Respect in Hockey: Respecting Our Referees

Yelling is no longer the only thing youth sports officials have to be concerned about

It’s a disappointing development for the game we all love. Hot on the heels of the OMHA’s recent launch of its “Respect in Hockey” video campaign, two referees were assaulted in Howell, New Jersey after a high school hockey game.

“The 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.”

We hate to see it, but hostility towards officials has been on the rise lately. Even referees in organizations as high as the NHL and NBA are speaking out about it. Not surprisingly, the number of officials in youth hockey across Canada is dwindling.

Let’s take a minute to think about what that means to our kids playing hockey today: If there are no referees, there is no youth hockey.

At the Clarington Recreational Hockey League, we’re about skills development–not just for our players, but for our officials, too. It’s imperative we remember that some of our referees are new to officiating. They are still learning in their roles, and they are going to make mistakes – just as anyone learning a job will. We see it as our job to provide them with the opportunity and guidance they need to grow into the kinds of officials we want to see out there on the ice. But without respect for their authority today, do we have the right to expect them to stick around long enough to be tomorrow’s leaders?

We recently shared a post on our Facebook page from the Farmington Youth Hockey Association that addressed yelling at referees. In it, they said, “We’re focusing on getting our kids to learn the game and when you … yell at refs, you are teaching them to “defy authority.” – Yelling at a ref in a hockey game is no different than talking back to a police officer during a traffic stop. It’s not a lesson to teach our kids.”

Respect is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in hockey. That means players, coaches, bench staff, parents, friends and fans. At no point should anyone involved in hockey feel that they are in anything other than a safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take centre stage. That is the fundamental code which everyone who loves hockey should live by.

Feature image credit: mark6mauno