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Soapbox Time

(In case anyone was anxiously awaiting my NAHL Showcase Report, it's coming sometime today or tomorrow. I got about half way through it, and my computer died, leaving me only about a quarter of the report. There's a lot of other stuff I want to get to today, but once I write the other three quartes, it will be posted.)

This story was brought to my attention by an intrepid blog reader, and I thought it deserved comment.

The Everett Silvertips of the WHL are coached by former RPI player and former NHL coach Kevin Constantine. Constantine has been suspended for four games and fined $5000 for "inappropriate actions" . Constantine wasn't pleased with the way his team played, so he didn't allow them to change out of their equipment after a game, meaning they had to eat their pregame meal and ride the bus home while wearing full equipment.

This brings about an interesting cultural issue of just where the line is between being a stern disciplinarian and being an out-of-control coach. It seems to bring out a paradox in our thinking as a society. On one hand, people are appalled by this type of behavior from a coach, but on the other hand, even more reckless coaching behavior is made to seem heroic in movies like Miracle, Remember the Titans and Junction Boys.

What Constantine did was humiliating to the players, but other than a smelly ride home, did he put his players in any physical danger? Is wearing equipment for a couple extra hours any worse than forcing players to skate until they're throwing up and dehydrated, the way Krut Russell's character does in the movie Miracle? (For the record, in the DVD commentary of the movie, Herb Brooks says he regretted forcing the players to do that, and said it's not something he would do again.)

That doesn't mean what Constantine did was right. He certainly deserved to be punished for taking things too far. But even though Constantine will take a lot of blame this week for his actions, some of the blame needs to be put on the "win-at-all costs" mentality that exists in our modern sports. In a society where a coach can push a group of kids to near-death, and through sheer luck, avoid a tragic accident, and come out a hero at the end, the way Denzel Washington does in Remember the Titans, it's only natural that there are going to be other coaches that push those limits, and sometimes go too far.