Amateur hockey league mulls spectator ban due to disruptive parents

WATCH: Overzealous parents and coaches have given minor hockey a bad name, but you know things are getting worse when one association is thinking about banning weekend spectators altogether. Kylie Stanton explains where it’s being proposed and why.

VANCOUVER – “The issue of spectators abusing on-ice officials and players during minor hockey games has become such a serious issue that VIAHA Executive Committee members are considering a ‘Spectator Free Weekend’.”

That sentence is the beginning of a letter sent to parents in the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association (VIAHA) following a number of incidents involving players’ parents abusing the young officials and players on the ice.

“In this scenario access to the “cold” area of all arenas [where the stands are located] on Vancouver Island District would be restricted to players, on and off ice officials, team officials, MHA Presidents, game supervisor, VIAHA Officers and Staff during minor hockey games,” the letter reads.
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“Referees would be instructed not to start games until all spectators have left the cold area and/or to stop the game should spectators access the arena during the game. Should spectators refuse to comply, the referees would have the teams leave the playing surface, thus cancelling the game.”

Jim Humphrey, president of VIAHA says while this is disappointing to send out, it has become a necessity.

“This is not a new problem, this is an issue that has been going on for many many many years,” he says. “We’ve tried other avenues to get the parents to support and tried to get the parents to understand that it is just a game, it’s a minor hockey game, and we need to be positive for the cheering.”

“But none of it has seemed to work.”

WATCH: VIAHA president Jim Humphrey speaks to Global News‘ Jill Krop.

Humphrey says they have already had to cancel games this year due to the loss of officials who oversee the games. “It’s unfortunate that some parents don’t seem to grasp that, even having in their views, a not a very good official is better than having no official at all, because no official means their child is out of the game.”

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In the letter, Humphrey states the majority of parents and other fans are supportive and positive, however a minority feel they have the right to verbally abuse and harass the young people, most only a little older than the players in the games they are officiating.

“The vindictiveness is resulting in a loss of both promising young officials and senior officials alike, as well as making the game difficult for the players to have fun,” Humphrey says in the letter.

If the parents cannot cease this behaviour, VIAHA will have no option but to ban all spectators over a weekend to show people what the future of their games may look like.

“I received an email today from a parent out of Cowichan Valley, which is Duncan, [saying] it’s his god-given right to let officials on the ice know that they’re doing a terrible job,” says Humphrey. “And no one’s ever going to stop him from doing that. What do you do when you’re up against an adult such as that? The kid that’s on the ice, 15 years old, trying to do the best job he can and you’ve got this 40-something adult up in the stand who thinks it’s his right to verbally abuse that child, 13, 14, 15 year old kid that’s on the ice.”

WATCH: A referee with the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association speaks to Global News’ Jill Krop about his experience on the ice:

Humphrey says they hope they never have to act on this letter but if things don’t change, they will be putting these measures in place.

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WATCH: Wayne McNeil, from Respect in Sports, joins Global News‘ Jill Krop from Calgary, to talk about parents and children keeping the peace while enjoying playing organized sports.

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