If you were to pose this question in any arena, coffee shop, or anywhere else Canadians gather, you would receive a resounding, CANADA's. There is nothing better than watching people pull together in this country when Canadian men and women are chasing glory on the hockey ice.
Of course it is our game. It was invented here. People in Canada have a passion for this game. There have been times in our history when Canadians question if we are the best at this game. Currently, Canadian teams are the holder of the Olympic Men's and Women's Gold Medal, the Men's and Women's IIHF World Championship Gold Medal, the IIHF Under-18 Men's Gold Medal, and the World Junior Silver Medal. Hard to argue with which country's men and women have performed the best in the last three years.
Hockey Canada is proud to host a celebration of Minor Hockey every November. This week, many branches across Canada will be celebrating their own Minor Hockey Week. I would ask all of us to answer the question, "who's game is it" in the context of Minor Hockey Week.
My answer to "who's game is it?" would be, it is the young boys and girls who play it. It is the young men and women who coach it, and it is the young men and women who officiate it. The game belongs to all those who attempt to provide opportunities for young boys and girls to play our game.
As a parent, it is easy to forget who is playing the game. It is a natural instinct for a parent to hope that our children's dreams come true. Whether that be in school, in sports, in the arts, or in any other activity that our children pursue, our children's successful results make us happy, because we believe our children are happy when they are successful. It would be an unusual parent who would want their child to fail.
As parents, we are also by nature, very competitive. We want the best for ourselves, and therefore we want the best for our children. As parents we believe that if we can help our children, we should. Natural instinct I would presume. Why wouldn't we?
In doing so, we forget that the best lessons in our life, are the one's we learned by ourselves. Someone can tell you not to stick your tongue on an outdoor metal object in the middle of a Canadian winter, but surprisingly many of us had to learn this the hard way. After we learned this lesson the hard way, we surely did not do it again.
When we were young, our parents did not have time to supervise every activity that we participated in. Today, parents either have that leisure time, or they make time. I wonder how we would have turned out if every second of every day, our parents knew what we were up to. Our parents let us play kids games. They were just that, games. Kid's games were not a means to a million dollar contract. Playing a kids game was not means to future fame and stardom.
In hockey, parents at times think that they need to help our children with every aspect of the game. How often do we see parents providing direction to their children on the ice. "Dump it in"; "Pass the puck"; "SHOOT!!" How will our sons and daughters know what is correct if we are always telling them what to do. In life, will we always be there to tell our children what they should do?
What if what we tell them is the exact opposite of what the coach wants them to do? If you had two bosses, each of whom you respected and admired, and each of these bosses provided you with conflicting instructions each day, would you be confused? How long would it be before you found a new job?
Do we really need to wonder why when our children are old enough to choose their own activities, they often choose ones that don't involve us?
In the 1960's, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, during Minor Hockey Week, told parents to take their children to the rink, and stay there. Don't just drop them off. See how much fun it was to watch your child. I am not so sure that we, as parents, may not have taken this too far. The caring parent has been replaced by the parent with the stop watch, making sure that their child receives equal ice time; the parent who will go to court to contest what team their son or daughter has been placed on; will tell everyone who is within earshot the reason why the Most Valuable Player should have gone to their child; or be willing to pick a fight with a stranger over some misconceived notion of honour. Many wonder if the game would be better if the parents now dropped their son and daughter off at the rink, and went home.
Parents have also been known to yell, curse, and even threaten a teenager over an interpretation of a playing rule. There is a true story of one father watching a hockey game. A person at the arena was being critical of everything the young official was calling. As the game went on, this person became louder, and more obnoxious. The father went and stood next to the one criticizing the official. In the course of conversation the father asked the person if he had a boy playing in the game. The loud mouth said he did, and as proud as any parent would be, offered that his son was number 11. For the next while, every time #11 made a mistake on the ice, this father offered to the other a critique of #11's play. It was not long before the father of #11 became agitated. It was not long before he told the other, "hey, that is my son, leave him alone, he is only learning the game!". To which the other father replied, "my son is the referee, leave him alone, he is also just learning the game!"
It would be easy to write an upbeat article about our national game. In fact, in previous years I have done just that. I still believe that our game is the very best one in the world. I also believe that we should take our children to the rink, and enjoy the experience. We should enjoy it for the fact that our children are learning life lessons. Our children are learning skills which are very difficult to master. They are learning how to interact with people. They are learning the tremendous joy that comes with success. They are also learning how to deal with disappointment. There are few activities that offer so much to our children. Our children need to learn these lessons on their own. Our children will learn when to shoot, when to pass, how to stop the puck, how to be a good team mate, how to deal with success, and how to deal with disappointment. We should be there to offer guidance and support, but we should let our children learn their life's lessons at their own pace, and in their own time.
During these regional Minor Hockey Weeks across Canada throughout the season, whether you go as a parent, grandparent, coach, referee, or fan, look closely at the faces of the young players when they have done something well. You will see from the look in our children's eyes, and hear from the sound of our children's laughter, all that this great game has to offer.
If you look and listen carefully enough, you may even be able to answer to the question, "who's game is it?"
Sheldon W. Lanchbery