Kasey Dennis is a rarity among minor hockey parents, not because she loses her temper, but because she admits it. “It’s the adrenalin,” says Dennis, whose nine-year-old son, Evan, plays for the Winter Hawks, a minor atom AA team from Innisfil, Ont. “It’s a team sport. You want them to win. You get caught up in the moment, and I’m the type of person who doesn’t take stuff sitting down.” She recalls an incident last season that brought her as close as she’s been to physical confrontation at a children’s sporting event. The Hawks were playing a tournament game in Richmond Hill, Ont. She could hear parents of players on the opposing team calling to their youngsters. “Take ’em out!” they were saying.
“My jaw dropped,” Dennis says. “I was like, really? Really? The worst part was, you could see the kids were actually trying do it.” Afraid of what might happen if she got up and confronted the offending parents, Dennis instead removed herself to the arena lobby, pacing the rubberized floor until her blood cooled. It’s a behaviour-modulation strategy she’s used many times since—one with which nine-year-old players can surely relate: “I give myself a time-out.”
She’s telling her story between games at a two-rink complex in Mississauga, Ont., where so far things have unfolded much more peacefully—minor hockey as seen in a Canadian Tire ad. The Hawks have won 4-0 and lunch beckons at a nearby pizza joint. But a peewee game between teams from Vaughan and Willowdale is under way on the other ice surface, and Dennis has no sooner hustled Evan out the door than it suddenly turns sour. Seconds before the final buzzer, a player from Vaughan shoves an opponent into the boards, and angry shouts rise from the seats. Willowdale parents holler over the glass at the referee, who pleads for calm, assuring them that the offence will be penalized as the player rises uninjured. But the yelling and finger-jabbing goes on and, after a few moments, the official loses his own temper. “I told you it’s going to be dealt with!” he snaps. “What more do you think I can do?”