Berating a 15-year-old hockey referee then getting hands on with the senior official who intervened is outrageous, a thirtysomething Trail referee recounted.
But the worst part?
He says it’s the parents who stood by in the Rossland Arena Friday night and either heckled or did nothing.
“I’ve been involved in Greater Trail Minor Hockey going on 30 years,” the ref told the Trail Times. “I’ve never seen anything like this and I think this story needs to be told because what happened is crazy – and it happens way more than it should right across the country.”
The misconduct began during a Bantam house game between Trail and Castlegar in the early evening of Jan. 26.
The senior referee showed up to officiate a later Bantam game – Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association held a Bantam tournament last weekend – when he noticed a group of spectators being verbally aggressive from the stands.
“They were yelling, giving the kids a rough time,” he explained. “So I hung around for a bit instead of getting ready.”
Then something happened on the ice, some pushing or shoving.
“The two young linesmen and one referee, all of them 15-years old, dealt with it,” the ref recalled. “They were at the penalty box doing their thing so I thought they had it all under control and the crowd was quiet.”
With only 20 minutes left before the next game start at 7:30 p.m., the man went to lace up in the ref’s dressing room which is located close to the ice entrance/exit.
Shortly after, he could hear a very loud voice.
“I could hear the teams coming off the ice and I could hear some really loud elevated shouting right outside the (dressing room) door,” he continued. “By what this person was screaming, I knew he was yelling at the young referee himself.”
When the older official went into the corridor, he says the young ref was backed up against the wall with the parent screaming at a hair’s breadth from the teenager.
“So I got myself between this guy and the young referee, I told the kid to go into the dressing room, then I proceeded to scold this man,” the ref said. “I wanted this guy to switch his focus to me and we exchanged words.”
The situation took an even uglier turn when the parent got physical with the senior official.
“He straight armed me to the throat because I wouldn’t let him by to give the young fella more words” the ref told the Times. “And I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
What happened next, rather what didn’t happen next, is especially unsettling.
“All the while a large group of parents from Trail and Castlegar stood there and watched and none of them came to help,” he added.
“Several of them even heckled me for scolding this man, they said I was out of line.”
After the situation calmed with new players and parents arriving in the Rossland rink, the ref was left visibly shaken. Yes, he was disappointed with what had just transpired, but mostly, he was angry.
He reported the incident to BC Hockey and then on Saturday, to police.
“I am a full grown man and I can take care of myself so I am not going to press charges,” said the ref, who is also a father. “But they wanted documentation and that’s why I filed a police report. All I could think about was what if there was another 15-year-old kid coming to ref the next game and not me – I mean how would you like it if someone yelled at your 15-year old like that?
“These are kids.”
Sgt. Darren Oelke from the Greater Trail RCMP confirmed a report was made to the detachment the afternoon of Jan. 27.
“The victim did not want criminal charges pursued in the matter,” Oelke said. “Basically the parent was reported to be verbally aggressive toward a 15-year-old linesman (sic) and when the head referee intervened he was pushed by the parent. It is being investigated by the BC Minor Hockey Association.”
Oelke says it’s important to keep in mind that in minor hockey, the referees and linesmen are often only slightly older than the kids on the ice.
“Many rinks have adopted a yellow card policy where zero abuse by fans/parents will be accepted,” he said. “I understand the parent in this matter was banned from the rink in Rossland. Our file is concluded.”
David Flanagan, West Kootenay Lead for BC Hockey, says he was made aware of the incident shortly after it happened and immediately corresponded with all officials involved.
“I have gathered statements from all the officials that were affected by this incident and I have been corresponding with Greater Trail Minor Hockey providing them with written statements from the officials involved,” Flanagan said, clarifying a full investigation is underway by GTMHA.
“Further action includes liaising with Greater Trail Minor Hockey, West Kootenay Minor Hockey, and BC Hockey to ensure the appropriate discipline will be handed down to this parent, implementing steps to prevent a future similar situation, and communicating with all the officials involved to make sure they are supported after this negative experience.”
Still visibly upset but stressing this kind of conduct will not be tolerated in Greater Trail, the ref asked not to be identified. He plans on staying active as an official, and was concerned about whispers between the young players themselves.
“I am still going to be a referee and this guy might have more kids so I don’t want to be , ‘that (expletive) who got my dad in trouble.”
The bottom line, he stresses, is that this was a Trail dad at a Trail game with Trail officiating.
“And no one came forward to help,” he said. “So I think the punishment is not enough. He will be banned for the remainder of the year at minimum for all greater Trail minor hockey events.
“But I think his kid and all of those parents should be banned for the rest of the season as well,” he concluded.
“Because really, is this something we want in hockey?”