In Minor Hockey, Atom players are nine and ten years old. In Revelstoke, these kids play in the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association Recreation League. This means no one tries out to make the team and everyone is welcome, whether they have been playing for five years or this is their first year in hockey. Coaches and team managers are dedicated volunteers.
Hockey represents a chance to teach the kids how to play a great sport, be part of a team, work hard, celebrate wins and take a loss with a good attitude. Retired NHL player Aaron Volpatti, among others, have spoken about the importance of remembering that ultimately, it is a game. Cheer loudly, but leave your vitriol for refs, players, other parents, and coaches at home.
This isn’t to say that because the teams are not tiered means they are not competitive. No matter how much fun they are having, kids on every team want to win. Scores are kept and goals/assists are announced. Referees enforce rules and give penalties. Most of the time, competitive spirit is paired with good sportsmanship and respect.
That respect is something that sometimes gets lost in a sport where the adults get more worked up than the kids on the ice. Though it is changing for the better, minor hockey has a reputation of evoking poor adult behaviour. Prior to the start of the season, parents are required to participate in an online class called Respect in Sport to ensure they understand that point of the sport is fun.
At last year at the league playoffs, one team’s behaviour (not locally) resulted in the cancellation of this year’s playoffs. This year’s teams are effectively being penalized because of the poor choices made by a couple of adults from one team the year prior.
The longer my own child plays, the more grateful I am for the coaching he has. Revelstoke Atom coaches understand the importance of encouraging kids to excel, but also keeping it fun and classy. One way they recently showed the kids that competition and friendship are not mutually exclusive, was by taking part in a friendly wager.
On February 24 and 25 2019, the team played back to back games against the North Okanagan Knights. The wager? The team coaches who lost the first game would, on the bench of game two, wear the opposing team’s jerseys. Revelstoke won the first game (and second), and the Knights coaches proudly wore Revelstoke jerseys during game two.
Competition and respect can, and should, go hand in hand. Well done to the coaches who are showing their teams they can battle it out on the ice and still be friends off of it.