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Don’t “just hockey” me… Mama C speaks out

March 24, 2011

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.

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18 Comments
  1. March 24, 2011 11:25 am

    What a terrible, terrible incident for all those children to witness. It was completely preventable and incredibly irresponsible of every single person connected to those sports teams. Those players had to know that children were watching (and in fact were the entire audience). Not one guy had the guts to step away from the fray and set an example? If I lived in Maine, I’d organize a boycott of Pirates’ games until there was a very public and sincere apology give to each and every one of those schools.

  2. Sean Stackhouse permalink
    March 24, 2011 11:43 am

    I will “just hockey” you. It’s a sport where it is perfectly legal to smash one another up against a wall. Tempers will flare, people will lose it.

    It was a fight at a professional hockey game. It would’ve happened had there been a bunch of kindergarteners or a bunch of senior citizens at the game. You’d might as well have taken your kid to a private screening for Limitless expecting ZERO chance of being subjected to drug use, violence, and thoughts of suicide.

    You are a drama queen. What do you expect the teams to do? Play a game of intramural floor hockey because there are a bunch of children there? It’s still a real game, it still counts. It was just another game. There was a fight. “Just Hockey.”

    This incident and the supposed “fallout” seems to have done more for you than it will do for any of those poor, traumatized little children. You’ve got a pedestal for you to sound off, referring to yourself in the third person in the title, making a note that YOU have been interviewed multiple times, trying to make it clear to everyone YOU are the grand hero of civilized society in Southern Maine by bringing such heinous acts to the forefront, rescuing these significant details from being buried in the shadows of obscurity forever.

    But here’s a detail you added, but didn’t put in bold despite its large significance: You were interviewed alright… By ANOTHER member of the paper. Truth is, the guy you e-mailed brushed you off as another overly-protective parent who would rather hockey, football, etc. be as much a contact sport as cheerleading.

    Here’s some parenting advice for YOU: Get over yourself. And steer clear of any hockey games either in person or on television. Oh, and the evening news. Don’t forget to block that first Red Sox-Yankees series. Stay away from Sea Dogs games when they face off with the Thunder too. You’ll thank me years down the road.

    • March 24, 2011 12:17 pm

      I will always be a drama queen when it comes to certain issues: like integrity. Representatives from the team promised a non violent game. Watching grown men grab each other by the hair and draw blood in front of six year olds repeatedly is not what even this sports loving mom, and athlete believes to be acceptable behavior for a school day event. I am happy the reporters that passed me over did, as the one who wrote today’s story, clearly had the big picture in mind.

      • sm1ttysm1t permalink
        March 24, 2011 12:31 pm

        The “big picture” being: selling more papers.

      • Sean Stackhouse permalink
        March 24, 2011 12:39 pm

        And the NFL promised fans there wouldn’t be a lockout. Politicians promise lower taxes and honesty. Don’t see anybody boycotting field trips to Augusta. You keep mentioning kids were there. It’s irrelevant. A fight at a hockey game is like a grand slam at a baseball game. It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens with some regularity.

        It’s not good for those six year old children who might catch wind of this blog, Or the middle schoolers who might hear about this and come on and see such violent language as “bloodbath” bolded for emphasis. Maybe YOU should set an example and settle your differences privately instead of grandstanding and lecturing with no real credibility. But, maybe it’s different because you are the knight in shining white armor as your attention-hoarding personality would imply.

  3. March 24, 2011 12:01 pm

    While I understand your concern for children and not witnessing violence (which I share), it is a bit naive to believe a PROFESSIONAL hockey team would change it’s style of play in front of children. Frankly they are the same children that go to see the Pirates every single weekend they are in season. I believe you missed a truly unique opportunity to teach the children that fighting is against the rules in hockey and the players were punished. Quite a life lesson to be learned outside the classroom I do believe. You are obviously not a hockey fan, seems to me that while concern is appropriate, all the media grandstanding is not. Just one sports media members opinion.

    • Grampy permalink
      March 24, 2011 12:48 pm

      Jeff, tell me how would MamaC make the point that the paper’s coverage was unbalanced — it blew off the fight without a mention in its first article = without calling them on it? For the paper it was a teaching moment and it decided, apparently, that the team’s patronage was more important than letting its readers know just how out of hand the game became. MamaC wasn’t grandstanding, she was calling for a little journalistic integrity. And I bet you and I agree that that is in short supply these days.

      • March 24, 2011 12:58 pm

        I’ll tell you why, it is not the Portland Press Herald’s, mine, nor any other media outlets responsibility to “teach”, it is their responsibility to report the truth. The fights had ZERO to do with the outcome of the game, thus not included in the game story. Hockey fans would skip articles if they tried to “teach”. It is the responsibility of teachers and parents to teach their children. My 13 yr old has seen..oh..50 hockey games in which there were…oh..25 fights. I taught he early on it is a part of the game, but the players pay a price for their actions. Same as in real life..hey consequences for poor choices in life. Yeah, nothing to be learned there.; I would much rather these kind of life lessons come from me and not the Portland Press Herald. Also the words bloodbath and blood letting were used to exaggerate reality..cmon now. The only “bloodbath” I’ve ever seen on a hockey rink was when Clint Malachuck had his jugular severed in a game..that is a bloodbath. What happened Tuesday was a normal fight in a hockey game. Period. This is all about getting exposure for this blog, plain and simple..Mission Accomplished!

  4. sm1ttysm1t permalink
    March 24, 2011 12:30 pm

    I suppose your children don’t watch the news, cartoons, or any other “normal” television, either? Violence is inherent in our culture, and to be disgusted because it happens at a hockey game is ignorant.

    Did you expect, perhaps, tickle-fights?

  5. Grampy permalink
    March 24, 2011 2:20 pm

    Well, Jeff, I see we don’t agree. That’s okay. But my experience with hockey game coverage (and that of other sports as well) is that fights are routinely covered. When a pitcher beans a batter and the benches clear and the players get into it, it’s covered, it makes the highlight films. The ejections in the hockey game had everything to do with the outcome. The fact that the teams got into it on Kids’ Day makes it all the more newsworthy. The paper’s decision to cover up the fight, ie not report it, makes no sense except as a sop to the Pirates, except as a step to avoid embarrassing the team to protect its future sales. What the newspaper taught its readers by not covering the fight is that it can’t be counted on to report the news. It has given all of us an opportunity to teach our children and our grandchildren that hiding bad news is not adult behavior, its escapism.

  6. March 24, 2011 2:24 pm

    Mama C, I applaud your efforts. Good for you to take a stand. You know and I know that this is not about self-promotion and that you don’t possess an “attention-hoarding personality,” although I might start jokingly accusing you of that, since it makes me giggle in its absurdity. That Mr. Schools and Mr. Stackhouse feel they must resort to such personal attacks suggests they don’t have much of a substantive argument to make, and they know it. (And, Mr. Schools and Mr. Stackhouse, this will be my last contribution on this subject. I will not engage in an argument with you here. The end.)

    Parents are entitled to make choices about what their children see. They are entitled to write letters about things they do not like. They are entitled to speak to the press. They are entitled to use their blogs to speak out about what they don’t like. They are entitled to try to effect positive change.

    It is unfortunate that our culture generally accepts brutality as part of many sports. I wish that weren’t the case. And if anyone wants to call me names for having that belief, well you go right ahead. I’m standing by Mama C.

    • March 24, 2011 2:51 pm

      never once said she didn’t have the right, nor shouldn’t speak her mind..she does and she should. I am saying that the letter writing campaign and the phone calls to the Press Herald, to the extent that has happened here, for me, raises the question and forms my opinion. I used the word naive. For anyone that thinks a professional hockey team would change its mode of operation for who they play in front of defines naive. I know some of the people that work for the Pirates, I am not a particular fan of the way the business nor the team is run, of that my history is clear. I am 100% certain that no one would promise anyone that a professional game would be played differently. If that promise were ever made, there would be far bigger issues than this.

    • Sean Stackhouse permalink
      March 24, 2011 3:16 pm

      To sum up Julia’s post:

      “1 + 1 = 5 and i will not argue with you therefore i’m right”

  7. March 24, 2011 3:15 pm

    Frankly I would love to have Ms Anderson on our show Saturday to make clear her statements. Open invitation. jschools@mainesportsnetwork.com

    • March 24, 2011 4:51 pm

      Jeff,

      I agree with you on many points. I think my use of bloodbath for example was too strong for the sight of blood on a man’s face and on the ice. Blood on the face of a Pirate who read Dr. Seuss earlier in the month to many of the kids in that stadium. Blood on the ice. All five players from both teams engaged in a series of fights. Eight of them removed for starting a fight after a fight-removed permanently from the game. That was objectionable. I could have stated that without the use of the world bloodbath.What word I wonder would have better described seeing blood sprayed on the ice in front of you? Bloody? Blood spray? Icky? Helmets were off, players were hitting each other in the face repeatedly with their fists.

      I agree that the teachable moment was the aftermath with the children. And yes Jeff that is where great things happened as a result of the generous gift of this game from the Pirates. Teachers, administrators and parents had the chance to talk to their students about what they witnessed, and what it was and was not an example of. That is how I framed it with my son; “Is that how you act when you are the court/field/ice Sammy?” (He loves to skate, and has played ice hockey with a good friend’s husband many times. We are a family of athletes actually. Right before the fight I was explaining what an assist was to many of the kids around me.) “Why do think the players were removed from the game? And, “What would you have done if someone upset you when you had the ball?” These were some of our discussions.

      I want to explain the chronology of the pieces. I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper Tuesday afternoon, and to the owner of the Pirates.I did not hear back from either of them. The next day I contacted the paper asking them to address why the fight between every member of both teams in front of school kids that spanned a few minutes was not covered. Had we become so inured to that kind of violence that it was not worthy of mention when elementary kids are in the audience? In our discussion he became interested in the other story. Had someone really “promised” a non violent hockey game to school staff? Is such a thing possible? I went to the game willingly, and unaware of any such promise. I went because I do enjoy hockey, and wanted to help the teacher, and spend time with my kid. But this was beyond a regular fight ladies and gentlemen.

      Wait- have you seen it? Can you describe it to us when you see the tape? Can you tell us how long it lasted from start to finish? (And wouldn’t it be great to know the median age of the audience?) The owner himself said the fight; “”went beyond a normal fight.” (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/2011-03-24-164360801_x.htm)

      I have shared my story, my reaction to watching ten men fighting each other in front of an audience that the players knew was comprised of 3500 multi-aged school children. Take away all my other adjectives, and strip it down to that.

      I appreciate your generous offer to appear on your show. I am going to publicly decline that offer. Call me a coward. (People are calling me all sorts of things.) I call me a parent.

      Those hockey players are gifted athletes who dazzle and amaze us with their skills. For that I am grateful. I call that athletic.

      I have shared my story. As you encouraged me earlier, I need to focus on the “teachable moments with my children” that I have missed. Thank you for that reminder.

  8. March 24, 2011 4:59 pm

    Appreciate the thoughtful response. Actually, the way you just expressed yourself and your thoughts..tough to find fault in what you are saying. Very thought out, non overreaction. I applaud that response. Coming from someone who overreacts about sports for a living, or trying to make a living, finding the balance between passion and well thought out response is difficult at best. If your last response, was your initial response..I would have said kudos, disagree, but well said and fair! Thanks

  9. March 24, 2011 6:06 pm

    What is that saying about hockey? I come to watch the fighting and sometimes hockey breaks out … very apt these days!

  10. March 24, 2011 7:04 pm

    Good for you Mama! I hate that we teach our children one thing and as adults do the opposite. It’s just so hypocritical.

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