Enough is enough: it’s time hockey takes a hard line with those who abuse amateur referees

Adam Proteau
Erie Otters v London Knights

In the United States, there’s a small chain of theaters that takes a no-nonsense stance against inconsiderate boors who talk and/or text during movies. This makes me feel warm and happy on the inside – but it also incenses me to know that we can demand basic human etiquette for this entertainment experience, but not for hockey.

I’m not talking about instituting a code of conduct for fans attending NHL games. That wouldn’t be tantamount to herding cats, it would be like cats herding cats.

No, I’m talking about the scourge of amateur ice rinks across North America: the referee-abusing, sport-debasing, criminally overzealous hockey parent and/or coach.

The scum of the hockey world was back in the news this week after word broke that the number of Saskatchewan amateur officials plummeted 20 percent – from 200 in 2012 to 160 this year. And why? Because parents and coaches didn’t have the common decency to treat officials like fellow human beings.

If we can confront and shame bullies in other public spaces – schoolyards, the internet (although they often can be confused as the same place) – we sure as hell can identify and ostracize anyone who thinks it’s within their rights to demean and threaten a referee or linesman.

Let me speak directly to these cretins for a moment: Look, I know you think you’re sticking up for your kid or a child you coach when you unload two lungs-full of air on an official. But you’re not doing anybody a scintilla of good.

You’re embarrassing yourself and your child and you’re damaging someone who is officiating not for money or glory, but because they love the sport. You’re demonstrating to everyone within earshot of your obscene squeals that the best way to address an injustice isn’t by overcoming it, but by folding your arms across your chest, sticking out your bottom lip and reprehensibly shifting the blame to a person who doesn’t play for either team.

In short, you’re hurting hockey much more than an official ever could. So either rein in your pathetic ranting or stand outside the arena and ask one of the other parents to provide Twitter play-by-play of the game you’re obviously not emotionally mature enough to watch in person.

If the tone of this message seems overly harsh to you, I don’t care. We’ve tried to go the polite route on this for years now. We’ve tried to connect with you by posting bluntly stated rules about your unacceptable behavior. But it’s still continuing and the reasonable among us have to look at new, more effective methods to control braying and bleating from insensitive oafs whose selfishness knows no bounds.

Some minor hockey associations already have parental codes of conduct as part of their programs. But if that’s not enough, it’s time for guerrilla war tactics on people who won’t change their ways. For instance, maybe sane hockey parents have to start videotaping abusive fans and posting them online in social media forums for their employers to see. Maybe if more people faced repercussions beyond the hockey world for their actions within it, we’d force them to wise up, grow up and shut up.

The choice for amateur hockey is clear: demand more restraint from all participants, or face a future where the number of officials shrinks every year until nobody wants to call a game and subject themselves to this garbage.

Only by getting rude and in the face of people who get their kicks from being rude and in the faces of referees and linesmen will we do the right thing and push them out of a world they don’t deserve to participate in.

I’d rather have zebras making mistakes the ice than a herd of jackasses letting their mouths run amok in the stands.