Editorial: Playing well on and off the ice

Sportsmanship is also a skill that needs practice

The world got to see some great hockey last Friday when Canada battled the Swedes for gold at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

It also got to see an example of poor sportsmanship when Lias Andersson, Sweden’s captain, threw his silver medal into the crowd.

Anyone who has ever competed for anything knows that “it’s not about winning, it’s about how you play the game” is a crock. And in a high stakes game with the world watching, losing is going to be a traumatic event.

In that context, the tears shed by some of the Swedish players are understandable, and we can also understand Andersson being overcome by emotion and frustration after his team failed to achieve their goals.

Despite their skill level, these are, after all, just teenagers. Teenagers who were under pressure to win practically since they strapped on their first pair of skates. But Andersson’s later comments that “This was kind of our last chance, so this sucks,” shows his medal toss was as much the result of attitude as frustration.

For those who are mentally agreeing with Andersson and thinking “second place is just the first loser,” it’s not. Getting to second place at this level of hockey is still an incredible achievement, and one to be proud of.

Competing is about winning, but in the end, it’s about winning well. That means not only playing well and by the rules as you overcome your competition, but also being a good sportsman. Andersson’s actions and attitude robbed his team of some of their joy in getting the team to the gold medal game.

Throwing your medal into the crowd may not be on the same level of some historic sports tantrums — tennis star John McEnroe springs to mind — but it is still unsportsmanlike behaviour, something that a player of this level should be beyond, no matter his age.

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