It was with distress that I read Steve Wolfe’s Point of View in the paper last week pertaining to fighting in hockey. Steve has an impressive curriculum vitae as a coach and author, but I would like to inform him (and hopefully other readers) about the zero-tolerance rules in youth hockey.
I am quite active in the local hockey community as a referee, a player and a huge fan of every level of the sport – especially high school hockey. I can assure you that in all levels of play, from local to state to USA Hockey, emphasis of play is founded on the idea of skill-building and teamwork.
The mission of Homer Hockey Association states: “HHA … fosters, encourages and promotes the principles of sportsmanship and fair play for all who participate in the sport by providing a safe environment, quality facility and dedicated coaching staff for skating enthusiasts.”
And these are not just words on paper; these are the building blocks of the hockey community. Coaches, players and referees all believe that sportsmanship is primary to the success of any sport.
I felt the need to speak out when I read about fights “in almost every hockey game,” as I have never seen a fight in youth hockey and I have missed very few games. I am not saying that a sport as powerful and fast as hockey never has moments of intense interaction. But as a referee, I can say fights are extremely rare and treated with equal, if not greater seriousness, than in other sports.
All coaches and referees go through yearly intensive training that places emphasis on a zero-tolerance policy toward any unsportsmanlike behavior, not only fighting. Although checking is part of the game of hockey, the National Federation of State High School Association rules and the “Standard of Play Initiative” ensures that all body contact is penalized when used inappropriately.
For fighting, a player receives a game disqualification, which means they sit out the remainder of the game and a subsequent game. Any additional game disqualifications are treated with more severe punishments, which is why you rarely see fighting in local hockey.
I have been told that there was a total of three fighting penalties this year on the Peninsula out of the approximately 70-80 games played. Although I would love that number to be zero, I can say that this is certainly not “almost every game.”
With that said, I think the discussion should turn instead to the many benefits of youth hockey. I would like the community to see that this sport teaches players not only hockey skills, but also life skills. It builds self-esteem, teaches teamwork and increases problem-solving and communication skills. It promotes pride, focus and responsibility. This is in addition to the health benefits of exercise and a passion for a sport they will be able to play for the rest of their lives.
I cannot speak for all hockey fans, but I feel comfortable speaking for myself (and the 200-plus members of Homer’s hockey community) when I say that we do not go to local hockey games to see fights. We come to watch hockey because of our intense love of the sport, and the joy we get from watching our children and friends play with so much skill and passion.
We watch hockey because it is the fastest, most difficult sport invented. We watch hockey to see the concentration on the faces of the players, hear the sound of the puck as it hits the goalpost, and for most of us, we watch hockey because of the level of teamwork and sportsmanship. We like to see the line up at the end of the game when the two teams that just battled it out meet at center ice, shake hands, look each other in the eye, and say “good game.”
Who was it that said “Every time a new law or regulation is passed, citizens have a little less freedom”? No truer is that than the present. Gov. Parnell has introduced Bill House Bill 77, which cuts the citizen right to appeal a number of agency decisions on development issues. By prohibiting a comment period, this bill would restrict Alaskans’ right to participate in the public process. Gov. Parnell has encircled himself with sycophants who implement his dogmas and now he is preventing citizens from expressing objections to his policies. Whether you are for or against an issue, public participation in these decisions is a right that we must preserve! Thank you.
Lately there have been many issues discussed relating to the gun violence debate that our nation has been having. One of these issues has been mental illness. While I believe it is good for us as a country to look at how we treat our mentally ill, I do worry that discussing the mentally ill in the context of gun violence will perpetuate the stereotype of the mentally ill being violent.
Mental illness is a disease that will affect 1 in 4 Americans this year. It can range from serious disorders to mild depression. Most of us will experience some form of mental illness during our lives. Citizens who suffer from mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general public and are far more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.
If you know someone who suffers from mental illness please be an advocate and help them find treatment. Many forms of mental illness are treatable and after treatments many people go on to live productive and fulfilling lives.
There are also treatment options available for people with low incomes and the uninsured. Some resources in Homer include: Division of Youth and Family services, Refuge Chapel, Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, South Peninsula Behavioral health, Haven House, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Links to more local resources can be found by visiting www.pop411.org. With the talk going on and on I want to remind everyone that we can take action against violence starting today. We can all do our part by being better parents, neighbors, friends, and community members. Take a moment and reach out to someone having a tough time and show compassion. These small acts of kindness affect people in big ways, and we can all benefit from that.
Thank you seems like such a small thing to say to everyone but that is all we can say. We won’t even attempt to name names for fear of leaving someone out. Thank you to those who searched on the ground and in the air; coordinated, donated and prepared food for the searchers; sanded the yard; kept Brittany company; called or messaged just to tell us we were in their thoughts and held our hands all night.
Thanks to the hospital staff, those who brought Steve’s machine home … and most of all to those who prayed for Steve’s return. You are all our heroes. We know prayers are what guided the searchers and brought him home. So once again, we say thank you all and send much love.
Rita Craig and the Craig family
I was disappointed to read Steve Wolfe’s factually incorrect slam against high school hockey in the Jan. 23 issue of the Homer Tribune (“Why is fighting in high school hockey acceptable?”). Mr. Wolfe perpetuates a hockey myth that simply does not apply to youth, high school, or college hockey in America. I wonder, has Mr. Wolfe ever actually seen a high school hockey game?
Fighting is not tolerated in high school hockey, nor in any youth hockey program in Homer or anywhere else across the country. I have watched several hundred high school hockey games in my life, in both Minnesota and Alaska, and have never seen players fight. I have been to nearly every home game and several away games for the Homer Mariners junior varsity and varsity hockey over the last two seasons and have never seen players in a fight.
That is what makes Mariner hockey the best game in town. The game is intense, the players are extraordinarily skilled, and when the contest is done, they meet their former opponents at center ice and shake hands. Should a fight ever occur between players, the rules are the same as in any other high school sport in Alaska: the players would be removed for the remainder of the game, plus the next game, and would also face disciplinary action from school authorities.
Fortunately, the kids are there to play hockey and fighting simply does not occur. I encourage community members to come out to Kevin Bell Arena and enjoy youth hockey, whether it’s watching Mites, Squirts, PeeWees, Bantams, junior varsity, or varsity hockey.
See for yourself. The kids are having fun, the games are exciting, and, while you will see goals scored, great goalie saves, and fine sportsmanship, the one thing you won’t see is a fight.
I found last week’s letter by Mr. Wolfe factually incorrect, generally misleading and offensive. It offended me as a hockey fan, hockey parent and hockey coach. While fighting may be common in professional hockey, to state that it happens in nearly every high school game is absurd.
Fights in high school hockey are no more frequent than other high school sports. To suggest that fighting in high school hockey is acceptable or treated differently than other sports simply isn’t true.
Fighting is a game misconduct penalty, which means the offender is removed from the game and suspended from the next game. They would also be subject to suspension from school, the same as any other sport.
To liken our high school hockey players to a bunch of street thugs headed out to the Spit looking for a fight instead of the highly skilled athletes they are is uncalled for.
Members of the Mariner Co-op hockey team are well-coached, disciplined and conduct themselves with class on and off the ice.
Homer Hockey Coach for 10 years
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