The BC Spartans Spring Hockey club has made waves with its recent announcement that it would no longer be playing games against the New Western Bruins.
The announcement, which listed dangerous play, coaches being ejected, and a physical altercation between parents as the reasons for the policy, is now kicking off discussion across the province about abusive behaviour in youth hockey.
But as Director of Hockey for the BC Spartans James Wall says, the feedback he’s received for the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.
Wall spoke to Simi Sara about the announcement on Tuesday.
First and foremost, Wall says, the announcement was not the result of a snap decision.
He says their concerns with the Bruins have been ongoing for multiple seasons, starting in their first exhibition game of the season.
That game, which is normally a lower-stakes match used to help teams get back into the rhythm, only ended after the ejection of four of the Bruins’ players and their coach.
Wall was initially troubled by the game, but decided to let the team’s management work it out.
He says the deciding factor was at a tournament the weekend prior to the announcement, when many players expressed that they didn’t want to play their semifinal game against the Bruins.
And he says members of his team expressed discomfort with the Bruins’ style of play multiple times, which involved vocal intimidation.
“I believe they felt like they could beat us by scaring us.”
Wall says after their concerns were raised, he didn’t feel entirely comfortable sending his group of 11-year-olds out on the ice.
Though nothing bad happened in that particular game, Wall looked at the whole season as motivation for his decision.
He says the announcement wasn’t about singling out a single team, but about changing the way parents and coaches think about the league.
“There’s so much positive, and I just thought ‘let’s just focus on that.’ I’m going to separate us from what isn’t positive.”
Despite the announcement gaining ground since its release on Saturday, Wall says the Bruins have yet to acknowledge it.
However, he says he’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m not ruling out that we won’t hear from them, but just nothing as of yet.”
He’s also willing to say the reaction from the rest of the league has been overwhelmingly positive.
He says that support is indicative of how the sport has improved, pointing to his own experience with a minor league hockey team over the past decade.
“So many people have the same mindset as us, which is that we need to make hockey fun. We need to make it a positive environment.”
He says that desire for a positive environment is what motivated the Spartans’ announcement.
“We’re just hoping to send a message that hockey should still be fun, and it should be about the kids, not all about the winning.”
And the biggest part of making hockey fun, Wall says, is listening to the players.
“When they didn’t even want to go to their own game, you just know… this goes against everything this program is built on, so it made the decision so much easier.”
Written by Tristan Martin-Woodhouse