The behaviour of a spring league hockey coach who is facing charges in connection with the apparent deliberate tripping of a 13-year-old skater during a post-game handshake is “shocking,” “disappointing” and “childish,” according to Laura Watson, the acting executive director of Coaches B.C.
“The word I use is disappointing. It’s almost shocking to see,” Watson told the Courier Tuesday morning.
RCMP arrested Martin Tremblay following a June 23 incident at Doug Mitchell Arena at the University of B.C. in which an adult man appeared to intentionally trip an opposing player on ice during the post-game handshake. Tremblay was released the same day and the RCMP recommended charges.
Video footage of the incident from the championship game between the Hornets and Richmond Steel posted on YouTube was seen more than two million times in six days.
Tremblay was suspended by the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association, which issued his credentials. Neither the VMHA or B.C. Hockey runs the spring league, which is operated by UBC Rec. Teams arrange their coaching staff independently.
The university will hold a disciplinary review.
“Looking at the video, personally, I find the actions really offensive and it’s really unfortunate that [the coach] is associated with our association,” Vancouver Minor vice-president Jay Aikenhead told the Canadian Press.
The video footage, shot by a supporter with the Richmond Steel, seems to show a troubling example of a coach losing his cool after a heated game. As the teams are shaking hands after a Hornet victory, a man appears to stick out his right leg and trip the player, who fell on a teammate and is reportedly getting x-rays for a suspected broken wrist.
“If what we’re seeing is actually what happened—we don’t know for sure until proven—but if that’s what we’re seeing, it’s shocking that it would take place,” said Watson with Coaches B.C. “It’s childish. It’s something you might see from kids who aren’t educated or trained yet and you wouldn’t even think they would.”
A coach holds enormous sway over young athletes, said Watson, and along with parents and teachers, is one of the three most influential people in a child’s life.
“It’s unfortunate that [the video] is getting as much attention as it is because it’s definitely not an example of what the rest of the 40,000 volunteer coaches we have in the province.”
Coaches hold an important position of power and players emulate the example they set. Watson said Tremblay set a tone for the Hornets and, while the game included unsportsmanlike exchanges from both teams, a coach can escalate tension or compel calm.
“The worst part is the impact [the apparent trip] had on the rest of his players and watching their behaviour as a result of it,” she said, citing their actions: “Throwing a water bottle at the board, clapping, challenging the fans, it wasn’t a very positive-looking environment that we saw. It wasn’t very [positive] sportsmanship.”
Because it’s unprecedented, the coach’s alleged behaviour is a lesson for other sports leaders and parents. More than a clinic in what not to do, said Watson, the exchange between coach and player in this case reinforces the correct conduct.
“Coaches are using it as a learning opportunity,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to say: What’s the right behaviour? What could have been done here? Fortunately, I think most people know what’s right from wrong and we recognized things happen in the heat of the moment, which is very unfortunate, but it’s an opportunity to look at this and say: How could we have responded? It’s not an acceptable situation.”
The president of B.C. Hockey could not be reached before deadline but a vice-president said the sports association trains coaches using the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Respect in Sport, which addresses a coach’s legal responsibilities and promotes sportsmanship.
Coaches B.C. also trains its members using a program called Making Ethical Decisions from the National Coaching Certification Program.
Watson said all coaches in B.C. take the NCCP ethical training but she said the trip left many asking: “Is this a preventable thing that happened? Is this something that we could have avoided? Whether they’re in heat of the moment or not, unfortunately things happen. The more we can educate people and give them a process to understand and take a deep breath and recognize what’s right and wrong, the better.”