Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘hockey

The impossible parental task of taking your life back from youth sports

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For a lot of us in the parenting way, one of our New Year’s resolutions — inspired by a few weeks off from getting kids up in the morning for school — is to “take back” our lives, much like the Tea Party wants to “take back” America. We Tea Party Parents want to hearken back to a simpler time, before schedules, before burning the candle at both ends. Basically, before we had children. Like the Tea Party itself, we Tea Party Parents probably aren’t going to be successful at turning back the clock (or cutting spending, either), but, hey, no sense not trying to talk a good game!

On the site, run by the Lifetime cable network (during the Christmas season, is the site called, Dawn Sandomeno of Partybluprintsblog takes time off from posts like “Rae’s Ultimate Eggplant Sandwich!” (if yours is better, you’d better put two fucking exclamation points on it) to describe herself as a Lifetime woman in peril, although the culprit is her kids’ sports schedule, rather than a fiendish man who seemed OK at the start but turned out to be danger.

This post stars Joanna Kerns. Or maybe Judith Light.

From Ms. Sandomeno:

What’s crazy is that the problem is also what’s good for my kids: Youth Sports. For me, it’s three boys who play ice hockey, but it could be baseball, soccer, dance, lacrosse, or any other activity these days. Youth sports have gone off the deep end and to what end, I’m not sure. Mind you, I’m not against them, quite the opposite – I love that my boys are physically fit because of sports, have learned team play, and are developing great leadership and time management skills.  However, there are no boundaries anymore.  I was actually at an ice rink for a game on Easter Sunday and missed Thanksgiving with my family so we could play in a tournament in another city.  Each youth sport is now a 9 – 12 month commitment and it’s not just time, it‘s money, lots of money! Practices, lessons, games, clinics, camps, it turns out to be 7 days a week – God rested on Sunday, why can’t I?

So, I will need to be strong and committed to this challenge, the pressure can be strong from organizations and clubs, not to mention my own kids.   I want and need this change to happen. I’m determined to succeed and I truly hope to take some time back by being brave and saying no to the extras. I want to show my children that family time is important.

That’s all well and good, but a Tea Party Parent is going to fail cutting a few extras like, say, education. But you’re not going to reduce your family deficit by cutting a few extras here and there. The only solution is a radical one — eliminate activities altogether.

After all, it’s not like the sports organizations are going to say, “Oh, you want more family time? Please, take all the time you need!” It’s more like, “Oh, you want your kid home? I’ll tell you what: he can leave the team and BE HOME ALL THE FUCKING TIME!” So you have to decide as a parent, what do you want to do?

The rule in my family is that if you, as a child, love the activity — as in, we don’t have to drag your ass there, or tell you to practice — you can do it to your heart’s content. If you only kind of like it, then it’s on the bubble. I’ve got four kids. My wife and I don’t have the time or energy to schlep them around to stuff they only kind of like, whether or not our rationale is wanting to spend more time with them.

So Dawn Sandomeno should ask her kids whether they love playing hockey. If they do, then she IS getting her family time. If not, then she can cut off the sport like a Tea Party candidate wants to cut off spending on everything but the military.

How hockey goons get started

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Believe me, if the player’s mom wasn’t there, this fight would have been EPIC! I presume Dad, and copious viewings of, taught the kid how to circle the skater, then drop the gloves, like a goon four times his age (and size).

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(Hat tip: Puck Daddy.)

Written by rkcookjr

July 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Parents sue after kids cut from hockey team

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Greater Toronto Hockey League

Image via Wikipedia

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

Canadian kids don't care their hockey team lost

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With all the alleged gnashing of teeth and rending of sweaters in Canada over its Olympic hockey team’s 5-3 loss to the United States on home ice in Vancouver Sunday night, I would like to take you back to a post of mine from August 2009 about a study showing that Canadian kids care less and less about the presumed national sport.

To be so self-referential I’m going to get inside my own mind like John Malkovich in “Being John Malkovich,” here is what I wrote earlier about Canadian youth and their relationship with hockey. The survey, by University of Lethbridge (Alberta) sociology professor Reginald Bibby, was done in the context of the possibility of southern Ontario becoming the seventh Canadian market for the National Hockey League.

According to Bibby’s survey of 5,500 Canadian teens, the interest in the NHL fell to 35 percent in 2008 from 45 percent in 1992. The decline in Ontario was 40 to 28, with only 20 percent of Toronto teens following the league. …  Of those teens whose parents, and themselves, were born in Canada, 40 percent followed the NHL. Of those teens who were born (and whose parents were born) outside of Canada, only 20 percent were interested in the NHL. Those non-native born teens were mostly likely to follow the NBA (31 percent) and soccer (30 percent).

Blake Lambert of the Faster Times cited Bibby’s research in creating his own reaction to Canada’s Olympic loss: “Canada Loses in Hockey. So What?”

In my corner of downtown Toronto, which is home to immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, I have yet to see a single child play street hockey. At the middle school up the street, basketball and soccer are fashionable; cricket is even a summertime pursuit at a park northeast of my home.

In the Toronto area — not just the city, but the suburbs, too — 45.7 percent of all residents are foreign-born as of the 2007 Canadian census, up from 43.7 percent five years previously. In Vancouver, where fans are presumably feeling the pain a little more because the last American goal was scored by Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler, 39.6 percent of all residents are foreign-born. English is the primary household language of 54.1 percent of Canadians, while the other official language, French, is at only 1.2 percent. Outdistancing the francophones are Chinese (all dialects), 8.1 percent, Italian, 3.7 percent, and Punjabi, 2.6 percent.

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A Punjabi sports show, based in Vancouver.

In the whole of Canada, 20 percent — one out of five — residents was born somewhere other than under the Maple Leaf flag. The government itself says Canada’s growth is almost wholly reliant on immigration. By comparison, the United States has a foreign-born population of 12.6 percent.

Certainly it would be ridiculous to dismiss out-of-hand the agony many Canadians feel over their loss to the United States. However, by the numbers, it looks like hockey in Canada is going to evolve culturally like basketball in my native Indiana.

The sport will always be a strong part of the culture. But as time goes on, as the population changes, and as children are given more choices for sports and activities than their forebears, the intensity of the pain of having a loser in “our” game will be lesser for youth than it is for middle-agers, who remember the glory days when a single sport was everything.

Written by rkcookjr

February 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Canadians like their hockey with a lefty slant

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Canadians are no more left-handed than Americans. Yet in Canada, the New York Times notes, 60 to 70 percent of hockey sticks sold are left-handed, and the same percentage sold in the United States are right-handed.

The Canadian journalist and author Bruce Dowbiggin noted the Canadian-American handedness split in his 2001 book, “The Stick: A History, a Celebration, an Elegy.” On Dowbiggin’s Web site, a reader named Kent Mayhew suggested the difference may have to do with how old a player is when he first picks up a hockey stick.

“The top hand on a hockey stick has to be able to handle the torques of a stick while the bottom hand just has to handle the weight with no torques,” he wrote. He theorized that American children, who tend to take up hockey when they are older and bigger, can afford to put the stronger hand, generally the right, on the lower part of the shaft for more precision.

Even Canada’s conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, shoots lefty.

However, Americans have another argument for why their way is better — because having the dominant hand on top makes for better control and stick-handling. Among those promoting that view — U.S. Olympic women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson, as in the leading scorer of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that drained the piss out of the Evil Empire. Right-handed! Right-handed! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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Do you believe in right-handed miracles? YES!

The Times story notes that Europeans, including the Russians, tend to shoot left-handed. That explains why they are so comfortable with left-wing, Communistic notions like national health care, gay marriage and speaking French, while America is more comfortable with KICKING YOUR ASS!

Written by rkcookjr

February 16, 2010 at 11:40 am

Russian 9-year-old hockey players goon it up

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In Soviet Russia, slap shot hit YOU.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Girl beats up boys in high school hockey fight

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As a father of daughters, I’m conflicted as to how I feel about this. Fighting is bad. But I couldn’t help but be filled with pride if No. 07 were my daughter whomping the crud out of a male hockey player who tried to push her around.

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A scene from Exeter Township vs. Governor Mifflin, Pennsylvania high school hockey, posted to YouTube Nov. 26.

Is this the same sort of mixed signal like how guns are bad, but a gun in the hand of a woman is empowering?

Written by rkcookjr

December 7, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Precocious hockey kid's finger-wag will never die

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The beauty of having children is that they can lecture you like you’re a dumbass. Like how my 12-year-old son the other night, for his science class, had to interview numerous people about whether their habits were Earth-friendly, as if I needed someone who sucks power through a garden hose with his Xbox giving me an implied guilt trip because I have the temerity to drive my car a whopping four miles a day, round-trip, to get to my mass-transit train that takes me to work so I can afford to pay his electric bill.

Another 12-year-old boy, Miller Donnelly of Sudbury, Ont., has taken child harangues to the older generation to a new level, or should I say the 266,000-odd YouTube viewers (and counting) have done so with “The Magic Hockey Helmet,” which got a recent push from young Miller’s interview with ParentDish. “The Magic Hockey Helmet” is Donnelly, when he was 9, talking in full Canadian accent about how aboot the time he puts on a hawkey helmet, he magically turns into a 20-year-old (minus-6.67 Celsius), with people screaming and cursing at him.

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Listen, kid, I know full well how to act at a game without your cute little spiel. By the way, I must say, if you’re playing like a 20-year-old, it’s probably because you handle the puck like a major junior with multiple undiagnosed concussions! Holy fucking shit, kid! You’re like a convenience store — no checks! JUST PASS THE PUCK ALREADY, ASSHOLE! MOUNT RUSHMORE CALLED — THEY SAID THEY NEED YOU TO GIVE BACK THE FUCKING STONE YOU CALL YOUR HANDS!!!!!!

I mean, really, where do these kids get off telling adults how to behave?

Written by rkcookjr

December 3, 2009 at 1:25 am

Canadian kids aren't so much into hockey, eh?

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Native Ontarian Jack Kent Cooke, who brought the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings to life in the 1960s, thought he would have a strong fan base because of the estimated 500,000 Canadians who lived in southern California. When the Kings continued to struggle at the gate in the 1970s, Cooke groused those Canadians moved to Los Angeles “because they obviously wanted to get away from hockey.”

Times have changed. Not that Canadians in Los Angeles are more into hockey. It’s that Canadians in Canada are less into hockey.

Yes, a shocking development from the Great White North. According to a study from a Canadian professor, young Canucks are losing interest in the NHL. What’s next, Canadian teens turning up their noses at poutine and backbacon?


Poutine: the answer to the question, why does Canada need universal health care?

The study, by University of Lethbridge (Alberta) sociology professor Reginald Bibby, actually looked at Canadians teens’ interest in all pro sports, and finds it waning in a big way because of three factors: an enormous explosion in the number of entertaiment opportunities, a growing number of teens whose families emigrated to Canada from non-hockey playing regions, and the ineptitude of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Really, he said that about the Leafs, who since their 1967 Stanley Cup victory have had the resources of the New York Yankees and the management acumen of the Los Angeles Clippers.)

The results for hockey would have Canadian chauvinist and sartorial disaster area Don Cherry rolling over in his grave, if the coach-turned-broadcaster were dead.

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Don Cherry still thinks Russian hockey sucks.

According to Bibby’s survey of 5,500 Canadian teens, the interest in the NHL fell to 35 percent in 2008 from 45 percent in 1992. The decline in Ontario was 40 to 28, with only 20 percent of Toronto teens following the league. (Thus, the effect of the Leafs.) Of those teens whose parents, and themselves, were born in Canada, 40 percent followed the NHL. Of those teens who were born (and whose parents were born) outside of Canada, only 20 percent were interested in the NHL. Those non-native born teens were mostly likely to follow the NBA (31 percent) and soccer (30 percent). Programs such as Punjabi Sports have popped up in Canada to sate recent immigrants’ taste for coverage of such sports as kabaddi.

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The effort under way by Jim Balsillie, founder of Research in Motion, the makers of the Blackberry, to get a seventh NHL team in Canada is based on the idea that southern Ontario, his chosen locale, is full of hockey fans who would enthusiastically support the league. Bibby has a separate take: “These findings suggest the NHL needs to add teams in Canada in order that more Canadians – starting with young people – will fall in love with hockey.” (Emphasis is Bibby’s.)

This survey is interesting to me as a native Hoosier, what with Indiana rightly considered a place where basketball is practically in the DNA. Of couse, Indiana, whether it likes it or not, is subject to the same cultural trends as Canada, except that it’s the Indiana Pacers and Indiana University men’s basketball sucking instead of the Leafs.

In 2000, I drove my old high school buddy Mike Penn around Indiana as he reported a story for the Chicago Tribune about Indiana basketball tourism. One of the messages we got loud and clear was that Indiana high school basketball wasn’t what it used to be, and not just because the Indiana High School Athletic Association instituted class basketball in 1997.

In Anderson, the problem was that the demise of the auto industry had severed the connection between town and team, with the next generation no longer imbued in the necessity (or even around) to of fill a 9,000-seat gym, the nation’s second largest. (New Castle, Ind., is first, with 9,200 seats.) The coach said that every time he read the obituaries, there went another season-ticket holder.

In Huntingburg, Ind., a town of 5,500 with a 7,000-seat gym, a local sportswriter said the problem started with “girls’ basketball.” Beyond the crass sexism, his remark spoke to the fact that Indiana baskeball became big because it took hold in small, farm towns with nothing else to do. Once schools offered other sports and activities (heck, once cable television arrived), no longer was everything focused on boys’ basketball.

I would suspect that if Reginald Bibby polled the teens of Indiana, he might get similar results. A generation is growing up football fans, thanks to Peyton Manning, whose influence is so great he even has a children’s hospital named after him. High school basketball used to be a big deal only in Indiana, but now that so many are trying to track the top fifth-grader that someday might play for My Old U., it’s a bigger deal everywhere.

Plus, Indiana, for the first time since the Ku Klux Klan pulled the strings in the governor’s office in the 1920s (in an age where the Klan’s political influence was powerful nationwide), has had a major wave of immigration. More than 5,000 (and growing) Burmese refugees live in Fort Wayne, the highest concentration of such a population anywhere in the United States. Enough Latino immigrants have come to the state for a Mexican consulate to open in Indianapolis. Thanks to meatpacking operations and other industrial jobs, small cities like Logansport went from zero Hispanics in 1990 to having them represent more than 10 percent of the population 10 years later.

I’ve often wondered: would those new arrivals get involved in the basketball culture? Given this Canadian study, the answer appears to be, not likely.

Written by rkcookjr

August 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm

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Crime and the NHL draft, the aftermath Part II

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The defendant, his attorneys and his family are certainly breathing a sigh of relief that the teenager convicted on manslaughter charges for killing a rugby opponent will not see a day in jail. Very likely, so are the New York Islanders.

The now 18-year-old defendant, 16 at the time of crime, got sentenced in Ontario to one year’s probation, 100 hours of community service and anger management counseling for the 2007 incident, in which he picked up Manny Castillo, 15, and slammed him on his head, pinching his spinal cord. Castillo died at a hospital a few days later. The sentence was what the attorney for the defense (or in Canada, the defence) had requested. From CTV:

The judge determined [the defendant]  “did not set out to commit a crime” but that his actions were the result of his “highly competitive instincts.”

“The tragic consequences went far beyond what could have been expected,” he said.

“In some cases, accountability is largely achieved by guilt and this is one of those cases,” he added. “I held him accountable when I found him guilty of manslaughter. It recognizes the harm done.”

Castillo’s family, in their victim’s statement, detailed how their lives have gone downhill since Manny’s death. His father said his wife and younger son cry themselves through sleepless nights, and that they can no longer celebrate special events. The only light is that five people have survived thanks to Manny’s organs.

Manuel Castillo did not comment on the sentence. But the Mexican immigrant took aim at Canada’s national sport outside the courtroom. He blamed hockey’s culture of fighting after the whistle for giving the defendant, an Ontario Hockey League major junior player, the idea that going after his son was OK. From the Toronto Star:

“This was not a hockey or rugby incident,” [Manuel Castillo] said outside of the courthouse. “It’s about some hockey coaches who don’t know how to teach kids.”

The defendant has never been identified, per Canada’s juvenile justice laws. But as I mentioned in previous posts about this case, it’s very easy to find the player’s name (and that the Islanders drafted him). Perhaps the judge is right that two or three years in custody, which the prosecution sought, would not do anyone any good. But prepare to barf in a few years if this player makes it to the NHL, and a gauzy story about him overcoming hardships airs during one of his games.

Written by rkcookjr

July 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm