There have been a lot of things that I have really enjoyed about being involved this past year with minor hockey in Sault Ste. Marie. There are a lot of really good people out there, first and foremost. There are great parents, coaches, managers and, especially, great kids!
The adults in question are fun to be around, a pleasure to talk to, and in it for the correct reasons — which is the long term development of the kids as people. Their mental, physical and emotional development as people, not hockey players, are the important goals for them.
They look at the game to learn about life, the challenges that lie ahead, including success and adversity as a growing and developing person. Their reasons for being in the game are the right ones.
Unfortunately, I also have seen and heard some things that are not encouraging when you think of the big picture of the personal growth of our kids and the game here in the Soo.
I am sure there have been some legitimate reasons for people to question or doubt the situation in the Soo and if it will help their son or daughter develop to their potential.
Those reasons have to change, and are, albeit slowly, but still — what are we teaching our kids as adults when it is always someone else’s fault? Such as, your teammates aren’t good enough, the coach is not good enough for you, you should play more, etc.
I was always taught to listen and work and you will learn something from every coach you play for! The team comes first and your personal rewards will come.
I played for bad coaches as did my son, Chris, but I never took the easy way out for myself or my son. We took the approach that opportunity will be there for you when you earn it.
Even as a coach, I worked in some very difficult situations, but you learn and get better from every situation as a person and a coach.
I understand there is a huge financial responsibility for parents for their child to play rep hockey, and for that money you should want your kid to have a positive learning experience.
But that experience should be his or her experience, not yours. If they are learning life lessons, what is the problem?
Sometimes, those lessons can be hard and maybe even unfair. Guess what, life is going to be hard and unfair at times too!
However, if there is abuse or neglect then you have the right to stop it for sure and speak up!
People are moving their families out of town with the hope that their child can be a better player. There is something about that, that just doesn’t sound right.
Are they learning the value of hard work, perseverance, loyalty and life time friendships? Is leaving teaching them that?
Maybe it does or maybe it teaches other positives, I don’t know.
I understand that some kids and parents may opt out of rep hockey for good reasons, family time, financially it is too hard and maybe they just don’t want to play in that competitive environment.
Those are real reasons, not because you don’t like the coach or your teammates aren’t good enough!
We need to make hockey better in the Soo and there aren’t magic wands to do it.
I don’t want to condemn anyone for doing what they think is right for their kids.
But I just ask everyone to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself: What is my young player learning from our great game?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of columns written for Hockey News North by retired National Hockey League player and coach Craig Hartsburg. Hartsburg retired from the game in 2016 after an eventful 27-year coaching career that included 19 seasons in the NHL and successful stints in the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League. As a player, Hartsburg had a world-class career as an all-star defenseman with both the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL and the erstwhile Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He was captain of the Greyhounds for two of his three OHL seasons and was captain of the North Stars for seven of his 10 NHL seasons.