A lesson learnt in player safety – After the whistles blown.

I learnt a valuable lesson last night in player safety I’ll never forget.

I’m not from here. What I mean is I’m not from Canada. I grew up on the sunny beaches in Sydney Australia to immigrant parents from Hungary and played soccer (football) all my life. Needless to say the Alberta summers aren’t long enough to really stretch the legs, and apart from that a big part of my cultural conversion to the Canadian way of life has been playing hockey. I love hockey.

Ever since moving to Edmonton in 2008 and then to Calgary in 2013 I’ve played hockey in some way shape or form. I learnt to skate at the Mc Kernan outdoor rink in Edmonton and fell in love with outdoor ice and hockey under the night sky almost instantly. -25 Deg C isn’t so bad with some ice, a stick, a puck and a net to shoot at. I got so into playing outdoors I even volunteered on the ice making crew at the rink, working 2-3 nights a week cleaning and flooding the ice. Its something I’ve continued volunteering for down here in Calgary  and I love it.

Having not grown up here, or grown up watching the game, I learnt most of what I know from television or guys and gals out on the community rinks. But as anyone will tell you, the etiquette and rules of a game of shinny on a community rink is a world away from an organized league – even a non contact league.

My mistake was foolish, reckless and born out of pure frustration, but it wasn’t until after the game that I had started to realize just how stupid my mistake was. At this point I’d like to say that thankfully no-one was injured due to my mistake, but neither that, nor my ignorance excuses my actions.

Last night was our first game of the summer 2014 playoffs. We were up against a good team with some quality guys. During the season we were 1 and 1 against this particular team – so anything could happen. We started off well, scoring one in the first and one in the second to take a 2-1 lead by the start of the 3rd. The hockey was being played at a good pace and the game play was hard but fair. The issue was, we had taken 4 penalties by the end of the 2nd and playoff rules state that on the 5th penalty the opposing team gets a penalty shot. I have to assume this rule is in place to ensure playoff games (being a little more competitive than regular season games) don’t get out of hand.

At around the 9th minute of the 3rd period I was carrying the puck over the blue line and was lining up for a shot when the whistle blew for offside. Annoyed and frustrated at what I thought was a bad call I reacted and shot the puck, instantly earning an unsportsmanlike penalty, and on the ensuing penalty shot, the opposition tied the game 2-2 and was now on a power play.

In the penalty box I was kicking myself. I had let my team down. I took a stupid penalty and now we were going to lose. I had no idea that what I had done was both reckless, stupid and potentially dangerous. Only afterwards, in the dressing room, after being spoken to by one of our senior players did I fully understand what the consequences of my actions could have meant. On the drive home – I felt sick and guilty at the thought of having possibly injured someone.

Last night I learnt that shooting the puck after the whistles gone is a big hockey no no. Its unsafe and needlessly endangers other players on the ice. When the whistle goes, players stop. Goalies and players aren’t concentrating. By shooting the puck after the whistle had gone I had endangered the players on the other team. What if I’d hit the goalie on the side of the head, or a player in back of the legs. I could have started a fight or seriously hurt someone.

Hockey is a competitive and physical sport. As players we understand the risks of getting out on the ice, even in a non-contact rec league. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anyone, and we did go on to win in a shootout, but after my inexcusable actions last night I have a new found respect for the rules and the level sportsmanship that needs to be displayed in even the most heated and competitive moments of a game. For everyone sake, and safety, I’ll never again shoot after the whistles blown.


Have you or someone else ever done something you shouldn’t have on the ice and learnt from it? Let us know.