I would like to relay a story that I experienced Sunday at the 43rd annual Coca Cola International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in Vernon.
This incident that I am about to relay moved me to share as well as moved all that were in attendance.
Being a hockey parent and involved in minor hockey for more than 20 years, I thought I had seen almost everything until Sunday.
We arrived early to get ready to watch our Vernon Pee Wee Vipers play their final game of the season against the KC Lancers, from Edmonton, for third and fourth place. There was a delay though. The Nanaimo Clippers were in the fifth period (double overtime), tied 2-2 with the Prince George Cougars.
There was less than five minutes left and it was end to end, three on three action. With less than 15 seconds to play, face-off in the Clippers zone. The Clippers win the draw, puck up the boards. A Clipper forward grabs the puck and they are away two on one. Pass across the slot, one timer short side hits the back of the net. Goal! The Clippers clear their bench in celebration. Prince George remains seated on the bench.
The Prince George Cougars dispute the goal and time clock as it shows 7.5 seconds remaining. Referees meet and review the goal and time remaining only to deem the goal good. Clippers win fifth place.
We are all sitting there waiting in the stands for the traditional handshakes and awards ceremony only to be disgusted by the actions of the Prince George Cougars team skating off to their change room, smashing their sticks in disgust along the way without honouring their opponents with the traditional handshake.
I could not believe what I was seeing. The Nanaimo team could not believe what they were seeing. The Prince George players parents could not believe what they were seeing. This was not the way the game is supposed to end.
Now this may not seem special or surprising to many as I am sure this has happened before somewhere, but what I witnessed as the last coach walked off the ice is the surprising action that I have to tell everyone about.
Kneeling on the Prince George Cougars blueline facing the winning Nanaimo Clippers team as they lined up along their blueline was a lone Prince George Cougars player, No. 2, Matt Marotta.
I stood in awe of this young player as he knelt there respectfully, honouring his opponent. A man among boys who stood alone, against his coaches, against his teammates to do what is right, sportsmanlike. A great Canadian kid who stood against all odds.
As the commentators announced the final score and awards, the Nanaimo Clippers teams skated forward, surrounding the lone Prince George Cougars player, shaking his hand and tapping his helmet as if he were one of their own and had scored the game-winning goal. He then turned and skated alone to his locker room to face his friends and teammates.
This young player’s actions moved me, the crowd and all who witnessed this action for this player showed class and courage to do what is right. I would just like to share this story with as many hockey fans out there as I feel that people need to know there are good Canadian kids out there still and if we can teach them to do what is right and not what everyone else does, there are higher rewards in life. This kid has gained more respect for his actions Sunday than most do in a lifetime.