The dreaded rides to and from hockey

By Brent Bradford & Vic LeMire

Brent Bradford and Vic LeMire, authors of a new hockey resource book, “Goaltenders are not Targets,” have joined forces to deliver a series of articles that relate directly to parents in the game of hockey. Throughout the hockey season, it is hoped that all parents will gather some pertinent information so that every player is provided with the unconditional support that is necessary for enhanced levels of self-confidence, self-efficacy and enjoyment in the game of hockey.

With 85-plus combined years of experience playing, mentoring, coaching and scouting in hockey arenas across the globe, we have observed a plethora of inspiring relationships that exist between parents and their hockey players! A parent who supports his/her hockey player unconditionally after each and every practice and game is one who understands that unconditional support plays a crucial role in player development.

For example, while referring to our previous article – “My Parents are coming to watch my game! Will they make me PROUD … or fill me with SHAME?” – when a parent takes on his/her responsibility of completing his/her homework assignment, player development will occur in a positive learning environment.

Unfortunately … during our same 85-plus years of experiences in hockey arenas, we have also witnessed some of the most dreadful situations between parents and their hockey players. Sadly, in almost any hockey arena, one can walk into the lobby and observe one of the following situations … a parent:

• Reading the “riot act” to his/her hockey player

• Yelling at his/her hockey player using profanities

• Picking up a hockey stick and yelling, “I told you to shoot this way!”

• Grabbing his/her hockey player physically and saying, “You embarrassed me today!”

• This list could go on for a while … sadly enough

WHICH PARENT ARE YOU? There are several pressures brought into the relationship between the parent and the hockey player. Throughout this article, we hope to bring awareness and solutions to parents who are making life-altering errors in one of their most important relationships … without even being aware of the potential psychological damage that is being delivered.

IMPORTANT QUESTION: Would YOU truly want a person to come watch you play hockey, who continually says to you “You played terrible,” “You embarrassed me again” or “You … (insert profanity) … better start playing better!”

Now … although this type of communication has been observed in the hockey arena, the purpose of this article is for those parents who are clever enough to at least wait until they are clear form the hockey arena to begin their destructive communication toward their hockey players.

THE LOCATION: A prison-like environment. The location includes locks and a strait jacket (i.e., seatbelt) to ensure containment; the hockey player has virtually no method of escaping the destructive criticism that is about to take place. You guessed it … the location is in the “family vehicle!”

THE TIME (Part 1): Hockey players obtain their first taste of the “communication terror” usually on the way to their hockey games and practices in the family vehicle. They are exposed to an overabundance of forceful commands and unreasonable demands right out of their own driveway before they have even stepped onto the ice!

Comments like:

• “You better not be late on the ice for practice!” says one parent/guardian … (This occurs even though the parent arrived home late to pick up his/her hockey player!)

• “Remember, I am paying all this money for you to play hockey … so I better see you work extra hard out there!”

• “You make sure that you do what I tell you in this game. Never mind what the coach says!”

These are just a few of the regular commands that have been forced into the minds and hearts of hockey players. There are several more verbally abusive, one-way conversations that take place in this location. Parents have what amounts to a truly CAPTIVE AUDIENCE in the family vehicle. Unfortunately, there are some parents who seem to take complete advantage of this situation!

THE TIME (Part 2): After the game and/or practice is complete … after all the yelling and screaming from the parents has silenced … and after all the frustrations from work have been taken out on innocent hockey players from the stands, marks the time for parents/guardians to get their hockey players into the family vehicle. It is time to “grill” them all over again! 

IMPORTANT QUESTION: Does hockey sound fun to you at this moment? Well … it is not fun, at all, to every hockey player who says to him/herself and/or to a teammate at this moment … “I WISH my parent was somewhere else and … NOT HERE!”

Let the “grill” begin:

• “Why is that other kid playing on YOUR line? He’s terrible!”

• “You came off the ice after only 30 seconds … Why don’t you stay out there longer?”

• “How in the … (insert profanity) … world did you let that goal in?”

• “I cannot believe I pay all this money for you to perform like that!”

IMPORTANT QUESTION: What do you think hockey players are TRULY thinking during this time? Do you think they are saying … 

• “I respect my parent/guardian so much!”

• “I want to grow up and be like him/her SO BAD!”

• “Thank you for making a fool of yourself in the stands again by swearing loudly”

• “Thank you for being such a wonderful ROLE MODEL by swearing so loudly”

• “Hey, next time can you yell at me more and even louder … it is such an effective teaching tool!”

A CHALLENGE TO YOU: How can you make the rides to and from hockey positive experiences!

What a teachable moment you have the ability to create! During rides to and from hockey, you can reveal to your hockey player the true reason for playing hockey! Parents, if you cannot provide a calm and positive atmosphere for your hockey player when traveling to and from hockey … GET someone else to drive him/her to games and practices! Hockey players should be so happy to jump into a vehicle and explain to you how much FUN the game was ... and to THANK YOU for driving them!

The parent-hockey player relationship can prove to be the most impactful relationship for hockey development. Parents are truly justified in striving to assist in the development of their hockey players in order for them to compete successfully at high levels. However, it must be noted that they are also expected, and qualified, to establish the most conducive learning environment that includes positive, specific, and constructive feedback; their responsibility is to maintain a learning atmosphere that provides a healthy, enjoyable educational experience.

“It is much easier to teach someone with ‘honey’ than with ‘vinegar.’”

IMPORTANCE OF FEEDBACK: Each hockey player requires feedback and support (e.g., educational, emotional) and it is believed that the majority of parents provide ongoing feedback to their hockey players. However, it is hoped that all parents across the hockey world continue to think about what type of feedback is most effective, constructive, and long-lasting!

FUTURE ARTICLE: In our follow-up article, we will refer specifically to the topic of FEEDBACK in order to increase the likelihood that parents implement communication strategies toward their hockey players so that the intended messages are effective, constructive, and long-lasting!


KEEP IT UP! We are certain you are all doing a fantastic job, thus far … however, we would be overly excited to hear that you are making the ride to and from hockey an enjoyable, constructive time for your hockey players … we believe that quality conversations in the family vehicle will convert into life-long, memorable experiences (as well as more developed hockey players)!

After all, due to the rich amount of positive, specific and constructive feedback you provide to your hockey players after each and every game and practice this season, would it not be outstanding if those conversations assisted in the development of your potential elite-level hockey player … and as a reward one day in the future … he/she offered to purchase tickets for you to travel across the country to watch him/her play a junior, university/college or professional hockey game? … and, to top it off, just to make everything ALMOST equal (we know it never equals out) … he/she may even offer to show you around the town after the game!

Coach Bradford and Coach LeMire’s Checklist for Parents/Guardians

• Have an enjoyable hockey season!

• Make your Ride To and From Hockey a positive experience!

• Remind yourself:“The ride to and from hockey has the potential to affect my hockey player either positively … or … negatively!”

It is hoped that this article has, in some way, provided you with some “food for thought.” We are excited to continue to write additional articles that will focus on parents in the game of hockey.

We invite you to contact us throughout the hockey season if you have any questions or comments on this or any other parent articles … and/or if you would like to share stories of success relating to your completed homework assignments!

Contact Coach Brent Bradford, M.Ed., at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Contact Coach Vic LeMire at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .