By Stewart Grant
For those who are tired of the subject, this isn’t an article about Don Cherry, although the recent dismissal of the polarizing sports personality seems consistent with the changes occurring within the administration of hockey.
Hockey Canada announced this week that “Midget”, along with the other hockey terms such as Novice, Atom, Peewee and Bantam, will be phased out next season and replaced by more age-descriptive titles.
“We believe everyone should feel welcome in the game and in our on-going effort to make hockey more inclusive, the members at the Hockey Canada annual meeting determined that the names of our age Divisions will change,” Michael Brind’Amour, chair of the Hockey Canada board of directors, said in a statement. “Following a comprehensive review, we believe this change will simplify the system for families who may be new to the game. The new age Division names will be implemented for next season.”
The name changes are as follows:
– IP (aka Tyke) will become Under-7
– Novice will become Under-9
– Atom will become Under-11
– Peewee will become Under-13
– Bantam will become Under-15
– Minor Midget will become Under-16
– Midget will become Under-18
The change, which was first proposed by a Guelph mother whose child has dwarfism, will be an adjustment for longtime hockey followers who are used to the traditional names. However, the new age-descriptive terms are frankly a better, more informative, and less confusing title for these divisions.
A more significant change to the language of hockey was witnessed this week during Monday’s Bantam AE game at the PRC. During an altercation on the ice, a visiting Mooretown player was tossed from the game for using a derogatory slur (allegedly starting with the letter R) against a St. Marys player. At the time, the game official explained to the coaches that the league’s new rules have a “no tolerance” stance on this type of offensive language, and that it carried with it a suspension of six games.
“Trash talking” has been a part of hockey for probably as long as the game has been played, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right. But this was the first time that I can recall it being penalized in this extreme fashion. If true, six games is quite a long time…in fact it’s a longer suspension than you can get for some pretty dangerous hockey plays. Based on our team’s schedule, if such a penalty had been assessed to a Rock player, the suspension would carry on into January 2020. In the case of Mooretown, they have the Silver Stick Regionals in Exeter coming up this weekend, so there goes that experience. This kid is being made an example of, in the hopes that it will change the actions of others in the future.
We’ve seen in hockey that extreme penalties can change behaviour. Those of us who are over the age of 40 will remember the frequency of bench-clearing brawls that used to occur in the NHL. But in the decades since a 10-game automatic suspension was implemented for jumping off the bench to join a fracas, I don’t think we’ve seen a single one.
My knee-jerk reaction is that a six-game suspension for saying a bad word seems like too many games, but it certainly got the attention of both clubs on Monday night this week, and I guess that’s the point. No player wants to miss six games of hockey. If the referees continue to call penalties such as this and hold players accountable for their actions, we might just see a change in the language of hockey, both on and off the ice.
For parents out there, I’d use this example as a chance to talk to your kids about the importance of showing respect to others. Not only is it the right thing to do, but for hockey players it will save them the risk of a lengthy suspension.