VERNON - A peewee hockey player brought spectators out of their seats last weekend cheering, even crying, not because of his moves in the game, but because he stood against the rest of his own team and showed them something about courage and sportsmanship.
Matthew Marotta, 12, and his Prince George Cougars lost a game at Vernon's Classic tournament on a disputed goal. His teammates followed his coaches angry reaction and headed straight for the dressing room, foregoing the custom of kneeling at their own blue line before shaking hands with opponents. Against his coach's insistence—Marotta alone skated out to the blue line and took a knee.
Tia Heslop, team manager for the opposing Nanaimo Clippers, says she broke down in tears at the sight.
“All the fans were screaming and cheering and crying for his bravery, his respect for the game, and the true sportsmanship he was showing. We were all standing on our feet cheering for him,” she says. “That’s how you wrap up the game, he knew that. Even when he was being called off the ice by his coach.... He did the right thing, and did what his whole team should have done.”
The Nanaimo team skated over and encircled the lone Marotta, patting his head, the crowd cheering for him as he alone represented his team. Shocked spectators and parents turned quickly to social media to share the story. In one Facebook post liked 755 times and shared almost 1,600 times, one parent says she could attend 1,000 more hockey games and never see anything like it again.
“In the end, these coaches are here to be leaders for the boys,” Heslop says. “As coaches, parents and players, we’ve all learned from him and will follow suit. His parents should be very proud.”
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