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Punishment Without a Crime and a Crime Without Punishment

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Taking a Puck Daddy story and re-doing it is not something we make a habit of here at Hockey Wilderness. When one of the loudest voices in the hockey blog chorus covers something, the story is generally covered enough, and we are content to let sleeping dogs lie.

Today, we make an exception. Every now and then, a story screams for more coverage, even if it is on a local Minnesota hockey blog that reaches only a fraction of those that Puck Daddy reaches. The story Wysh found in the Toronto Star is infuriating. It is frustrating and it is a prime example of the stupidity and rigidity of the rules we govern society by.

There has been a crime committed, and it will go unpunished. In the mean time, a punishment will be doled out without a crime having been committed. Welcome to 2010, people.

A coach suspended for doing the right thing? I'm sure I have nothing to say on the story, right?

Make the jump, will you?

The short version of the story is this. Two kids, playing in a minor hockey game get into it. They throw taunts back and forth and get called for matching minor penalties. All part of the game. Then, it takes a wild slide off the hill of acceptability.

One player calls another the N-word.

Honestly, I am surprised the kid on the receiving end didn't have to be dragged off the ice while attempting to rip out the idiot's jugular vein. "Violence is never the answer and I get it wrong on purpose" kind of stuff.

As the Star report and Puck Daddy both explain, the offender was benched for the remainder of the period, but returned to the game. The coach of the offended player was displeased (understandably) and pulled his team off the ice. The resulting action from the league is almost as bad as the offense in the first place.

The offending player and coach were suspended for three days (games?). The coach who stood up for the rights of his players? Suspended indefinitely, because that's what the rules say should happen.

From the original Star article:

OMHA executive director Richard Ropchan said that while Walsh may not be suspended for an entire year, he expects the coach will suffer some penalty. "He has breached the regulations, and that’s suspendable, so I don’t know how long it’s going to be."

Ropchan agreed the rule is "harsh," but added: "It’s really clear on what happens if you remove a team from a game, for whatever reason."

Is there no regulation against using racial slurs against your opponent? Who was the idiot who thought it more important to make sure the game can be played than it was to teach kids how to be civilized human beings?

"It’s really clear on what happens if you remove a team from a game, for whatever reason." Well, actually, no sir, it's not clear. What happens? A game isn't played? Does the world grind to a halt? Do dogs and cats suddenly get along, and rain falls up?

I don't understand exactly what happens without the rule. Was there a rash of games in which coaches were pulling their teams from games and refusing to play?

I'm sorry, I just don't buy that this moron is in charge of league this big and can't see that the rule is stupid and use a little discretion. You want to send a message? Ban the kid who said it for the rest of the year, and put the "offending" coach back the bench immediately. Make it clear what actually matters in the world. You are teaching kids here, you know that, right? They will learn a lesson from this. What lesson do you want it to be?

Screw what the rule book says.

Oh, but wait. It gets better.

Other coaches have suffered suspensions under the same rule for removing their team from play when kids have been injured by much larger players on the opposing team, according to another OMHA official.

If my players were getting hurt, I would pull them from the game, too. Seriously, what a stupid rule. This isn't the NHL. This isn't even Major Junior level. This is kids playing hockey just to play hockey. If I am a coach, and I feel there is a reason to end the game, the game is over. Simple as that.

It just continues:

The OMHA merely enforces the rules set by Hockey Canada, he said, adding Walsh didn’t have to force the game to end for the Austin Trophies player and coaches to be punished.

The OMHA merely enforces the rules set by Hockey Canada. I was just following orders. Sound familiar? You don't have to follow rules nor orders that are unjust and unethical. Use your moral compass, the space between your ears, and come up with the right thing to do here. If Hockey Canada told you to shoot the coach for pulling his team, would you do that, too?

The logic here fails me. When did adults begin to behave in such a manner that enforcing an antiquated, stupid rule became more important than doing the right thing?

To cap it all off?

Todd Jackson, a senior manager at Hockey Canada, said the regulation "allows the minor hockey associations to deal with different situations on a case-by-case basis."

Oops. There goes your "just following orders" excuse. Now what? You may actually have to make a decision on your own. Flex that gray matter behind your eye balls and quit being a patsy.

My Take

The right thing and wrong thing in life are rarely cut and dry. There are very few situations where things are, pardon the expression, black and white. This is one of those situations where it is. The idiot kid who used the racial slur is wrong. The idiot coach who put him back in the game is wrong. The coach who pulled his team to protest it is 100% right.

Wysh had this to say in his post:

This is admittedly a complicated matter. The stand against intolerance is admirable; the rulebook, however, is clear. Civil disobedience in the face of racism should be commended; but we wonder if every team parent steadfastly supports the team's forfeiture?

It doesn't seem complicated to me at all. Racism is wrong, and the coach did what he had to do to teach that lesson. Right and wrong. The rule book is clear, indeed. It is ridiculous, stupid, and Hockey Canada says it is not the last say. Finally, I don't rightly care if every parent steadfastly supports the team's forfeiture. They don't like it, then their priorities are as misplaced as the league's.

To be clear, Wysh was making the point that the league is the problem here, not the kid and not the coaches. The rules should be written better, and I agree completely. However, until the rules are changed, someone has to step up and use their head. There is no reason to suspend a man for doing the right thing, I don't care what the piece of paper says.

Life isn't lived in rulebooks. Life is lived in three dimensions, with consequences and situations that rule books and league officials cannot possibly foresee. Life is lived in factories, and farm fields, and on hockey rinks.Life is not lived inside the canons of laws and section one, article two, sub-paragraph three, division five.

The books set the basic rules for fair play. They are not the only rules that govern. There are still basic human rights involved here. The unwritten rules still apply. Basic human respect still applies. When those rules are broken, adults and children alike need to take a stand and make it clear what is right and wrong in society cannot be determined by  the Ontario Minor Hockey Association's rule book.

Put the coach back on the bench. Suspend the moron kid for being a racist, and suspend the coach for teaching his players that being a racist is acceptable.

Right and wrong. Simple.