Every referee has had to deal with shouts from frustrated parents. One organization in Ontario is increasing penalties to those parents, including ejection and possible suspension of the game.
From the Sudbury Star:
Overly intense hockey fans better watch what they say or they could find themselves evicted from the arena. The Northern Ontario Hockey Association is taking a tough stance against abuse of officials by hockey fans. The association has enacted a new rule to try to curb the verbal abuse referees receive. Fans who threaten or use profanity toward an official will be penalized, says Glen Campbell, the association’s director of officials.
“Officials will come to a stationary position, they will point their hand to the fan and then point to the lobby,” Campbell says. “There will be no comments. If the fan doesn’t leave, the referee will go to both benches and explain what is going on. The referee will then put two minutes on the time clock, and if the fan doesn’t leave after that the game will be suspended.”
The rule is new this season, Campbell says.
“It’s a physical and emotional game,” he says. “Refs expect some comments. But as soon there is profanity or threats are made toward an official, then the rule will be enacted.
“Threats like ‘I’m going to meet you in the parking lot after the game,’ or personal comments about their family will no longer be tolerated.”
Campbell says there has been a significant decline in the number of people returning as referees over the past three seasons.
“I’m not saying everyone isn’t returning because of fan abuse, because there are other factors,” he admits. “But the majority of referees not returning is due to excessive fan abuse.
“We don’t know what the answer is and, hopefully, this will work,” says Campbell, who has been reffing for 43 years.
“In 2016 to 2017, we had 625 officials. Last year that number dropped to 592, and this year as of last week we’re only sitting at 482 officials.
“There has to be some consequence. Some officials have removed a fan, but there’s never been any follow-up. This rule will bring some consequence to their actions.”
As with any rule change, it will likely take some time to adjust as an inevitable ejection and game suspension take place. For the officials’ sake, let’s hope the parents are quick learners.