Two referees were hospitalized after a post-game attack following a New Jersey high school hockey game that saw a player also leave via ambulance.   Sunday afternoon’s game between Manalapan and Howell High Schools ended in a 1-1 tie, with the greater concern being what transpired after the buzzer sounded.

Howell vs. ManalapanThe dispute started during the game,” said the release from the Howell Police Department. “Following the game, one parent approached two referees regarding the dispute. At this time a physical altercation began and a [fourth] subject became involved in the altercation.

“The four subjects involved in the physical altercation sustained minor visible injuries (This included red marks and bruising to facial area, bloodshot eyes, bruised hand) and complaints of pain. Two of the involved subjects refused medical attention and the other two subjects were transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center.”

The incident is still under investigation, with no update from the Howell Police Department as of Monday afternoon.

The Asbury Park Press reports that “two people went into the referees’ locker room after the tied game ended and started to fight two referees,” according to the Howell Police. 

TSN’s Frank Seravalli talked to Brown, who recapped the incident:

Brown, 45, says he was untying his skates in the referee’s locker room at Howell Ice World when two parents barged in. The door swung open in the small closet-sized room and clocked Brown in the head, leaving him with a lump above his ear. The parent grabbed him, pinned him against the wall and began throwing punches. When Brown and his officiating partner finally got the situation under control and removed the parent from the room, a second parent entered to further the attack.

Brown, who has officiated at multiple IIHF World Championships including the 2010 gold medal game in Germany, left the arena on a stretcher. He and his partner were treated at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, according to the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, and later released with head, neck, and shoulder injuries.

“I think as an official, we all expect stuff to be said, but I’m not sure you ever expect anything like that,” Brown said. “I was attacked in what is supposed to be a safe zone.”

Prior to the postgame attack, Manalapan head coach Brad Gardner called it an uneventful game, for the most part. 

“You know, there were a couple penalties, but nothing that I saw of crazy significance,” Gardner told the Asbury Park Press. “It was a normal high school hockey game until it was over, I guess.”

The game ended in a 1-1 tie, with a Manalapan player suffering a serious injury when he was hit from behind, falling headfirst into the boards. From USA Today

Play was stopped while the team waited for an ambulance, but tensions continued to mount between players, parents and referees, Gardner said. Before the game ended, multiple players were given game misconducts and removed, he added.

Following the incident, Gardner confirmed that the injury suffered by Colligan, a senior captain of the Braves, was a neck sprain and thankfully nothing more serious.

Colligan was treated at the hospital but has since been released. 

“He’s fine,” Gardner told NJ.com. “The doctor diagnosed him with a sprained neck. As soon as the pain subsides and everything else checks out, he’ll be back ready to go. He didn’t have feeling in his extremities for a little while, so it was scary for a little bit.”

Possible Criminal Charges?

Eighteen states – New Jersey is one of them – have criminal laws regarding assaults on sports officials. NJ 2C:44-1 allows for an increase in penalties when “the defendant committed the offense against […] a sports official, athletic coach or manager, acting in or immediately following the performance of his duties or because of the person’s status as a sports official, coach or manager.”

No official charges have been announced against the assailants. 

Lack of Respect

There’s been a growing lack of respect for officials across the hockey world.  High school officials are declining in numbers, as are youth hockey officials in Canada. Some organizations have even resorted to banning parents from games in an attempt to retain order.  This is an issue at all levels, including the NHL, with the recent incident between Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman and linesman Don Henderson. Even the NBA referees have spoken out about increased hostility toward officials. 

“I’ve been around the world and the fact that this happened to me in my own backyard is a travesty,” Brown told TSN. “In a way, I’m glad that it was me – a grown man – and not a 14-year-old kid working or a first-year referee who will walk away and never ref again. I will be back.”

“Every single official is or was affected. This needs to stop. People need to know assaulting officials is wrong and that they will suffer consequences.”