Observations From The Rink: I Love the Game, But I Hate the Culture

I fell in love with a different game.

The game I love seems like it’s going to hell.

The game I love can’t handle any more scandals.

The game of hockey in one way or other has always been a part of my life.

Player, coach, scout, analyst and writer.

I love the game of hockey, but I hate its culture.

You see I fell in love with a different game.

The game I fell in love with was fun, competitive, developmental, free of politics and free of abuse and bullying.

Wait a minute, no wasn’t.

The game I love had every bit of that and more.

You see I had amazing hockey parents and predominately outstanding coaching throughout my so-called career. My family and Dale Turner my longtime coach and mentor guided me through all the hard times and adversity the game threw at me.

Collectively they helped me confront and conquer all the adversity.

Looking back on it now my obstacles were nothing compared to what other players have gone through and in some cases still go through in the game in this country.

Just think of every story of abuse or abuse of power surrounding the games history.

It’s repulsive and unacceptable.

Canada’s game has a history of very dark secrets.

That’s the problem right there, secrets.

A keep your mouth shut mentality.

Hockey culture equals cover up, it always has.

As a kid we believed the game and those that play it were larger than life.

Were we too naive?

Of course.

We didn’t know the dark side of the game, we saw and experienced glimpses of it, but every step of the way as you climbed the ranks we continued to see inside hockey’s dark side, it’s untold story, the untold culture.

The dark undercurrent of the game was always there and if you had high quality coaching and support staff surrounding you, you probably had a completely different experience.

You see you were probably never exposed to the true hockey culture.

Everyone that has ever played the game has experienced their own run in with hockey culture.

That’s the sad reality of playing a sport with such a dark undercurrent of cover up, deception and code of silence.

Will the game of hockey ever change?

Will It’s culture ever move away from one of silence, and cover up?

I sure hope so.

I love the game, but I hate its culture.

You see the game may not need any more scandals, but that might be exactly what it needs to rid itself from its own toxic self imposed culture.

The game I loved hasn’t really changed, its toxic undercurrent still exists.

It’s still as powerful as ever.

I’ll never forget my first year teaching at Moncton High, I was on outdoor duty with my principal and we started to reminisce about my experiences at MHS as a student.

She was my principal as a student and as a teacher and let me tell you she was one respected and feared lady.

I still remember telling her that I didn’t remember drugs being an issue in the mid 90’s like it was at that time.

She looked at me and said “Craig, you never experienced or saw drugs because of the people you were associated with at that time, drugs were always an issue, they were always there you just didn’t see them.”

Hockey’s brutal culture and code of silence was always lurking ready to rare its ugly head.

Near the end of my playing days I experienced the worse side of dressing room culture, but that all went away because of my coach and mentor. When I stepped away from the game I knew what the game had given me, I knew what it meant to me, what it had taught me about life and myself.

I was the lucky one that still loved the game after I was finished playing it, that’s simply not the case for a lot of people in this country.

Actually it was a dream of mine to some day give back to the game and coach.

I knew what I had been through, I knew what I had experienced being coached by one of the best ever in this region, but I knew that I also experienced some aspects of the dark side of the game.

When it came time to give back to the game, my moral hockey compass was in the right place.

I knew what kind of coach I wanted to be, I knew what type of culture I wanted to grow and I really hope I delivered on that every day as a coach.

Unfortunately, I’m human and made my share of mistakes, but I tried to learn from those mistakes the best I could.

I hope I provided my players with a positive experience in the game and that their experience was as positive as mine.

Looking back on it now I hope that they didn’t experience the dark side of the game and if they did, knew they had an ally in their coach.

The years have gone by and my role in the game is ever changing.

I love the game more than ever, but I still hate its culture.

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