Strange as it may seem, there’s a small, teensy part of me that understands the actions of a few Gonzaga Vikings high school hockey players the other night.
They’re 16- and 17-year-olds, and 16- and 17-year-olds don’t often think with their head.
To be blunt, they do some stunned things every now and again.
I don’t condone what the handful of Vikings did at Feildian Gardens last Wednesday night. I don’t accept hiding under the cloak of emotions running high, or the bitterness of defeat.
But I understand.
So I’m not prepared to tar and feather the few players who snapped off hockey sticks, lunged at and cussed out the officials, “flipped the bird” at The Telegram camera, or even the snot-nosed kid who told our intrepid photographer, Keith Gosse, to get the, “f...king camera out of my face” and proceeded to knock Gosse’s arm.
Funny thing is, the kid was six to eight feet away from Gosse when he skated — snarling — towards the camera.
Anyway, this all came about after the referee elected to run off the remaining couple of seconds on the clock when things were getting tangly in a one-goal game in the St. John’s High School Hockey League final against the Holy Heart Highlanders.
The Highlanders celebrated. The Vikings snapped, as coach Peter Keough, who apparently doesn’t believe The Telegram got the “proper story,” lost control of his high school kids.
What I cannot fathom, however, is the reaction of those who fling blame at anyone and anything for the actions of the few Vikings, rather than reprimanding the players.
Those who, in effect, excuse the inexcusable.
The Telegram has been taken to task for publishing a couple of photos of the player barking into the camera, of another offering the universal “up yours” salute. Reporter John Browne has been chided for writing the story. A few mindless wonders even suggest Gosse was at fault, that he should have instead focused on Holy Heart’s celebration rather than the fracas going on around him.
No, what’s most shocking in all of this is parents — and, yes, the comments from adults and kids flooding The Telegram’s website can be differentiated — astonishingly pecking out excuses for the little darlings, that, you know, ‘kids will be kids and shame on you for picking on them.’
All along, I assumed the thing to do was to “man up” when you were in the wrong.
Except when it happens in the rink, apparently.
One nitwit parent writes, “The photographer got in the penalty box area after the game without identifying himself to the players and invaded their personal space while they were very upset and snapped dozens of photos without their consent. Most of them thought he was a parent of a member of the opposing team who was trying to rub it into these boys’ faces that their team had won.”
Which, in that case, the actions of the players would have been entirely tolerable?
Where is the plain, simple acknowledgment that some of these kids acted like spoiled brats? That such boorish behaviour is unacceptable?
There is one positive to come from this, and that is Gonzaga principal Ted van Nostrand, who failed to downplay the event or slough off the blame elsewhere.
Rather, van Nostrand admitted Gonzaga was “disappointed,” “embarrassed” and “in no way condoned” the actions of the players.
The school, he said, is, “putting appropriate consequences in place for unacceptable conduct.”
Hard as it is to say, let us hope Ted van Nostrand has more of an influence on his students than some parents we’ve encountered, if only through words, these past few days.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.