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Win and lose with dignity

Well, valued readers, those of you who know me personally, or are regular readers of Kivalliq News, know I’m a huge, huge fan of the hockey played across the Kivalliq region.

And, yes, you better believe that includes my home community of Rankin Inlet.

However, thanks to officiating for more than 18 years here, it’s the game I love and the way it’s played here. I rarely ever hope one team wins over another and I never cheer openly when in the arena.

An old zebra’s habits die hard – really, really, hard.

There has only been one consistent area of Kivalliq hockey I haven’t enjoyed during my more than two decades here, and that’s the total emphasis on winning with our minor hockey teams and coaches not bothering – or caring – to teach their players to lose, and more importantly, win with class and dignity.

I’ll never forget how I felt when I was officiating at the Arctic Winter Games in Alberta and a small crowd of hockey guys – refs, coaches, managers, association reps – gathered at the lower end of the arena hallway to listen to a Nunavut coach literally screaming at his players after they blew a three-goal lead in the second period.

As the Alberta hockey guys shook their heads slowly with disgust and debated whether they should do something about it, I slowly moved back inside the official’s room and hoped they wouldn’t come in and make the connection Nunavut team, Nunavut ref.

But, of course, they did, and I spent the next half-hour dodging questions about the Nunavut coaches and answering some pretty down-and-dirty questions about how the game was played in the North.

The funny thing is, I absolutely love a great hockey rivalry.

There’s nothing in the sporting world as exciting and intense as two teams meeting each other in a playoff elimination game who truly don’t care for each other very much.

The same holds true for minor hockey but, valued readers, it’s not the same as adult hockey. It’s far from it.

In fact, the adults – whether it’s coaches, refs, parents or fans surrounding the kids’ games – are supposed to set the example to the young players on how to conduct yourself properly on and off the ice and how to win with class and lose with dignity.

And that doesn’t magically disappear or no longer matter once the kids leave the arena at the end of a tournament and return to their home community.

One of the great Kivalliq hockey rivalries is Rankin Inlet versus Coral Harbour in minor hockey, especially the bantam age bracket.

And the Rankin Rock bantam tournament was no exception when Coral and Rankin met, once again, in the recent final.

It was a tremendous, back-and-forth hockey game that either team could have won, and both teams had a number of star players who were playing that way.

You couldn’t really ask for anything more from a gold medal hockey game.

Afterward, however, when parents began grumbling about the tournament awards and posting their comments on social media – to the point where some were grumbling about which player had, or had not, their photo in the regional newspaper (that would be me) – it left a sour taste in many a mouth and sends a horrible message to the kids playing the game.

In their heart of hearts, every player on every team wants to win, no matter how much fun they’re having just playing the game.

The idea is to congratulate the losing team at the end of the tournament for how hard they played and mean it.

Please, you hockey parents out there: the next time you’re going to say or type something that will hurt the feelings of a minor hockey player, or his/her Mom or Dad, take a second to think how you would feel if it was being said about your child.

Kids look up to their parents and often mimic their actions and opinions.

How would you like your child to treat others as they make their way through minor hockey and become young adults?

Food for thought.