Kids sit in the crossfire

STEVE SIMMONS, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

What now? I see one hockey parent and he asks the question. Another phones. Another sends an e-mail. It doesn't stop. Everyone asks the same question -- no one has any real answers to supply.

What now for kids, for families, for minor hockey coaches and volunteers in the wake of a Friday deadline with the Greater Toronto Hockey League ready to terminate five long-term organizations in its bid to reduce one man's control of minor hockey?

How did so many innocent kids get caught in an adult's crossfire and more importantly now, what's next for them as this plays out?

This is January. The GTHL has imposed a Friday deadline on Hyman relinquishing control of his stable of 56-minor hockey teams. There is a Tuesday session in front of a mediator. It is now a lawyer's dance -- and that isn't the kind of ball Hyman usually makes his team buy tickets for.

Solving the problem is paramount for the league. Doing it with expedience is more important to those who are caught in the middle not certain what the future brings.

This is January, and on the minor hockey calendar, this is a big month. This is when organizations set their agendas for next year. They put their coaches in place now. Teams begin to commit to players. The whole process works on this crazy kind of clock.

But now an eruption of uncertainty? What happens to player cards if franchises are terminated? What happens to a two-year committment some players have made in the minor bantam level and up? What happens to a coach who needs to be released to move on? What does a coach say to his team or to his parent group or to his own family when he can't be sure about anything himself?

Is there or isn't there a team? Is this where we play and who we play for? Am I playing with my friends or do I have to look elsewhere?

Can I, as any coach is probably asking, take my whole team and move elsewhere, or are we stuck waiting to hear an answer to a question we're not even certain about.

The investment -- many teams at 'A' and 'AA' operate with budgets from $40,000 to $50,000 for one long season of hockey -- in time and money is enormous. From these 56 teams alone, somewhere between $2-3 million is pumped into the local hockey economy annually.

ANXIETY

The GTHL is walking a very fine line here: It is protecting its membership after the fact while at the same making life uncertain for so many of them. A good and a bad all at once. We won't know which until we know how this is resolved.

Meanwhile, we wait with anxiety. The thousand of us who don't know. We walk into arenas and hear the jokes. "Where are you going next year? Do you have a team? Are you looking for a spot?"

We smile the crooked smile and make a joke back ourselves. We don't know what next week will bring. Nobody, at this stage, seems to have any real answers.


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