It’s that time of the season when the pressure of playoffs, state tournament, or the frustration of a not-so-successful season translates into tempers that are short and emotions that are high. Over the last 2 weeks there have been 16 reported incidents of abuse of officials. Now I’m not talking about your everyday zero tolerance that for no good reason seems to be acceptable throughout local hockey, I mean police were called, lives threatened and physical confrontations ensued. The culprits included players, coaches and parents.
AHAI records indicate that there is a very noticeable increase in incident and game reports this season. Game reports are filed by an official to report on-ice penalties that incur Game Misconducts or Match penalties. Game reports then go to the AHAI Suspension Committee for review. Players, coaches or teams that incur multiple penalties over a period of time are subject to a review meeting with the Suspension Committee.
An incident report is also filed by the official anytime there is an incident that does not involve an on-ice penalty. Incident reports are designed to notify AHAI and the clubs of potential issues. Incident reports may include a report of an injury to a player, bad rink or ice conditions that make play unsafe, a fight in the stands or maybe a coach threatening an opposing player. But most recently the verbal and/or physical threats towards officials, coach-on-coach or parents against parents has skyrocketed.
I don’t have a reason for this, but I do know it must stop! I don’t think anyone goes into a rink thinking I can’t wait to threaten another person. Sometimes that person is a kid who might be 15 years old. One coach asked me, “How would you feel if some out of control adult were screaming at your kid?” You get the point; bad behavior on anyone’s part, whether players, coaches, administrators or parents is just wrong.
AHAI is considering accepting anonymous videos of zero tolerance behavior. There is discussion on making the videos available through the AHAI e-newsletter, SNAPSHOT and our social media outlets. How many hits do you think those videos would receive? AHAI receives video all the time of on-ice plays that assist in the investigations of on-ice infractions or actions.
What if your team’s fans were videotaped in the stands? Would your team or club show up as a “police blotter” video? AHAI was asked about publishing the incident reports we receive. While that would be possible, it is only one side of the story. There has also been discussion on other ways to curb zero tolerance behavior. Those include the player sitting out the same amount of games for which their parent was suspended, teams or players that exceed a threshold of high penalty games being restricted from state or league playoffs, and clubs that have a high or reoccurring rate of zero tolerance or incident reports having their charters reviewed. All of these are drastic steps, but at this point all are in play and being discussed for implementation.
AHAI puts the onus of administration of each clubs’ conduct on the club itself. Some clubs do a very good job, others do not. How many times have you seen a top coach, a club board member or yellow jacket security person be the source of a zero tolerance issue? Do you notice that certain clubs or teams are more prone to zero tolerance conduct? Nobody wants to report bad behavior from their own team or club. Maybe that is because there is a fear of “retribution” by the club or coach. That’s a lame excuse. All we are doing is enabling this bad conduct that most of us find unacceptable.
Let’s face it, there are going to be badly officiated games. This is no different than a team not playing well or bad coaching decisions that lead to issues on the ice. On almost every penalty call, 50% agree or think it should be “more” and 50% say “how can you call that”!
Officials and most coaches are amateurs who help the games be played. Because we don’t agree with how the games are called, what other fans said, or how the coach treats a player is no reason to have an event escalate to having the authorities involved.
Bottom line, would you want anyone in your family being treated the way these few knuckleheads treat others? This bad conduct drives officials away (especially young ones) and worse, drives players out of the game.
We are all capable of controlling ourselves, but if you witness others that are having difficulty, please report that to your club…or make them a video star!
John Dunne, President ~ Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois