There’s a saying that ‘chivalry is dead.” Here lately, it seems like that phrase could apply to sportsmanship as well, especially in the sport of hockey. Given many recent events and the increasingly cutthroat nature of the sport itself, it almost seems like sportsmanship and its value has gone out the window.
If you need a clear picture, consider the fact that Ndamukong Suh recently and purposefully stepped on Aaron Rodgers’ leg...or that time he kicked Matt Schaub. Even worse, think about when Todd Bertuzzi punched Steve Moore and the “Malice at the Palace” brawl. These types of things are becoming more common than ever in the hockey world, and what’s even worse is that young players are witnessing or hearing about these types of things, often from people they consider their heroes.
Does this mean that we should just let kids think this kind of behavior is normal or acceptable? Absolutely not. Now, more than ever, parents, coaches, and everyone involved in the world of youth hockey needs to drive home the point that good sportsmanship matters. This means having clear rules of conduct and equally clear punishments for those who violate the rules.
When big stories break about bad conduct, don’t just hope kids don’t notice them. They will, especially in the age of social media. Instead, talk to them about what happened and why it was wrong. Use these examples as a way to teach good sportsmanship and reinforce why it matters.
This might not be enough to change the entire climate of hockey as it now stands, but it can change the climate of your local team. And, ultimately, if young players are raised to value sportsmanship, it can lead to a change in the future of the sport.