The OMHA has been a leader in promoting respect in sport. In partnership with Respect Group Inc., a video campaign was launched earlier in the year that featured first-hand accounts from young players about what their experiences have been in hockey arenas when dealing with parents.
The video has received over 20,000 views and positive responses from across the hockey world.
It was around this same time that now retired NHLer Patrick O’Sullivan shared his story growing up playing minor hockey. The 2003 second round pick of the Minnesota Wild played over 300 games in the NHL and has experienced first-hand what it’s like to grow up trying to meet everyone else’s expectations.
The 31-year-old says that it doesn’t matter how involved parents get when trying to provide the best hockey environment for their child. It simply comes down to how passionate the player is and the amount of time they choose to put into skill-building.
“One thing that people ultimately don’t understand is pushing your kid, for the most part, is, in my opinion, useless,” said O’Sullivan. “Obviously you want your kid to give full effort. You want your kid to appreciate the opportunity you’re giving them as a parent to do something that is, in this day and age, expensive. Not every kid gets the opportunity to play hockey. I think the kids need to know that they’re fortunate for that. There’s not one player in the NHL that is there because of their parent.”
O’Sullivan says that players need to combine skills with being able to think and understand the game to have even the slightest chance of playing professionally. Still, he equates the percentages to nothing higher than winning the lottery.
Sometimes, the pressure being placed on kids gets to the point where they decide hockey isn’t worth the trouble anymore.
“That’s why you see a lot of kids that are super-talented at 10, 12 years old, they’re out of the game. They don’t even play junior because they don’t want to deal with it. They don’t want to deal with their parents, they don’t want to deal the game anymore because it’s not fun.”
The initiatives launched by the OMHA like the parent training sessions and respect video are a big step in the right direction, according to O’Sullivan.
“I think it’s critical that they exist. There should be more done with it, in my opinion.”
“I don’t think it’s the answer to stopping certain people and what they do but at the same time it’s better than sitting on your hands. At least this way, everybody knows what’s acceptable and what isn’t.”
Kids are aware of their talent levels and limits and don’t need to be pushed by outside forces. As long as they are trying their best and giving full effort, there isn’t much more that can be done.
“Most people want to go to the rink and watch their kid and just enjoy that. That is often ruined by the handful of people that do things that are not constructive, they’re disruptive.”