© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
At first glance, it seems that ‘old-time hockey’ has returned to P.E.I. arenas in recent weeks. One headline shouted, ‘Melee on the ice’ while in another incident, the story heading states ‘…. hockey coach suspended indefinitely.’ Two stories dealing with separate incidents appeared in print on consecutive days last week.
It caused some readers to shake their heads in disbelief. Have line brawls once again become the norm?
Not that long ago, coaches and players felt it necessary to make a point around playoff time. The idea was to send a message to opposing teams that ‘no one is going to push us around in our barn’ etc. It was part bravado, partly about putting fans in the seats and partly trying to gain an advantage to win a series.
But these two incidents had nothing to do with players fighting on the ice. These were almost extra-curricular in nature.
It took almost a month before one incident became public - where a Halifax coach pulled his team off the ice during a game Feb. 20 in Cornwall, P.E.I. because a linesman allegedly attacked one of his players on the bench.
The other incident March 18 allegedly involved a West Prince coach going into the stands in Sherwood to confront a mouthy teenaged fan. Each case apparently involved taunting and verbal insults which then led to physical confrontations.
Players on the ice were left shaking their heads and wondering who was hijacking their game?
The RCMP is now involved in the Cornwall incident while Hockey P.E.I. is conducting investigations into both cases. The Cornwall game got national media coverage.
Parents went on the ice in Cornwall and told their kids to go to the dressing room. It didn’t leave the coach with many options but to follow suit. Now, the N.S. coach and three of his players are suspended indefinitely. Those players may never play again. The coach is trying to get the issue reviewed to protect his players.
It’s always easy to blame officials, especially when a team is losing. The N.S. team was trailing 4-1 in the first period when the game was called. The finger is now pointing at a P.E.I. linesman.
The incidents beg the question about taunting and what is considered crossing the line when it comes to fans, players and officials. Comments one would never utter in any other venue suddenly become acceptable or humourous inside an arena.
If one is subjected to taunting outside an arena, violence is rarely used to settle the issue or criminal charges would ensue.
Taunting should be unacceptable. Verbally abusive fans should be ejected and charged. Players and coaches should be penalized and suspended. Game officials should be asked to find a new line of work.
Some people in the game obviously take it a lot more seriously than others, especially where future careers in hockey are at stake.
People have to be held accountable.