Bye, bye, Huskies hockey; two players suspended
Well, at least we don’t have to worry about more agony at this year’s high school hockey Frozen Four in Colorado Springs for Battle Mountain. Huskies hockey has a snowball’s chance in hell of making it to the World Arena in 2006.Ladies and gents, Battle Mountain’s season just went up in flames just before the holiday break when two players were pulled over in a car by the cops in Edwards. The two who are minors – so names will not be disclosed – received the dreaded MIP – minor in possession (of alcohol). Issues with the law not withstanding, both, by school rule, are off the ice for 30 days.Goodbye, season.These two will miss 10 regular season games, and their absence will be conspicuous. What’s more, due to a new CHSAA rule which requires players to compete in 15 of 19 regular season contests to be eligible for postseason play, this duo is done after Feb. 11 regular season finale against Bishop Machebeuf.The Huskies will make the playoffs because only four teams don’t qualify – and there are some dreadful teams in this state – but you can kiss any notion of a state title adios.A blessingMy first reaction to this fiasco was one of a fan. “What the heck were you dummies thinking? Haven’t you seen this happen before?” That is the sanitized version.
It’s also the wrong reaction. Let’s face it, teenagers can barely drive as it is. Add alcohol to the situation and this could have been much worse. The two are physically fine. They didn’t hurt anyone. I’m am extremely relieved to be writing about suspensions rather than obituaries.I’d also like to add that this is the first time in while that MIPs have been associated with Battle Mountain athletics. Teenage drinking is an issue with any high school in the country, and certainly not confined to Eagle-Vail. Huskies’ teams have avoided the typical pratfalls of Homecoming and prom in the last 18 months or so and the school and its community are to be commended for that. We have come a far way from Homecoming 2002 when half of the football team was benched for such indiscretions.Life lessonsAthletics are a critical part of the high school experience – on and off the field. As I talk often with parents and coaches of student-athletes, only the tiniest percentage of players from our happy valley are going to go on to play sports at a higher level much less in the NHL. After all, even the best hockey player in recent memory that the county has produced, Austin Chow, will likely be walking on at Princeton next season after player a year of club. (Ivy League schools, with the exception of Harvard, do not have junior varsity squads.)High school sports are about learning teamwork, sportsmanship, balancing your time and responsibility toward your teammates. That last item is what comes to fore in light of this recent episode.
We’re all human and we all make mistakes. And Lord knows, we all do or did incredibly stupid things in high school. What makes a person – at any age – is how one responds to these mistakes.Do you repeat the mistake or do you learn from the mistake and make yourself a better person? If you do the latter, the error of your ways turns into a learning experience.That’s the challenge for the two suspended players. In picking up the MIPs – outside of the offense itself – the biggest mistake the two made was letting down their teammates. The first thing these two must do – if they haven’t already – is apologize to their fellow players, especially the team’s seniors, Chris Chase and Matt Heelan.That doubtless was/is an excruciating experience. Equally excruciating will be standing up on the catwalk at Dobson Arena watching their teammates play, knowing they have no control over what’s going on down on the ice. Trust me, I’ve seen this before and it isn’t pretty.Hopefully during this time, the two will resolve to make amends and learn to make better decisions in the future. Hopefully, the next time the two have an opportunity to have a beer during their high school years they will make the right decision. Hopefully in college – where, yes, underage drinking is going to happen – the two won’t get behind the wheel after a party.If these things come to fruition, good things will have come from this mistake.Leadership by exampleHuskies hockey head coach Gary Defina should take a role in this process. I am walking into a very murky area here. Battle Mountain does not have a rule on the books, saying that coaches can’t drink in front of their players.
After the opening game of the season at Aspen, Defina and his coaches had a few rounds of beer at lunch in view of the team. I am in no way saying that Defina is responsible for the two players’ MIPs. These individuals made their decisions independently and are paying the price for it.I also think it’s normally acceptable for Defina to have a drink. He’s a grown man. A coach of any sport should be allowed to have a beer or a glass of wine with a meal.But given current circumstances and the history of the program, this is not wise. This program has had key players suspended due to alcohol before, and of course, coach Ken Bielski in 2002 was essentially given his walking papers because of his fondness for vodka and Mountain Dew, in-house politics withstanding. It’s not fair, Coach, but no more beer in front of the boys. I’ll be glad to buy you a round at Paddy’s after a game when the team is out of sight. This season is no longer about wins and losses. It’s a season of learning – not just for the two who got caught – but for all involved in Huskies hockey. Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado