CAMBRIDGE—A clash involving eight-year-old hockey players isn’t usually a hot topic.
But a game between two local novice minor development rep squads played earlier this month has sparked some debate.
At issue is a tilt that saw the Kitchener Jr. Rangers Red squad pummel the Cambridge Hawks Red side 41-0 at Galt’s Dickson Park Centre on Oct. 20.
“That’s the most lopsided score we’ve ever had,” said Tony Martindale, executive director of the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario, the governing body of hockey associations in this area.
Kitchener scored an average of more than one goal every minute in the game, which begs the question — when is enough, enough?
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Staff at the Cambridge Minor Hockey Association’s headquarters hung up when The Record called to get contact information for Hawks coach Chris Wismer. Association president John Morton also refused to comment on the game when contacted at first, but later responded to some questions by email.
“I can’t speak to the specifics of this game because I recently heard about it myself and have not discussed it with anyone,” he wrote. “There are no rules in place to deal with one-sided affairs. I would think all associations leave it up to the common sense of coaches to do their best to protect all players from embarrassment.”
Kitchener tried to ease up.
Once the game got out of hand, coach Chris Berscht made it mandatory for his players to pass the puck five times before trying to score and also instructed them to bring the puck back into their own zone before going up ice.
As soon as the massacre ended, the bench boss contacted the Kitchener Minor Hockey Association.
“He was pretty upset about it,” said Kitchener Minor Hockey Association president Tom Graham. “We don’t want this. This is terrible. This is not who we are by no means. It’s not good for Cambridge kids and it’s also not good for the kids that are playing against them, too.”
The Ontario alliance was made aware of the mismatch but says it leaves it up to its associations to “deal with their coaches and teachable moments like this.”
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Martindale said matches are split into 12-minute periods and played in stopped time to allow kids who are just learning the game to maximize their minutes on the ice.
Cambridge is 0-7 and has been outscored 132-4 so far this season, but may soon see some relief as the 13-team league will be split into two or maybe even three tiers by mid-November in a bid to pit clubs of equal calibre against one another.
“We don’t want them playing in a situation like that the whole year,” said Martindale. “We don’t want to discourage kids from playing at an early age.”
Graham says the KMHA dials things back when games get out of hand in their barns.
“We would never put that score up on the board,” he said. “That’s not a good thing for the kids to see.”