RINK RAGE - ENOUGH IS
IT'S TIME TO DRAW THE LINE!
It's been another normal month in the world of minor
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
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.
SO WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE?
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!
USE THE BOOK - ADOPT A ZERO TOLERANCE STANCE
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
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.
After The Whistle would like to hear your
comments on this issue. CONTACT
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:
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.
, Timmins, ON
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Level IV Official - Greater Toronto Hockey League