Blown opportunities

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

The recent coronation of John Gardner as president of the GTHL -- seemingly for life -- once again demonstrated that the old boys network in alive and well in minor hockey.

While there was some contention this would be a close election, it was, in fact, a landslide victory.

While there was some belief this was a rare opportunity for minor hockey reform, it was instead, business as usual, monkey business or murky business: You take your pick.

Gardner and friends passed up a wonderful opportunity last Saturday to stand up and say it is time for even more change in minor hockey. Not the glossy governance financial changes which were forced upon them by a series of newspaper stories -- and have already been rendered moot if not ineffective by those who have involved themselves in such matters.

No, Gardner could have distanced himself from a GTHL past which clearly favours organizational rights over individual rights by pushing through a vote to eliminate the unnecessary and unwielding two-year card that holds players and families hostage every spring. Instead, they tabled the matter for the fall.

Instead, the message was clear: The organizations support me, therefore I will support them.

Even if supporting them happens to be wrong.

Most people aren't aware of the little games that get played behind the scenes in minor hockey and much of it to do with player cards and player releases.

Parents at the AAA level would be offended by the notion that kids --teenage years and younger -- are actually traded for each other in games holding on to releases if they weren't party to it themselves.

For example, say little Johnny wants to leave the team he's playing on at the end of the season and little Freddy wants to play for that team.

But little Johnny's organization won't grant him his release until little Freddy gets his, and in essence, a child for child trade takes place. (And don't tell me kids are traded in house league -- that's for balancing teams and it's not the same).

It gets worse with the introduction of the two-year card at the minor bantam age for A and AA hockey. Because the two-year card isn't really a two-year card. It's whatever you want it to be.

The power is all with the coach and the organization as to how long the card is active. There are no player rights to speak of at all.

A coach or organization can release a player at any time. But if the coach or organization wants that player, they don't release him at all.

And then the little games of tap dance begin.

A teenager I know doesn't want to play for the team he played for last year. He had an unhappy experience. And with a permission to skate form, he went to another team's tryouts and made that team.

He signed with the new team only to find out that his old team had not released him. And now there's going to be some kind of hearing to determine which team has his rights.

If there is no two year card, there is no hearing. There are no complications. There is only freedom of choice. Which is what it should be.

Every April, every player outside of AAA should be free to go to whichever team they want. But the organizations don't want that.

And they voted for John Gardner.

And now the matter has been put off so we can have a summer of internal squabbling. Typically, the kids who play the game have been dealt out of the equation.


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