The kids on the Simcoe Warriors and visiting Paris Wolfpack left it all on the ice in a close playoff game in Southern Ontario last weekend.
As the game ended, moms and dads of the 11- to 13-year-olds filed out of the stands and into the lobby of the Talbot Gardens Arena, cheering and grousing over penalties. They did not come together for a West Side Story-style rumble.
Some people were a little hot under the collar. A few insults were thrown around. One person made a frantic call to the police saying a massive brawl was underway. The Haldimand Norfolk OPP responded immediately. Three patrol cars and an undercover vehicle screeched up to the community rink.
Only to find that not much had happened at all.
Four to six parents of players on the rival teams argued for all of 30 seconds as they waited for their children to emerge from dressing rooms. There is no evidence the dispute became physical, but law and order was unconvinced enough to post a Crime Stoppers notice seeking information on the postgame.
It would barely be noteworthy if the fracas had not involved adults behaving like children after a children’s hockey game.
A local FM radio station published a short report on its website on Feb. 5 with the headline “30 parents break out into a brawl over a minor hockey game.” And the internet took it from there.
Martin McCaffery, a parent representative for the Paris Wolfpack, acknowledges there was unseemly decorum exhibited on both sides.
“Words should not have been said,” he says.
He was still shocked that the story went viral on social media.
“I have seen worse at a work site or at a schoolyard,” he says. “It has been blown way out of proportion.”
Some parents are miffed by the treatment the incident has received by mainstream newspapers and websites, and they argue that the OPP overreacted. Mr. McCaffery confirms that three patrol cars and one undercover vehicle – perhaps more worthy of a drug bust – were dispatched to the arena.
The towns are about 30 minutes apart and the teams are familiar opponents. Games are typically close in score, and chippy, not uncommon in youth sports.
This certainly wasn’t “Malice at the Palace”, the 2004 Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons free-for-all between players that spilled into the seats, saw drinks, food and chairs thrown, players’ children in tears, and resulting fines, suspensions, criminal charges, and a number of fans banned from Pistons games for life. Now that’s a brawl.
But who doesn’t love a story about overheated sports parents?
Only a week earlier, police responded to a call at the Pete Palangio Arena in North Bay, Ont., after a verbal altercation ensued between parents of children playing a minor atom house-league game. In 2016, a melee occurred between parents of 10- and 11-year-olds at a hockey tournament in British Columbia.
“Are parents too involved sometimes? Yes,” Mr. McCaffery says. “Do I think parents of kids on [Simcoe’s] team are evil? No.
“They were just as instrumental in breaking things up as we were. Parents on both teams were trying to calm everyone down.”
The truly exciting news is that the teams will play again on Saturday at Talbot Gardens with a berth in the provincial playoffs at stake. Depending on the outcome, they could meet again on Sunday, in Paris.
Marty Jefferson, president of the Simcoe Minor Hockey Association, says he has reminded parents to mind their manners and abide by the rules of fair play.
Usually, that involves asking them not to shout at referees, rather than other parents.
Mr. Jefferson says he does not expect police to be at Saturday’s game. The OPP has not alerted him to their plan. An OPP spokesman did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Globe and Mail.
Perhaps they, too, are a tad red-faced over what happened on Sunday.
“I had sort of put the situation to bed, and then opened my Facebook account this week and saw the notice posted on Crime Stoppers,” Mr. Jefferson says. “We will have to be diligent on Saturday, but I don’t anticipate any trouble.
“As a result of the exposure this has caused, I think people who went beyond their normal temperature will be a bit embarrassed and more quiet than usual.”
Mr. McCaffery says he has spoken with the Paris players’ parents as well. They plan to stay as far away from the Simcoe folks as possible to be certain that peace is kept.
“Win or lose, we are going to cheer on our kids, and I expect the Simcoe parents to do the same,” he says. “I’m sure everyone associated with Simcoe’s team doesn’t want anything to happen either.
“If we win, we will celebrate carefully. If we lose, life goes on.”