PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Portland Pirates Head Coach Kevin Dineen is apologizing for the actions of his players at Tuesday morning's game against the Worcester Sharks. The game, at a special time so that 3,600 students could attend as a field trip, included multiple fights on the ice. 4 players were tossed from the game.
A couple of parents have since complained, and some school officials are now discussing whether the field trip is appropriate in the future.
For players, and most hockey fans, fights are considered just a part of the sport. But many of the kids, parents and teachers at this game are not regular hockey fans. The game was supposed to be an opportunity for kids to learn about the importance of nutrition and exercise. The Pirates had videotaped messages about the topics that showed up on the scoreboards throughout the game.
Many of the students seemed to have a great time during the game. Even as the fights began, you could hear the kids cheering. But not everyone was supportive. One parent of a Portland elementary school student, Catherine Anderson, wrote in her blog, "What kind of a message did that game send our "future athletes" about sportsmanship? The players told the kids to eat fruits and vegetables in the overhead video, and then to punch the lights out of each other on the ice."
Portland School Superintendent Jim Morse said he is questioning whether the game is an appropriate field trip for his students, since fights are such a regular part of games. Don Baker, the co-principal at Mt. Ararat Middle School, says he did have one teacher mention to him that the game got "a little rough." And he was now thinking that he might want to have a conversation with staff over whether the trip is a good idea for the future.
Dineen says last year he told his players to tone it down for the school day game. And last year there were no fights. But this year, it slipped his mind. Dineen says he regrets not speaking to his players before the game. "I made a real mistake," Dineen said. "I think, in years past, I'd always acknowledge that with the players. We'd been on a 3-game road trip and just didn't bring it up before the game."
Players say fights are a normal part of the game, and they hadn't considered that anyone would be upset until they started hearing about the controversy. Defenseman Nick Crawford, who spent 5 minutes in the penalty box Tuesday for fighting, said, "There were a lot of kids in the stands. When you're on the ice, you don't really think about that. It happens real quick."
Crawford says he does consider himself a role model, though, and hopes the kids understand that he doesn't condone violence. "Off the ice none of us get in any fights. And that's the biggest thing we're trying to point out. Off the ice, there's no fighting, and none of us do that... It's part of our sport, though, and sometimes it's something we have to do."
Other school officials say they had no problem with the game. Rosie Schacht, who organized the trip for her students at Lake Region Vocational School, says she'd bring her kids back in a heartbeat. She thinks the game was a great opportunity for her students to broaden their horizons, and says parents who are uncomfortable always have the option of not signing the permission slip for their kids to go.