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Just A Bit ‘Offside’!

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A lot has happened in the world of coaching for hockey this season that are speaking to rapid changes that have occurred in even the last 5-10 years of coaching hockey and sport. Attention is continually being raised on what you can do and say as a coach and also what won’t be accepted today in sport.

At this point already Mike Babcock, a long time coach at many levels including the NHL has stepped down from his latest position as a NHL Head Coach. If you look back at Mike’s career it has so many accolades from Stanley Cup Championship to Gold Medal Wins at the Olympics. Honestly his list of successes lead him to the highest contract ever awarded to an NHL Coach. He was considered by many the top hockey coach in the world. Now all that and add in the age of social media in sport and you see a legacy coming to an unsettling end. His actions led to a social media frenzy that forced his resignation before the 2023 season even started.

Why do coaches put themselves in these situations…?

what if something is said or posted about a coach that’s not real, that comes from a parent or athlete looking for attention, redemption or plain unhappiness. By the time it comes around to be proven untrue, your career could be over!

We also saw another long-time coach at the WHL & NHL levels have his job in jeopardy over something he said that was deemed unacceptable by the standards imposed by the WHL. That coach was Kevin Constantine coaching the new addition to the league this year the Wenatchee Wild, in Wenatchee Washington. I have not seen or heard what was actually said and to whom but what is a reality, Kevin is in job limbo for something he said.

Now I come back to an experience in my coaching career, now based on everything that’s happened or changed in coaching this for sure would be deemed “Off-Side” today. I was coaching U18AAA Girls and we were at a hockey tournament in Notre Dame Saskatchewan. The game was being played in a small town south of Notre Dame, I still remember the rink. It’s just before the 2nd period intermission and my assistant coach came to me and said “Suzy” (not her real name but we’re going with it) is not listening, talking back and just being very difficult to coach. So I call “Suzy” over and say…this where it gets offside…Suzy why are you being a bi*^%!
Boom, Suzy loses it, period ends, we’re headed to the dressing room and she’s screaming letting all her teammates know what I said…I give her a minute and head straight to the rink lobby…I was looking for her dad. Suzy’s Dad and I had a good relationship, so I felt I needed to let him know what had happened. So I found Suzy’s dad and he already knew something had happened. So I explained everything, and I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember me extending my apologies to him for what I said to his daughter… He accepted my apology and he knew his daughter, so knew that was going to fire her up because Suzy was a fireball. When she played hard and tough there weren’t many girls like Suzy… I went back to the dressing room, talked to the team and asked Suzy to join me and the assistant coach outside the dressing room.

Suzy was still hot, I told her I already talked to and apologized to her dad. Then we talked about her interaction with the assistant coach and that didn’t condone what I said and I apologised to her, but that she still needed to respect our assistant coach. Needless to say, Suzy lit up some girls from the other team with her spirited play in the third and finished the Tournament very strong.

Suzy and I stayed in touch years after, even when she went on to college hockey….We still had a high respect for each other even through that experience…and I own what I said.

Once again…Sorry Suzy…

What would happen today with that comment I made to Suzy?

Are coaches safe? I know there’s a line and if you cross it, you get what’s coming…

But what if something is said or posted about a coach that’s not real, that comes from a parent or athlete looking for attention, redemption or plain unhappiness. By the time it comes around to be proven untrue, your career could be over!

We’re in a new age and it’s all changing fast and lots of it is for the better…but it’s still scary.

Let’s just keep it “On-Side” , use common sense and promote the game we all love…

Let’s Play

Eric Morrissette

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