Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Slashing Penalty in Fort McMurray

There is no doubt that sports inspire passion among players and fans. While I am not an athletic type I can well appreciate the enthusiasm with which people greet sports events, and how ardent they can be when cheering on their team. On occasion, though, that passion can turn a bit ugly, as appears to have happened last night at the Oil Barons game in Fort McMurray.

The Oil Barons are a well-loved local hockey team, and with good reason as they are stellar players in their league. Last night they played host to the Spruce Grove Saints. The game didn't go well for the Barons, from all reports, ending in a 5-1 loss. But what happened after the game is the real issue, when a "fan" (and I use the term very loosely) took it upon themselves to vandalize the Saints' bus by removing the valve stem from the tires.

Some reports have indicated the tire(s) were slashed, while others say it was removal of the valve stem. It doesn't really matter as in the end the pertinent point is that it was a deliberate and willful act of vandalism, and one that reflects badly on all of us. The actions of one person can have tremendous impact, and in this case I fear the visiting hockey team went home with a bad taste in their mouths as their victory on the ice was countered with damage to their property. In essence the Saints might be a rival sport team, but they are also visitors to our community, and just as we don't injure guests who come to our home we should not cause harm to those who come to our town.

The reality is that the actions of one person do not speak for all of us. While we may be ardent supporters of our local sports teams we do not support this kind of poor sportsmanship and this sort of reputation-damaging idiocy. As we head into 2015 and several sport events of provincial and national significance our reputation DOES matter, because people have worked not weeks or months but years to secure these events for our region. And last night one idiot, in one stupid act, threatened to diminish all that hard work, tarnish our reputation and make us look like goons who cannot handle losing (remember how nobody likes a sore loser? Yeah, that one).

But we are not going to just let this slide, you know, because one jerk does not speak for an entire community. I personally want to congratulate the Spruce Grove Saints on their win, and I want to thank the Oil Barons for their efforts, and for all their hard work, both on and off the ice, in our community. I want to apologize to the Spruce Grove Saints for the actions of one person who does not reflect my own sentiments or thoughts (and, I would dare to say, nor those of the rest of our community). Yes, we are proud of our hockey team and yes we are passionate fans, but we know that stooping to these kinds of malicious shenanigans is simply not part of sport, and nor should it be. It also is not, and should not be, part of a proud and healthy community.

It was a disappointing night in Fort McMurray, both in terms of a loss for our team and the reprehensible actions of one person. I am an eternal optimist, however, and I believe on both counts we can, and will, do better in the future. I wish the Oil Barons good luck as they head to Spruce Grove this week for game seven of the AJHL North Division Final, because they carry with them the good wishes and support of true fans and community members. And to the individual who thought their actions last night were some sort of clever retaliation for a loss on the ice? I say this: you get a personal penalty for slashing, because on this one your team - your community - does not stand behind you.

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