Time to send bullies to the penalty box

Mitchell McDonald
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While the Charlottetown Islanders are used to shutting out other hockey teams, the squad is now taking on a new opponent outside of the rink.

Members of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team are looking to send schoolyard bullies across P.E.I. to the penalty box during the Shut Out Bullying Tour.

The tour, which stopped by the Boys and Girls Club in Charlottetown Tuesday, aims to send a message to the team's young fans about the harmful effects of bullying and what to do when witnessing or being bullied.

Team captain Oliver Cooper was one of several players who shared his own story of being bullied while growing up.

Cooper said he was often left out of activities by classmates after switching elementary schools when he was younger.

"No one wanted to play with me at recess .... I remember I'd go home and thought there was something wrong with me," Cooper told about 40 youngsters at the club. "I'd cry to my parents, they told me it was going to get better ... but things kept getting worse."

Cooper said it only got better after he spoke up to his teacher.

After hearing about the bullying, Cooper said she sat him down with his classmates.

In the end, Cooper said they all became friends.

"We actually still keep in touch to this day," he said. "My advice is not to keep anything inside, keeping it bottled up will just make it worse. If there's something bothering you, make sure you talk to somebody."

The action of speaking up when witnessing bullying behaviour was a common theme throughout the morning.

Goalies Matt Welsh and Mason McDonald both shared stories about witnessing other students being bullied.

McDonald said he still remembers watching one classmate being physically bullied by a large group of students during a junior high gym class.

He said the student was trapped in a hockey net, with many of his classmates throwing balls at him.

While McDonald was friends with some of the bullies, it didn't stop him from speaking up.

"It was the saddest thing ever. Honestly, I went and got the gym teacher and told him there was a bad situation. All of my friends got in trouble," said MacDonald, who had no regrets. "And if you guys see anybody getting picked on, it's really worth it to go tell somebody. It might really help."

The day also saw the Islanders sign autographs for the kids and brainstorm ways on how to deal with bullies.

The tour, which is in association with EA Mobile and P.E.I. Crime Stoppers, began on Jan. 26 with a visit to École François-Buote in Charlottetown.

Craig Foster, president of operations for the Islanders, said the team felt it was important to send a strong message to its fans.

"No one likes to hear stories of bullying in schools," he said. "These guys are role models for many kids in P.E.I., so to hear this message coming from their idols should really help it stick."

Players said they plan on stopping at several more English and French language schools in the province, in addition to holding their annual anti-bullying game on Feb. 18 against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the game to show their support for the cause.



Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Boys and Girls Club, Islanders EA Mobile

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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