It will come as absolutely no solace to a group of teenaged kids who had their season abruptly ended by an arcane rule and a lack of good judgment by a bunch of adults, but there is some good to be extracted from the fiasco that took place at the Calgary Bantam AA City Championship over the weekend.
Situations such as this one can give all of us a chance to reflect and change. And in this case, it provides everyone an opportunity to ponder the profound effects of a system where well-meaning volunteers can sometimes be so blinded by a forest of rules, that they are unable to see the trees. It also provides us with a prime example of how minor hockey can sometimes so utterly fail the kids who play it on so many levels. Minor hockey is supposed to be as much about life lessons as it is goals and assists and the kids who played the quarterfinal game between the Calgary Buffalo Wranglers and the Calgary Royals Saturday night were failed badly in the lessons the game was supposed to give them in compromise, reasonableness, and just plain common sense.
First the backstory. And there’s a fair bit to unpack here. On Saturday night at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, the Buffalo Wranglers and Royals faced off in the quarterfinal of the Bantam AA City Championship. With the game tied at 4-4, organizers eschewed the 10-minute overtime because of a lack of ice time and went straight to the shootout. After three shooters for each team, nothing was decided. So because they had to get things moving along, organizers elected to have the game decided by a coin flip.
Yes, you read that properly. A coin flip. The Buffalo Wranglers won the coin flip and moved on to a semifinal game played the next morning and the Royals saw their season end. Now here’s where things get a little dicey. Hockey Calgary claims this is a procedure that has been in place for four years, but has never been used before, and that coaches knew or ought to have known its existence. It also claims that prior to the weekend, it discussed scheduling issues with arena management and was told that it would not be permitted to go one minute beyond its permit time. (Arena management claims at no time was it approached about going beyond the permit time for the game in question and that, “was cooperative in trying to accommodate overtime games throughout the weekend and willing to provide extra time if necessary, including this particular game.”
So here’s where a couple of things go off the rails. First, Hockey Calgary’s rules state if teams remain tied during playoffs, an ‘Elite Council’ official has the authority to stop or extend overtime depending on the availability of ice. Elite Council? That’s seriously what they call it? If there’s one thing that conjures up an image of a bunch of overzealous adults imposing their will on kids, it’s the term Elite Council.
Hockey Calgary claims that it absolutely had to have a champion determined by the end of the day Sunday in order to have that team participate in the provincial championship. We called Hockey Alberta to ask them what would have happened if Hockey Calgary had called and said they might need another day or two to sort this out, but we didn’t receive a response. But seriously, is this not a case of an adult looking at some rule and blindly following it to the letter with no regard for unforeseen circumstances?
And thirdly, and this is a big one, the game ended at 9:30 Saturday night and the winner was moving on to a semifinal that was being played at 8:00 the next morning. Why on earth would anyone even contemplate a schedule like that? Less than 12 hours between crucial games with the winner having to play another one later that day? We don’t even expect that from NHL players. It’s no wonder there are so many injuries in minor hockey and cases of burnout.
But the most prominent casualty in all of this was common sense. How long would it seriously have taken to at least continue the shootout to determine a winner? I’ve seen leagues where both teams send in their shooters simultaneously and the shootout ends when a team scores at one end and stops its opponent at the other. How long could that have conceivably taken? Another five minutes?
What about the people who had the ice booked next? It was 9:30 on a Saturday night, so my guess it was probably a beer league. And I don’t know a beer league player in the world who would not give up a few minutes of his ice time on a Saturday night so that the kids could properly determine a winner of their game.
It should have never, ever come to a coin toss, rules be damned. The only thing we can hope is that the good people at Hockey Calgary, and every other minor hockey association in the world, use this as a template on how to not do things.
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