Below is an excerpt from the letter that I sent the owner of the Portland Pirates hockey team , Brian Petrovek, after chaperoning my son’s kindergarten class to a “Kids Hockey Game Day” provided to Maine’s school children by his franchise. After assuring the administrators of many schools that “violence would not be part of this kids day event” permission slips were sent home, arrangements made.
After a score in the first 13 seconds things certainly promised to be exciting. If only we knew what was about to come.
What we witnessed was two to three minutes of barbarism by EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF BOTH TEAMS at 11:30am to an audience of 3500 children.
Dear Mr. Petrovek,
I am writing to register a formal complaint and letter of concern to be shared with all members of the Portland Pirates today, on behalf of all of the students in Maine schools who were forced to witness the bloodbath on the ice this morning. It is one thing to see a scuffle, it is another to force 3500 children to witness each member of each team engage simultaneously in fist slinging, blood letting battles that even the refs were unable to control. All gear was off, as the men all pounded on each other for several minutes. The crowd of children was shocked silent. The teachers and adults all awestruck with the horror.
The child next to me, a recent immigrant from a war torn country just watched, shaking. Her first time seeing a hockey game. No young people there should have been asked to watch these “heroes” unleash on each other. The players should be horribly ashamed of themselves for that excessive expression of barbaric behavior. I do not seek out acts of unmitigated violence as a learning experience for my child. No parent does.
I haven’t heard back from him.(follow up note: a personal letter was received from Mr. Petrovec today, 3/25/2011. More to follow.) Did I mention that these same players had been to my son’s kindergarten class three weeks prior to celebrate Read Across America day as part of their outreach? Outreach had another meaning on Tuesday: as in reach out and grab the head of the opponent and beat him until he bleeds.
And when the game was reported in the paper today by a reporter without one mention of the bloodbath, (follow up note: this is an error. The altercation was referred to at the end of the article. I must not have read to the very end. ) I became crazed. I saw the other parents and teachers reacting around me. A scuffle or a body check is part of a hockey game. I get that. What thousands of elementary, middle school and a high school students witnessed was senseless brutality which resulted in much more than just eight of ten players removed from the game permanently. The message the kids received that day has much larger reverberations.
So I wrote to the reporter who failed to mention the violence, along with his boss, and several other editors the following:
True reporting covers all parts of the story, even the uncomfortable ones. The real news in yesterday’s game was not that the Pirates lost, but that the Pirates lost the respect of many of the schools, staff, chaperones and students there after the unmitigated barbaric behavior of both teams during the first period bloodbath.
Did you know that the students at my son’s school will be offered social work services to talk about what they saw yesterday- after their teacher discuss the incident this morning? Did you know that representatives from the Pirates [staff] met months ago with the principal and assured him and staff that students were not coming to witness hair grabbing punching and blood spraying over the ice? How many of those schools do you think will be returning next year? Call the principal and the superintendent and find out. What kind of a message did that game send our “future athletes” about sportsmanship? The players told the kids to eat fruits and vegetables in the overhead video, and then to punch the lights out of each other on the ice.
My letter caught someone’s attention: I have since been interviewed by another member of the paper twice, and had many discussions with teachers and parents. Hockey is a game of speed, skill, and endurance. Good sportsmanship is a quality children learn from coaches, athletes and other players. Uncontrollable permissible violence is not. Advocating for your children, and demanding that accountability be required by those we entrust with our childrens’ hearts and minds is a non negotiable.