It's been another normal month in the world of minor hockey.

A Montreal police officer is on trial in Longueuil, Quebec over accusations he threatened to kill a referee during his 10 year old son's game last May. The officer is pleading not guilty and has pleaded for a break from the court because he is afraid of losing his career. A witness to the incident stated that she heard the officer threaten that if the referee got out of the arena he would kill him.

The manager of the rink where the incident occurred told reporters that he regularly calls in the police to take care of parents who have become too aggressive towards a referee. He indicated that some games have to be cancelled because no one wants to officiate them.

In British Columbia, a Junior hockey player has been charged with assaulting another player who needed 50 stitches after a fight in a game last March.

In Edmonton a hockey coach has been suspended for the balance of the season because he pulled his team from the ice when he feared for their safety during a tournament game.

In Sudbury, Ontario, the City Council has passed a new policy governing the City sports facilities. Under the "Fair Play Policy", which includes a Facility Code of Conduct, "strictly forbids all forms of verbal and physical abuse, harassment and disruptive behaviour". Violators may be removed from the facility, or, in extreme cases, be charged with a criminal offense. A City Councillor stated that it would be up to sports associations who use the city facilities to enforce the new policy. Anyone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour will have the right to report it to city staff at the arena or to the police. 


Hockey is just a game! Statistics prove that very, very, very few of the even gifted minor hockey players will ever make it to the NHL. So how do we get back the game?

Referees are under a great deal of pressure already, but the fact of the matter is that the referees hold the key to putting an end to the nonsense that we have in the rinks today.

The line has been drawn! It appears as if all of the public service campaigns, fair play clinics, certification programs, posters, etc. are failing to curb the increasing incidence of violence. There is only one thing left to do!


It will take some courage, but perhaps it is time for senior referees to show the lead and use the rule book to the letter of the law. And it is time for supervisors and referees-in-chief to support the referees who have the courage to show the way.

When you read the rule book, it is quite clear what an infraction is. However, good referees will take a lot of other things into consideration when deciding whether or not to call a penalty. For example, was there intent? was there a degree of violence? was contact made? was it a push or a hit? etc.

It seems as if players, coaches and fans look upon this use of judgement as a weakness and an excuse to heap all kinds of abuse upon officials. 

If a referee called games "by the book" for the rest of the year, each game would consist of a parade of players to the penalty box. Misconducts, bench minors and game misconducts would be commonplace and issued every time a person even breathed disrespect. Games would be halted every time a parent or fan yelled out an abusive or harassing comment while the referee called the arena staff and asked to have the person removed. Games would never finish as time would run out and teams would have to cut the games short.

What would this do for the game? Well, it would have exactly the same effect as if a police car with a radar gun was stationed at the same place on the highway 24 hours a day. Eventually, all drivers using the highway would drive the speed limit all of the time because every one would realize that every single time they speed, they will be caught and punished. There would be no chance of avoiding the speed trap because it would always be in place and active.

If referees called penalties each and every time there was even a hint of an infraction - indeed even if a player looked like he was thinking of doing something wrong - and then handing out ten-minute misconducts each and every time a person even looked sideways at him, the game would soon be played by the rules.

It might not be very exciting to watch, but it would cut out the violence, eliminate the verbal abuse of officials, and turn the game back over to the players who want to play by the rules. The skill would soon return since the play would be three-on-three for much of the game.

We could even station supervisors around the rink to signal penalties which are not seen by the referees. The supervisors could even have whistles so that they can stop the play and hand out the penalties.

While this seems like a totally outrageous way to solve the problem, we must face it - Rink Rage has gone way over the limit - Enough is Enough - the line must be drawn - and the person who is in a position to have the most impact is the referee. The big question that must be asked now is - Do we really want a solution or are we merely paying lip service to all attempts at curbing violence? After all, no one leaves the arena when a fight breaks out.

See Marty Kirwan's editorial, "Have We Crossed The Line?" for an interesting perspective on the state of hockey today.

We would appreciate your comments on this issue.


After The Whistle would like to hear your comments on this issue.




I believe what you propose could be a start, however, the hockey world is a separate entity. Having been subject to a malicious comment from a spectator, I pursued the matter to the highest level an continued to do so until minor hockey recognized a problem clearly existed.  After 12 years of officiating, I quit.  That was in 2002.  Today, I have since returned, but only do OWHA sanctioned games.  I have found the spectators at the women’s game do not have that “pot of gold” mentality and subsequently, all games go without incident.  On the other hand, I continue to Coach my son’s team and continue to witness spectator behaviour beyond belief – all at minor hockey games where the players are predominantly male and the parents already have “Johnny’s” signed contract.  We should go back to the good old days when parents used to drop the kids off at the arena and pick them up when the game was over – we did not have the problems we have today!  I do not believe the system will ever change.
Trina Draper , Timmins, ON

P.A.T.H. Program
Parent Awareness Training for Hockey

I enjoy the After the Whistle articles that I receive.  It's always interesting to read other perceptions of our nation's obsession, hockey.  I have always been one to get involved, as there are few who do. 

Hockey is always going to be perceived as a problem, as too many people think they know the game better than their coaches, the referees and even their Associations.  Here in Beaumont, we instituted a few years ago a program called P.A.T.H. (parent awareness training for Hockey).  Originally, it was to make all parents aware of both the role of the local association and the role of the parent.  This past year's session, which is now mandatory, ended up being mostly with a lengthy discussion geared at the referees and the new rules (check to the head) which many uninformed parents felt would not work.  This past year's session was nearly 2 hours long, and the Association, which should be commended for their proactive approach, tried to get both the referee's and the child's points of view into this. Most parents heard it loud and clear. The problem isn't the majority of parents, but rather a few very vocal and even intimidating parents.  But how do we solve this issue?

In my opinion, it isn't fair to put the responsibility of fixing the game on the senior officials.  In our community, we have very few senior officials willing to do this day in and out.  Of our deemed senior officials, 3 of them are either head coaches or assistants, 2 more are full time University students and a further few are shift workers.  Senior officials in our
community are doing too many games per week and rarely have time to supervise. Keeping this in mind, they have done some supervisions.  While all senior refs have done what they can, everyone involved knows that this isn't enough to properly train individuals ,who start as young as 13 years old, to perfect their craft. As well, the senior officials must initiate the supervisions otherwise they don't get proper instruction from above. Further
more, once a child is 16, there are jobs which are more appealing, with less abuse than refereeing.  How do we keep the ones that we worked hard to training the sport?
I believe four things need to happen.  

The first one is force all coaching staff to take a mini rules clinic, grade them on the rules, as a referee is, and only allow them to coach if they know the rules.  The coach is the example to many of these young players and he/she must be the leader for both players and parents.  There already is a lot of pressure on many
coaches, but we must get back to the reason the children are playing - to have fun and get better at the game of hockey.  The "must win" attitude that some coaches and parents have for their children, right from the start, must stop.  This creates monsters behind the bench whereby the referee becomes the scapegoat for the team's performance. That leadership filters it's way down to the players and the parents.  Too many times, and mostly at the lower level, after a game where the coaching staff wasn't pleased with the
officiating and let everyone know about it, I will also hear that the game was won/lost by the refs.  The children get this from their leader and/or their parents.  There is even a coach in our community (at a pre-PeeWee level)  that won't shake hands with referees, whether they did a good job or not.  What kind of example is this?  Mentors for coaches should be mandatory, with abuse and leadership in mind and repercussions for acting

The second step would be to force all associations to adopt a program such as ours for parent awareness.  This program has helped in both calming the parents and creating more realistic expectations for their children.  While it should be tailored to each association, there should be four key basics: Role of Association, volunteer, coach and referees.  It might and probably should have a small rules section that would make parents realize that they do not know the rules and that the minor hockey rules are different than those in the NHL.  

The third step is to create a nation wide system to better train officials. The mentorship program is good but doesn't go far enough.  Supervisions don't happen very often.  Both should be better paid, as should all levels of officiating.  As a comparison, refereeing inline in Edmonton pays 30% more than an ice hockey game of the same level.  Refereeing a soccer game of the same caliber is 50% more than ice hockey.  While it's hard to compare soccer and hockey, in most situations that I have seen (I have a son that
plays competitive soccer) the passion displayed by the parents of soccer just isn't the same level as that in any hockey game, competitive or not. This is what creates the hardship for referees.  Passion creates challenges, you might even say that passion (national, ethnic, religious or any other type) creates wars.

The last step, which must happen, is to have the NHL follow the same steps as Minor hockey.  Until this happens, uninformed parents, coaches and such will expect the rules to be called the same as an NHL game.  They are not the same and they should be.  The referees' game management principle is great but if the mentors of some senior referees are indeed the NHL refs, then they emulate them and this continues down the line.

In closing, I would like to say that I have seen a lot in the many years of volunteering my time to our great sport and will continue to help out.  As a referee, I have broken up many fights, brawls, hall fights, fights in parking lots, ect....  I have taken some abuse, but would rather do that than take the abuse I would get from throwing every individual out for lack
of respect.  I treat disrespect with respect.  As a coach, I have had great seasons, like this year,  and poor ones, where parents have thrown bags at me and haven't supported me.  As a president of a league, I have had to deal with many lengthy suspensions.  As a director of our community, there have been many parent concerns over all sorts of things.  I believe that this year has been better than any other year in our community because of our Association's initiatives and an even more important factor:  a sense of humor. If you can't find something funny about a game, perhaps a new sport is in order for you.  Lighten up everyone and enjoy our national pastime.

It can and is still fun.  I can't think of a better way to spend my winters.
Can you?

Denis Poitras
Head Coach:  Beaumont PeeWee II Braves
Also:  Senior Official (8 years experience)
Past President of 16/60 Minor Hockey League
Past Director Beaumont Amateur Hockey
Beaumont, AB


I feel that it is tragic that parents (let alone police officers) would revert to this type of behaviour.  Alcohol or not, parents are adults that are supposed to demonstrate control and self discipline.  What kind of example does this set for the young players?  How does the child whose parent is involved in this  feel?

We often wonder why the Canadian Hockey Officiating Program loses so many officials.  Who needs to take this kind of abuse?  Fortunately the CHA has taken a stand over the last several years in introducing Fair Play initiatives and Shared Respect.  While occurances have declined, we still seem to hear about situations such as these.

Parents need to take a step back and not blame the demise of their child's team on the referees.  Referees are not scapegoats.  Referees are human and make mistakes.  Would parents appreciate referees if we criticized their children on the ice because they fanned on a shot or missed a pass?  This often gets overlooked.

As referees, we can only apply the rules diligently and to the best of our abilities to uphold the integrity of the game and to assure the safety of all participants.  The actions by this parent are clearly unacceptable.  In fact, if jail time is not handed down, I would suggest that this person be mandated to attend a referee's clinic and donate his time for three years to help the local officiating program.  Perhaps he would learn to feel what it is like to be on the receiving end of the threats.

Dom Cianflone, B.Comm.
Financial Controller
Level IV Official - Greater Toronto Hockey League



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