March 24, 2011
Many minor league hockey teams have started scheduling late-morning/early-afternoon games as a way to invite busloads of local school kids to see their team play; just like how baseball teams always have a few early afternoon starts in the summer for camp groups to attend.
On Tuesday afternoon, about 3,600 Portland, Maine (Buffalo Sabres affiliate) elementary and junior high school students took in the Pirates' annual School Day game against their AHL counterparts, the Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks affiliate).
At 16:24 of the first period, things got chippy between the teams, and the brawl that broke out saw three fights and four ejections. This was apparently a little too much for some parents in the crowd.
According to the Portland Press Herald, one parent was "horrified" by the fisticuffs. A woman there with her grandson was "outraged" by what she saw. There also seemed to be a bit of a misunderstanding over whether Pirates and Sharks players were given a warning before the game.
Team owner Brian Petrovek said people shouldn't focus on one incident -- the fight -- to color their opinion of the School Day program or hockey. More than 3,600 students from more than 20 schools attended the Pirates-Worchester Sharks game. It was the team's second annual School Day.
"This is a physical, aggressive game," he said. "We're seeing less fighting in our sport. In this case, yes, it went beyond a normal fight."
Petrovek denied reports from several school administrators that they were told by a Pirates official who coordinated the event that players would be reminded that students were in the audience and cautioned about aggressive behavior.
Peter Mortenson, principal of Lake Region Middle School, which sent 225 students to the game as a reward "for their civil behavior in the building," said he was told the players were told that "the normal aggressive behavior is not acceptable."
Anyone else keep hearing Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons screaming, "Won't somebody please think of the children!" in their heads?
The complaints about the fighting were minimal compared to the number school kids in attendance, but enough that we'd imagine next year's March field trip for many of these schools will be to the planetarium instead of a hockey game.
Stick-tap to Michael N. for the tip