Memo to parents: Hockey is supposed to be fun

Between the World Junior hockey championships hosted in my home province and coaching two completely hockey-crazy boys – along with a few other things – hockey has been on my mind a lot lately. That’s why a recent column by Joe O’Connor prompted me to write the letter below, that was today published in the National Post.

The original column is a fascinating look at the numbers around amateur hockey in Canada and how the US is catching up to Canada in terms of the number of kids taking the game up and then sticking with it to go on and play at high levels. The writer gives Hockey Canada, and all hockey-loving Canadians, a lot to think about, but I thought there was one part of the discussion he overlooked.

Re: Soon It May No Longer Be Our Game, Joe O’Connor, Dec. 23.

Joe O’Connor laid out some serious issues for Hockey Canada to consider as we look to keep “our” game ours. He’s right when he describes hockey as our national birthright, and the one sport we know better and care more deeply about than any other nation on Earth. What he didn’t address is what that passion means for Canada’s young players.

Unfortunately, passionate parents far too often turn into psychotic parents – and the pressure they put on young players can be crippling. Four-and five-yearold kids are pushed onto the ice and forced to show up every week – whether they want to or not. Young teens are pressured to perform and told effort and attitude are not enough – it is results that matter. Wins on the board and stats on the sheet are the only meaningful markers to many parents.

Canadians are justifiably proud of our hockey accomplishments, but that pride is perilously close to arrogance, and has the potential to end our dominance in the sport. Kids used to spend hours on the ice practising their skills because they wanted to – a simple love of the game and a passion for excellence. Far too many young players are putting in that kind of effort today out of a fear of failure instead.

Unless our hockey parents remember why they loved the game as kids, and remember that it is a game, we will continue to churn out technically sound players who have no heart. And that’s not the Canadian game that we are all so proud of.