CALGARY — Fed up with the few unruly parents who make life at the rink miserable for everyone, Hockey Calgary has drawn a line in the sand.
Parents are required to watch a 60-minute online video called Respect In Sport and verify on the organization’s website they have done so before their children are allowed to play hockey this winter.
It’s a hard-line stance believed to be unique in Canada.
The president of Hockey Calgary says other minor hockey associations and minor sports are showing an interest in adopting the practice.
“The reality is, there seems to be, for whatever reason, an attitude in the minor sport world in this country that being Joe Jerk on the sidelines or behind the glass is a right,” Perry Cavanaugh said Wednesday.
“Based on the feedback we’ve received from a significant portion of our membership, people are sick and tired of it.
“We’re no longer going to tolerate bullying, harassment and abuse by this two per cent club that seems to believe the rules and regulations, morals and values of society don’t apply to them in a sport environment.
“We’re done with it. We’re going to take action and proactively seek to remove those individuals from our sport.”
Cavanaugh won’t go so far as to call the project a mandatory anger management class, but the video does deal with bullying, harassment and abuse of officials, players and other parents.
Of the approximately 13,500 hockey players registered with Hockey Calgary, Cavanaugh said Wednesday that 11,217 parents have logged on and watched the video.
While the requirement is for just one parent of a player to watch the video, some of those who have may be from the same household, he said.
“I do believe there’s been situations where mom has taken it and gone to the husband and said ‘Sit your backside down and look at this because this is you,”’ Cavanaugh said, adding there was no way of gleaning from the data whether it’s been it’s been more mothers or fathers who have viewed the video.
The deadline for compliance was last Friday at 9 p.m. local time.
Some players weren’t able to start their exhibition seasons Saturday because their parents had not logged on to watch the video.
As soon as parents comply, their children can play, but Cavanaugh says he’s been told in “colourful” language by some that they won’t.
He acknowledges some children may be prevented from playing hockey because their parents’ stubbornness.
“That’s unfortunate, but the reality is the parents need to put their attitudes in check and park that and leave it in the parking lot literally and not bring it into a sport environment that is meant to be positive and encouraging,” he said.
“We’ve advocated right from the start that 100 per cent of the control associated with the eligibility of their children to play in the game is completely within their hands.
“It’s never been out of their hands.”
Cavanaugh has been a hockey administrator for 20 years and had four sons play hockey in Calgary. Cavanaugh says that five years ago, disciplinary hearings usually dealt with players who swung a stick or made a rude hand gesture to the stands or to another player.
“Now it’s gone from being youth-oriented to being 80 per cent plus of the time we’re dealing with parents,” he said.
Having proof that a parent has watched the video strengthens Hockey Calgary’s position in the event that parent faces discipline during the hockey season.
“We have a better leg to stand on,” Cavanaugh explained.
“If somebody does choose to violate our code of conduct, we have evidence there has been formal training provided and we have a certification number that says that ‘Your household did participate in this program and were clearly aware of the conditions and a result of that you have chosen to purposely violate the code of conduct and there are consequences associated with that.”’
Cavanaugh knows this won’t cure bad behaviour at the rink entirely.
Just one week into the exhibition season, he says two parents from the same household — at least one of them had to watch the video — have been suspended until Dec. 31.
Hockey Calgary will track rate of incidents this season to see if Respect In Sport makes a difference, but Cavanaugh already feels it will.
“It’s about time we got off our backsides and proactively did something like Respect In Sport and start the ball rolling,” he said.
“We’re going to make a societal change, we’re going to make a cultural change in what’s happening around youth, minors involved in sport be it baseball, soccer, hockey, basketball. We’re not going to tolerate it anymore and we’re going to start right here in the city of Calgary.”
He added that the Respect In Sport video was offered in French and that a dozen people have viewed that version.