A Zero Tolerance Policy was instituted in 1990 because parents and coaches were driving new officials out of the game. New referees are assigned mite and squirt games. As they gain experience (3-5 years) they move up to higher level games. Virtually all of the new officials in the 1990-95 era quit before reaching their 3rd year of officiating. The reason most cited was the abusive comments they received from parents and coaches. Thus, we find ourselves with a new crop of officials starting over year after year at the lower levels with no experience other than playing the game and attending an officiating seminar.
Hockey is in somewhat of an officiating crisis occurring every weekend. There are more and more games, more tournaments; all levels of hockey from house through High School. The unfortunate fact is that the officiating ranks have not kept up with the growth of hockey. When you ask youth referees in the seminars if they play for any team, virtually ALL raise their hand. So now we have more and more games with no increase in the numbers of officials coupled with the fact that the youth officials have games of their own on weekends and are not always available.
We all know the officials are kids, non-professionals, but somehow some parents seem to forget that fact when yelling at the officials for whatever call they think should have been or should not have been made. I recently attended a squirt game. One father was particularly “into the game” and quite honestly, was the only one making a fool of himself in the stands. Chiding the officials for what he thought was off sides, mocking the officials when they did make an off sides call, encouraging his son to hit players after the whistle, screaming “that puck was in, you SOB’s took the goal away”. He was 120 feet away from the net in the stands (the official was on the goal line with a perfect view). However, the best of all was after a miraculous save by the goaltender – the puck was clearly in the crease, not in the net before the goalie froze it – “That puck was in” over and over and over. Really?
It’s people like this parent that make officials leave the ranks of hockey. There are barely enough officials wanting to get up early on a Sunday to officiate a squirt house game. What if they quit? Who is going to do their games?
Before you berate an official, remember they are only kids doing a kids game. Someday your kid may want to referee. Would you want to hear abuse directed at your child from the stands?
My advice is to cheer, have fun and let your kid have fun, respect the other parents around you trying to enjoy the game, quit trying to live out your athletic fantasies through your squirt player and be part of the solution for retaining and attracting officials.
An Old Referee