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What kind of parents are we?

By Kevin Hartzell, Let's Play Hockey Columnist, 11/30/18, 1:30PM CST


Parents need to ensure they are displaying a positive attitude around their child and his/her team

Some of you know, and many of you do not know, that I have a brother Michael, also known as “Bones.” Bones is an Army veteran who has lived (and served) on the street for the past 45 years. Homeless. This man has been a fixture on Rice Street in St. Paul. People are always proud to tell me they know him, or saw him, or bought him a sandwich. I appreciate this.

Bones is an interesting guy. He has led an unconventional life. Quite an amazing life in many ways. Lately, I have seen him quite a bit, in part because he has been sick as a dog. And it hit me, the topic of this column hit me. Matter of fact, the article pretty much wrote itself while watching this sick version of Bones not complain. He didn’t complain about those things ailing him and I suspect, likely annoying him. It is not amazing how a person with so little in the way of physical worldly treasure, also has so little to complain about.  

Just in the past week, in several conversations with people in the world of hockey, I have been hearing much complaining. To be fair, much of the complaining has been about parents. Parents are supposed to be a worldly treasure. We all know “they” can be a problem. The complaints of these hockey folk are not about the consequences they face personally from these parents, but the unintended cancerous environment that often evolves from these parents. These are complaints of exasperation.  

Most reading this likely are parents. Let’s be honest. It’s a tough job. Many believe it to be the hardest job they have ever had, even after their children have left home as “independent” adults. For those of you with perfect kids and thinking parenting is easy, you are likely wrong on both accounts.

Who are these problematic parents, the ones good hockey people talk about with voices of exasperation? Some of these parents disrupt their teams. Some make the experience poor for coaches. Some, their cancerous behavior influences and spreads throughout the team and supporters in remarkable ways; not for the good of the team or the players. 

I simply ask all parents, each of us, to be part of the solution. Let’s start by not pointing fingers at others. Let’s start with the person in the mirror. Let’s each ask ourselves, what exactly is it we feel we must complain about? As we all know, a positive attitude is most important. Attitude is most important for our kids as well, right?  

Fellow parents, are we positive at games? Are we positive when we feel our children are slighted? Are we positive at social gatherings? ARE WE POSITIVE IN THE CAR RIDE HOME WITH OUR CHILDREN? Or are we on the front end of the spreading infection?

I have said since I can remember, if your child’s coach is a good person, you got it good. If your child’s coach is a good person who also possesses good knowledge about the sport and can share it, you have hit a home run. This includes and strongly applies to high school players/parents. High school ages may be the single worst level for the poor parent behavior phenomena.

So what do we have to complain about? Is it a selfish goal and is this selfish goal ours or our child’s? Is it we don’t think the world is being fair to our child? (This includes important roles and/or playing time.) Are we embracing difficult times for our children and role modeling this positive attitude for all of our kids and their teams?  

Like anyone, if a parent has something to say, say it. Say it at the right place, at the right time and to the right person/people. Simple stuff. We are human, and we all make mistakes. But it affects our kids. It affects our coaches. It is too often a spreading cancer on levels and results in outcomes not even the cancerous parent wants. It’s an epidemic affecting too many. Social media and the speed of which things spread assists this disease.

Let’s each look in the mirror. It’s Thanksgiving time. We all have plenty to be thankful for. Let’s also think about what our personal issues are that we think are worthy of complaint and try to remember that even these issues are opportunities for growth in disguise as something else. If nothing else, let’s remember that our actions and behaviors affect many. We all need to do better. Maybe, we all need to be more like Mike (Bones).

A St. Paul native and forward for the University of Minnesota from 1978-82, Kevin Hartzell coached in the USHL from 1983-89 with the St. Paul Vulcans and from 2005-12 with the Sioux Falls Stampede. He was the head coach of Lillehammer in Norway’s GET-Ligaen from 2012-14. His columns have appeared in Let’s Play Hockey since the late 1980s. His book “Leading From the Ice” is available at

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