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Course promotes a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t for hockey parents

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If you’ve spent any time participating in or watching minor hockey, chances are you’ve seen an example or two of overzealous or perhaps even inappropriate activities carried out by adults. Some seem to get far more invested and emotional than the kids.

As the resultant actions are sometimes not desirable, for the next hockey season, one parent from each household with a child in the sport will have to take a course on curbing inappropriate behavior. The Respect in Sport Parent Education Program will be a requirement of a child’s involvement in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA).

The program and similar tactics to curb inappropriate behaviors among a small percentage of overly-zealous adults in various sports, including soccer and hockey, has been around for many years, Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey development Paul Carson said this week.

“It’s very much an issue that is the minority of parents. The majority of parents are excellent sport parents, great fans and supporters of the game. When there are incidents they get a lot of attention, whether it’s local, regional, national attention. The challenge is getting parents to understand that the experience on the ice is the child’s experience,” he explained.

A simple search on the web will yield a number of incidents. In November 2012 a player at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira was charged with assault. Just a month prior to that, charges against a hockey dad were withdrawn in Cambridge.

A brawl between fans in Tweed, Ontario was caught on video at a Bantam playoff game in 2013. The Tweed team took a 3-1 lead in the game and witnesses said one group of parents began verbally abusing another group before both sides began trading blows. Coaches are not exempt from bad behaviors either, as seen by the headline-making story about Martin Tremblay. The British Columbia minor hockey coach tripped a player during a post-game handshake and received a 15-day jail sentence in 2013.

At least one parent of each player, team officials, on-ice volunteers and on-ice officials will have to complete the course effective August 31.

“We do agree with it in principle; however, I’m afraid that it will not make much difference. People check their brains at the door when it comes to minor hockey,” said Twin Centre president Kevin Kraemer.

In the past he’s pulled aside not only parents but extended family members for bad behaviour in the arena.

“Only one parent has to complete the course per family. Chances are the people who are the problem aren’t the ones who will be doing the course. The second part of it is, there’s really no avenue in minor hockey associations to really police the parents.”

Woolwich Minor Hockey Association president Rob Waters is not keen on making the course mandatory across the board.

“The one to five per cent of the parents that don’t conduct themselves in a professional manner, they should be the ones taking it. From my understanding this course goes a little beyond how to behave in an arena, it talks about concussions and return to play and it’s gotten a lot more encompassing in the overall course. There might be some good takeaways for people, but I don’t necessarily like the idea that it’s mandatory.”

Parents who have taken the course while their kids played at certain levels in soccer won’t need to repeat it, he added.

The one-hour online course will run local hockey parents $12. Waters does stress that the OMHA is not looking to make money from making the course mandatory, as only a small percentage of the funds will go to the association.

The education program is mandatory across the province of Alberta and enforced to various degrees in Canada. Instructions can be found on the OMHA website (www.omha.net).

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