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Parents sue after kids cut from hockey team

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Greater Toronto Hockey League

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You might expect some gnashing of teeth and rending of garments from me about the state of youth sports in America over the news that parents of two kids cut from their hockey team have sued over that decision. Except that the lawsuits are in Canada, and there are lines to be read between that make you wonder whether this is the culmination of a long, sordid conflict.

From the June 28 Toronto Star:

Two sets of parents are suing the Greater Toronto Hockey League, one of its clubs and four coaches for $25,000 each because their sons were cut by the Avalanche Minor Sports Club midget junior A team during tryouts in April.

It’s the first time parents in the GTHL have ever taken legal action against the league or one of its teams for declining the services of their children, says league president John Gardner.

Even nationally, it’s a rare event.

“We have had very few lawsuits on ice time or (player) cuts,” said Hockey Canada’s Glen McCurdie director of member services. “There are more threats than actual suits.”

Vito Valela and David Longo are both suing on behalf of their sons, Christopher and Daniel respectively. Besides the GTHL, Avalanche Minor Sports president Anthony Iantorno as well as team officials Doriano Pistarelli, Andy Vandenberk, Felice Guglielmi and Peter Posca are named as defendants in the action.

“Their direct actions have caused irreparable psychological damage to Daniel Longo’s self esteem as an impressionable teenager and demoralized Daniel as an athlete and team hockey player with his peers,” the Longo statement of claim reads. “The conduct by all defendants destroyed the dignity of my son, whom in good conscience gave his team nothing but his best efforts.”

Valela’s statement of claim states: “When Christopher was advised of his termination by my wife and I, he vowed never to play the game he loved since childhood. And, moreover, his misguided group of defendants demoralized my wife and I, whom had gone well beyond the call of duty as parents in support of the Toronto Avalanche hockey team for two seasons.”

None of the claims have been proved in court.

Irreparable damage to self-esteem? Sounds pretty pathetic, right? Well, it is.

However, these players are not 8-year-olds. They’re in a league for 15- and 16-year-olds, on the cusp of, perhaps, a pro hockey career. [EDIT: I have come to learn from a former GTHL parent that the league in question is lower-level, with these players having no hope of a pro hockey career.] These parents have probably sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into their kids’ hockey careers. I’m going to guess that, on some level, this is a fight over recouping an investment. Which is kind of sad in and of itself.

As you read the Star article further, you get the sense that this conflict didn’t just start when the kids were cut from the team.

Both complaints cite that coaches Guglielmi and Posca were suspended for a year by the GTHL for tampering on May 20, 2009 and therefore, the parents claim the men were not legitimately able to advertise themselves as coaches for 2010-2011 season, run the tryouts in April and ultimately cut their 15-year-old sons.

“They terminated my son and the GTHL supported that ‘illegal authority’,” Vito Valela told the Star.

“It wasn’t just that they (coaches) were under suspension,” Longo said. “It was the way they cut them and the method they used.”

However, GTHL executive director Scott Oakman confirmed although the coaches were under suspension, the rules permit any player or team official whose suspensions run past the conclusion of games played in a season to participate in tryouts .

The article doesn’t explain what sort of “tampering” led to a year-long suspension. But by the end of the story, you get the sense that this isn’t about bad, petulant parents who can’t take their sons’ pro dreams are over.

Well, it is about them. But it also is about youth sports politics gone so bad, you find it hard to root for anyone involved in this lawsuit.

Written by rkcookjr

June 29, 2010 at 1:57 am

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