Former NHLer Patrick O’Sullivan got the hockey world talking Thursday when his story was published on the web site, The Players Tribune.
In the story, O’Sullivan wrote at length about the abuse he suffered growing up at the hand of his father. The story is one that is as sick as it is twisted as O’Sullivan’s father legitimately believed that what he was doing would make the Toronto native a better hockey player.
It is a story that has hit home across this country as local and national hockey organizations continue to deal with stories of unruly hockey parents.
“It’s obviously a sad situation when you do read it. I think everyone involved in hockey needs to read and the realization of what could in one of these men’s life. It’s really difficult.” said Regina Pats assistant coach Dave Struch.
As a veteran of the WHL, Struch has seen his share of hockey parents. As far as he knows, Struch has not had to deal with any stories like this.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of good organizations. A lot of good players, a lot of good people, it’s obviously what you strive for,” he said.
While Struch has not dealt with these kinds of situations, he certainly knows that they still happen. Struch feels the story, while a difficult one to read, is a good lesson for parents not only in the hockey world but sports in general.
“As athletes you see some of the pressure some of these young men have on them. Not only the pressure they put on themselves but the pressure put on them by their peers, their agents, their parents. A lot of things like that, it’s unfortunate, but you hope you don’t see too much more of it.”
The Pats players would know a thing or two about growing up as high performance athletes.
Most, if not all of them, would have been identified as very good hockey players at a young age and placed in higher levels of hockey to get them to where they are today. Some of them, like captain Colby Williams, even have parents who were athletes themselves, which can come with an extra level of pressure.
Luckily for Williams, that wasn’t the case for him.
“My parents have always been pretty good. They’ve always tried to stay positive and push me to my limits,” he said. “They were both really understanding about feelings and just wanted me to continue if I wanted to. They didn’t pressure me into anything. They got me to where I am today.”
In an example of hockey parents being a positive influence in their kid’s life, Williams believes his parents played a huge role in helping him get back on the ice this year after suffering a serious arm injury in the off-season.
“It’s kind of been a tough year for myself and I couldn’t have gone through it without them for support.”
Even as more of these stories come to light, whether they’re happening now or in the past, Struch feels it is important to remember that there is lots of good in hockey and sport as well.
“You do look at what the game brings, as a positive, energetic side of it. It’s a special thing. It’s just unfortunate that some of it does happen that way.”