Hockey parents who swear and yell at coaches, referees and players during their kids’ games will be handed stiffer penalties next season by the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association, which is taking aim at “rink rage” and inspiring officials across the country.
Jim Humphrey, president of the association, said he will recommend that his association’s 21-member board require all parents to take a mandatory online course offered by Hockey Canada and the Respect Group, which was co-founded by former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy.
In the fall, parents who continue their “overzealous” behaviour after being banned from games will have their children cut from a team, Humphrey said. One father’s money was recently refunded after he had already been bounced from a previous association, meaning his 10-year-old son can no longer play, he said.
Humphrey said he received widespread support after eight parents were given a one-game suspension for hurling abuse at referees, often teens themselves, who quit in frustration. Five more parents had to sit out the next game for repeat offences.
“I’m hopeful that the mentality of our game will change somewhere, because this has been a longtime issue, this booing and hissing and throwing stuff at the game officials.”
Humphrey, a former referee, said up to 60 refs stepped off the ice recently because of the toxic environment parents created.
He said under a new policy, parents — step-parents included — must sign a code-of-conduct agreeing to behave themselves at games, where F-bombs from mothers and fathers in the stands can fly faster than pucks on the ice.
Don Delosse, whose son plays for the South Delta Thrashers, a peewee team of 11- and 12-year-olds, said he was threatened last week by a father who was angry after his son’s team lost. “He turned to me and started mouthing off. I told him, ‘It’s people like you who are causing parents to be banned from rinks.’ He said he didn’t give a blank, blank, blank. And he said, ‘Why don’t you come over here?’ ”
Delosse said he’s even heard parents telling their kids to “take out” players in order to win. “Some of the parents are just nuts,” Delosse said, adding that while kids often brush off a loss and chat with opposing players after a game, parents hold grudges and turn nasty.
He said the mayhem from misbehaving parents often begins when kids turn nine or 10 and have developed the skills to start playing on teams called Atom Development or Atom AAA in some parts of the country.
Parents who believe their child’s NHL prospects are being crushed by lack of ice time, poor calls and other players’ skills take their frustrations out from the stands, Humphrey said.
Scott Bannister, a coach with the Lewisville Minor Hockey Association in New Brunswick, said a zero-tolerance policy and the mandatory Respect in Sport online course haven’t made a difference to the most irate parents. Bannister said he contacted Humphrey to offer support after hearing about the Vancouver Island association’s decision to boot abusive parents.
He said barring parents would be difficult to enforce at the large multiple-rink arena where he coaches. Instead, Bannister, who is involved in minor hockey year round, said he has moved to remove children whose parents continue with their verbal attacks and non-stop complaints against officials.
“I have no problem telling them that I won’t pick your son or daughter because you’re crazy,” he said, adding he refused to take the best goalie on one team to an all-star game in the U.S. last year because of his mother’s intolerable attitude.