Hockey — what we imagine as an amazing sport full of many opportunities to become like some of our biggest heroes. But how did our heroes get there? Was it through hard work and dedication, was it through a family name, or maybe even a pay-in or cheat-in to get up the levels.
The higher level you play when you are in a bantam and midget age group, the more opportunities you get. From my personal experience while some players work their butts off to get on a team others seem to somehow magically glide their way in. I’ve always wondered if players on different teams experience the same thing. To get to the bottom of this whole thing I interviewed a series of players and a coach, to see what’s really going on.
Lots of kids getting on teams, not because they’re the best of the best, but because they’ve faked or cheated their way onto the team. On some teams, players have made the roster simply because they are relatives of the coach or evaluator or they are regularly coached by them so they get pooled onto the highest level teams. If a parent volunteer’s to be a safety person or to open and close the gates for try-outs their kids get an in on the team. Players that wear higher-level team’s merch during the try-out they receive more attention. If a player’s parent(s) is on the board of an association, the player might get a leg-up on the try-out process. In some cases these parents that make up the board can even influence a coach to choose a friend of their child to be on the team along with them.
Vivian Hinch, a defenceman playing on the Greater Vancouver Comets Major Midget team has played boys hockey and is also playing at the highest level for girls hockey. Hinch gave the general idea that on the current team she is on “everyone definitely worked very hard,” but thinking back to her experience on boys teams, she says, “boys is a little bit more corrupt,” and thinks “some have gotten in through other means and not by their skill level.” She added that “knowing people helps a lot.”
Alexis Strehlau the goalie for the Bantam Langley Minor Hockey Association team, has been playing boys hockey and she thinks that “potentially some of the coaches’ kids paid less” to get on her team “just because they’re the coach’s kids,” along with getting “an automatic spot on the team.” After saying all these things, she went on to state that cheating and paying your way in happens “on teams, because the politics are really bad” and “if you know anyone on the board and you’re tight with them, you can get on any rep team you want.” She also added that “the more money you put in the association the more attention you will get.”
Lauren Rodrigues, another goalie, plays for BWC bantam AAA or A1 boys. She originally played for a girls team but then moved to boys due to her experience with drama in girl’s hockey. Along with other players that I interviewed, she said that players cheating their way in on teams “happens more on boys teams as it is more competitive so it might seem more necessary to pay or cheat your way in.”
A coach for multiple high-level teams and an evaluator himself who takes his job very seriously could not give away too much information or be named, but he started off by saying that “it really depends on the association or club and if they tolerate that behaviour,” referring to players and parents interfering with the try-out process. For example, some associations “don’t even allow parents or players to talk to evaluators during try-outs.” In some associations, they get new evaluator to choose players on the team every year that have absolutely nothing to do with the teams so that it’s completely unbiased. Whereas in other associations or clubs “parents that are on the board of players that are trying-out pick the evaluators,” or “they pick coaches that have done camps and training for the association,” and then the evaluator may have personal ties to players and can then influence their decisions.
Every single player or goalie that I interviewed had something to say about players cheating or paying their way onto teams, whether it be on their current team or on a previous team. It’s clearly a problem, but nothing is being done to stop it, because this all starts with the clubs and associations themselves. Until they take it into their own hands to stop this, it will just simply continue on. Tahini Nedilia and AA or A2 girls player even said, “We see it in the news and hear about it all the time.”
Image credit:Flicker/Patrik Yngvér