The City of North Battleford joined the Canadian Mental Health Association to proclaim the week of May 7 as Mental Health Week. It is in that Spirit that I write this blog post.

The crest “In loving memory, Ash” was spearheaded by a friend and teammate of Ashley Lascelle who died by suicide in January 2018. The crests were worn by the Barons midget team in remembrance of their fallen teammate. The team had hoped to wear the crests until 2021 when Ash would have finished his last year as a Midget Baron. These hopes were dashed as the Battleford’s Minor Hockey Association ordered the team to remove the patches from the jerseys at the end of this season.

My intent is not to challenge the decision. I will, however, challenge the process.

The Battleford Minor Hockey Association is lead by volunteers who are doing what they think is best for their members, no different than any other Minor Hockey Association. If you would like to get a feel for the scope of the volunteerism that is required to make the STEP league run, attend a minor hockey scheduling meeting and you will see how many people it takes just to get the games scheduled; let alone the countless volunteers that run the rinks, run the teams and coach the kids.

The leaders of Minor Hockey Associations have to deal with many sources of conflict. Player releases, player suspensions, coaching suspensions, angry parents and the list goes on. In a perfect world, no Minor Hockey Association would have to deal with a decision on a commemorative badge for a player who killed himself. But this isn’t a perfect world.

The association closed the Annual General Meeting to the media and the president offered the following statement:

“We didn’t feel it was necessary for that to be reported on,” he said. “We just feel as a board that it’s for our members [only] and the decision [on the patch] was based on our members best interest.”

I disagree. I think it is necessary to be reported on and I think the impact of this decision extends beyond the boundaries of the Battleford’s Minor Hockey Association members. It wasn’t just the Baron’s who lost a player, we all did. We, the Turtleford Tigers, were there when Ashley suffered the devastating injury that took him out of the game. We were there for the moment of silence in the first game back on the ice after the funeral. Our Captain, like the volunteers on the Battleford’s Minor Hockey Association, didn’t sign up for taking that ceremonial puck drop, but duty calls!

In my opinion, the process was fear based, defensive and harmful.

Following the decision, I met with Head Coach Kelly Page and requested a crest to place on the Team Canada Jersey that I wear when speaking on mental health. I received a crest and wear it with honor. There is nothing sensational about suicide and there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

The crest can’t bring Ashley back but it can serve as a catalyst for healing and conversation.

“The Hockey World is an unbelievable world. You can’t make up for loss, it rips the heart right out of your chest. You have to embrace each and every day with your family.” Mike Babcock