West Shore hockey parents have been well behaved.
That was the message from Harold Bloomenthal, president of the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey, in the wake of potential action by Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association to disallow parents from watching games within earshot of on-ice participants for one weekend.
Bloomenthal said incidents of verbal abuse of officials and others from hockey parents, have been a topic of discussion across the Island, but those in the Western Communities have not been the problem.
“The citizens around here can be congratulated for not causing this trouble at all. We frankly have not had a disciplinary meeting with a parent all this year, or last year, not at all,” he said. “I still support the initiative, because I don’t want it to creep its way back into this world. What our governing body is trying to do is make it clear how unacceptable some of that stuff is.”
The Island association sent a letter to member groups last week threatening to enact a spectator-free weekend, likely during the playoffs, to send a strong message that abuse at the rinks is not acceptable.
An association board member at Juan de Fuca for 17 years and president for the last five, Bloomenthal has seen some of the best and worst behaviours. The latter has ranged from parents verbally berating referees and coaches, to parents yelling at their own children on the ice.
Among the hundreds of parents attached to the approximately 800 hockey players in the local minor hockey system, a small handful have been problematic in the past, he said.
“I’ve seen people who are completely rational get irrational at a hockey game. Their kid is hurt, so they are yelling,” he said. “It has not been a specific problem for our association right now.”
On the Island, a number of young up-and-coming referees are mixed in with adult officials, in part as a mentorship model to facilitate their growth through the system. Referees at the brunt of abuse may be only a handful of years older than the hockey players they’re overseeing, Bloomenthal said, with some as young as 12 or 13 years old. Because of this, turnover in the refereeing ranks is high, he said, and something he hopes to curtail as education and understanding grows.
“It is a concern we all need to share, because it is one big hockey community on the Island. Stuff like that happening anywhere is unacceptable. Hockey is a beautiful game and kids love it for whatever faults it has. We have to work at things one step at a time.”
Bloomenthal said the Juan de Fuca association has been working in partnership with the Island organization to focus on stamping bad spectator behaviour out before it starts. That includes working with the players and coaches in addition to parents and referees.
“It’s not because of bad people; it’s an emotional sport. We are trying to work through it with education with families, players and our refs.
“It’s a game that is fantastic, it is meant to be enjoyed,” he said. “(There will) always be a passion by Canadians around the game of hockey.”