A discussion raised recently by the BC Hockey board of directors to remove the term ‘midget’ from its minor hockey associations can only be viewed as a positive one by Horsefly resident Riley Windeler.
The 29-year-old, who loves the sport of hockey and grew up climbing the ranks of the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association, is the Dwarf Athletic Association of Canada Vice President and an advocate for dwarfism awareness.
Windeler is also a little person, and has a form of short-limbed dwarfism called Hypochondroplasia. He never thought the term ‘midget’ used in hockey was meant in a derogatory way, or to be directed toward little people, but thinks any discussion that brings awareness to the topic is a good one.
“I’d thought about it in the past, but this was something that kind of took me off guard,” Windeler told the Tribune. “Playing hockey growing up, in that context — I played midget hockey — I knew the term was offensive toward little people and people like myself, but I didn’t see it used that way there.
“That said I’m glad what they’re doing is bringing more awareness of the offense of the term toward little people. I’ve been hearing from some of the people from the DAAC in Ontario and our dwarf athletics group and they think it’s a great idea.”
He said, in particular, it could be damaging or offensive to adults with children affected by dwarfism playing minor hockey throughout Canada.
“There are kids in the associations who are still much younger and they still have to face all these things growing up,” he said. “They’re just coming into it all, and I can see where they’re coming from.”
Windeler noted he never faced any outright discrimination while playing minor hockey in Williams Lake, and said he loved playing as a member of the WLMHA.
“It was one of my greatest experiences growing up,” he said. “I loved minor hockey. If I have family down the road I’ll put them through minor hockey, as well and I have nothing bad to say about minor hockey. I had a great experience.”
At a meeting late November, BC Hockey said the subject was raised in part due to other sports organizations moving to remove the term ‘midget,’ but to also shift to age-specific division classifications (U15, U17, etc.).
Hockey Canada, meanwhile, classifies the midget division as players who are under 18 as of Dec. 31 of the current year.
“I just think it’s a great discussion,” Windeler said.
“It wasn’t something that really hit me or phased me growing up, but the more awareness and the more things like this the better for us because getting it out there isn’t always easy.”