By Katherine Dolan
Watching the video online for the first time, Tracy Andrews was horrified.
“Oh my god”, said Andrews. “There is no reason for that to happen. I am shocked that it would ever get that far and that so many people were out on the ice.”
Andrews was watching a recent on-ice incident of two men in black, cornering a referee on the ice and assaulting him. The incident happened at Crossings Ice Centre on Sunday, September 8th in Lethbridge, Alberta. The incident allegedly began with a verbal fight between a 10-year-old player and a referee. The young player supposedly hit the referee twice with his stick and in self-defense, the referee pushed the boy, who fell to the ice. It was after this happened (as seen in the video), that coaches and parents went after the referee, resulting in the Lethbridge police charging two adults with assault. The matter is now in front of the courts.
Andrews was not at the game but as a self-proclaimed ‘Hockey Mom’ with two boys heavily involved in the game, she says it gives hockey and hockey parents a bad name. She admits as a parent she gets emotional during games and parents can get heated. But behavior like that she says is not acceptable.
“My first reaction is what does that teach our children? To me, that is why you are there, which is for them. Respect is a big thing in hockey and any sport. Learning to develop relationships to respect their coaches, teammates, and officials. So what does that teach them when they see that? That’s what bothers me the most. “
Andrews and her husband have been actively involved in the hockey community with both her kids for the past 7 years and have never seen any parent altercations. But she is well aware that it happens.
Keith Hitchcock is the General Manager for the Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association. He was not at the game but was sent the video within one hour of the incident occurring.
“I’ve been in the minor hockey association in Lethbridge for 27 years, and in hockey for 40 and I have never seen an event like this in my life, not on the ice. I’ve seen parent on parent, but I’ve never seen referees attacked,” said Hitchcock. “My first reaction was, here we go.”
Hitchcock says the event held was organized by a private hockey organization in Southern Alberta. He says it was a 3-on-3 hockey tournament that has regularly run for the past 3-4 years. It was a private event not sanctioned by Hockey Canada, which according to Hitchcock, is where part of the problem lies.
“I’ve been doing this job for 12 years now and I have never had an issue with a referee being attacked. This is the problem with private hockey. There is no control. You don’t have to have any certification. You don’t have to have anything to go on the bench (to be a coach) because there are no requirements for it. There are no insurance requirements unless the private person has insurance or something like that but the accountability and certification, there is just nothing required,” said Hitchcock.
The Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association is sanctioned by Hockey Canada and therefore are governed by its rules and regulations. As part of the Hockey Canada mandate, every parent or guardian signing up a child to play hockey must take part in an online training program called ‘Respect In Sport’ before they can even register their child. Coaches all must have proper certification, which includes safety, coaching, and training mandated by Hockey Canada.
Hitchcock isn’t saying for parents not to get involved in private hockey organizations, camps, skills programs or teams. He just wants parents to be aware of what they are signing up for.
“If you are not enforcing the rules, you are going to have incidents like this sometime (s). Now private hockey doesn’t have those rules, they don’t have guidelines to deal with this. That situation has to now be resolved in the courts, not in minor hockey. In our situation, if that happened, we would deal with it and if it still went to court, it still went to court. That is the difference between structured hockey and not structured hockey. I am not saying that they recruit certain people, and I am not saying we don’t have those types of people here, but we have never had an incident like that. Probably because they know there are consequences if there are actions like that,” said Hitchcock.
As for Andrews, her oldest plays in a minor hockey league in Calgary while her youngest is in a private hockey league. She had high praise for both programs, in how they were run, the coaches and the respect she feels is taught in both programs.
“Having a child in a (private) program hands down I believe in that program and as much as I believe in the sanctioned program. I believe in both organizations and I know that if that incident happened, it wouldn’t have been acceptable in either organization,” said Andrews. “Do your research and surround yourself with good people and good families and hold people accountable. We (parents) must hold each other accountable so things like this don’t ever happen again.“