's decision to allow the kids to play as a skater. It's innovative, and keeps everybody in the game. I'm not sure how disruptive that would be to a house league team, unless that coach is focused too much on winning, and by 'disruptive' he means it shakes up his lineup. Once he started that process, it should have continued through the season.

"I coach peewee house and while I give the kids instructions before we leave the dressing room, the final instruction is for them to 'have fun.' It's something they always wait for me to say, and sometimes they say it before I get a chance. That's what we have to remember here. Some house league players are perfectly happy playing 'just for fun' and don't feel that competitive desire some rep players do.

"I don't know the regulations in your association, but in my province, Fair Play Rules come into effect for house league, requiring every player to receive 'equal time.' That means either a goalie plays one full game every three, or one period each game. There is no other way around this.

"I chuckled at the fact that 'you' have written the year off. Minor hockey is supposed to be for the kids and about the kids. If your son had written the year off and quit, then there'd be concerns. The tone of your letter leads me to believe that your son continues to play, and it's a problem you've created in your mind.

"Fortunately for you, the season is almost over. I'm pleased to read that you have not expressed these frustrations to your son. For that, you should be applauded. Now, however, it's time to accept the situation as is, and make the best of it."