Ninety-nine per cent of children who play in organized hockey leagues are not going to play professionally, so the purpose should be to learn to get along with others of different backgrounds, where the only thing in common might be playing the game. On its website a couple months ago, the St. Albert (Alta.) Minor Hockey Association had an update about its peewee age group that noted, "All players are now on teams and can start having fun playing hockey," so that would seem to be the aim.
Well, hockey has not been much fun for two peewee players — and teammates who might not have known how to stop the abuse — who heard racial taunts from the goalie on their team. The goalie has been suspended, but it probably shouldn't end there.
From Megan Sarrazin:
An 11-year-old defenceman was targeted during a team outing for being Jewish, said his mother who is also the team's manager.
"We all went to an Oil Kings' game on Friday and on the bus, the goalie of our team called my son a "f****** Jew," she said, adding this player later told her son that Nazis killed Jews.
She did not want her name published in order to protect her children.
This incident came to her attention after the parents of two unrelated children contacted her.
"Two parents came to me and said their sons came home in tears because (my son) had been treated so badly on the bus and they were so upset about it," she said. (St. Albert Gazette)
Bullying that happens within the atmosphere of a sports team is very difficult to handle, especially when it takes the form of racial and/or religious hatred. It's tough to deal with in youth sports because regardless of the calibre of the league, there is an expectation that everyone's egos will be checked at the door while helping work toward a common goal. There's a reluctance to upset the herd. That applies not just to the children being picked on, but the ones who realize something wrong is happening but do not know how to respond.
If these reports are verified, well, that peewee goalie was clearly taking advantage of the situation. And he forfeited the privilege to be a teammate of any of those other children. It might also speak to how daunting it is for minor hockey coaches to stay on top of everything that children do.
A second player from the same team, an 11-year-old biracial forward, told his parents this week that the same goalie targeted him at the beginning of the month.
The goalie told him "Your mom should go back to Africa where she belongs."
Hopefully, this gets an airing in Edmonton and in Alberta beyond a community newspaper, although it could happen anywhere in Canada, of course. That will help provide a how-to on how to avoid these problems. It is completely disgusting. It's also hard to imagine the child didn't do this due to some behaviour issues that might require further attention.
(Stick tap: Greg Wyshynski.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.