VANCOUVER – Hope teenager Blake Deschenes has been a referee with Hope & District Minor Hockey Association for six years. And while the teams and venues change regularly, he says the story of abuse from parents remains the same.
“I’ve had many experiences with parents that disagree with the way I’ve called a game in every level I’ve officiated at,” says Deschenes in an email interview. “From simple yelling in the stands to threats. I have had parents wait for me outside my dressing room door so that they can berate me with profanities and insults.”
Deschenes, 17, says he expects the list of abuse incidents to continue to grow as he referees games on a regular basis.
Recently, the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association (VIAHA) sent a letter to parents saying they are considering the possibility of a spectator ban due to parents abusing on-ice officials and players during minor hockey games.
Deschenes says one of the most shocking experiences of his refereeing career took place when he was working a “high-level tournament.”
“The away team became extremely confrontational and explained in detail how me and my partners are going nowhere in life, and that we’re more useless than dirt, to clean up what they actually said,” he says. “They got very personal with their insults, and at the end of the game, 10 parents were waiting at the gate we come off at to swear at us and tell us to go die. They followed us all the way to our dressing room.”
“As far as I know of today there was no disciplinary action.”
Jim Humphrey, president of VIAHA said on Monday while it is disappointing to send a letter to parents about their behaviour, 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 said. “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.”
Deschenes says he believes the VIAHA should hold a weekend of games without any spectators allowed in the stands, specifically to show parents what the future may look like.
“I do not, however, believe that this should be a permanent solution,” he adds, “because it isn’t every parent doing this, and if you get rid of the parents completely then you also get rid of the positives like cheering for your team.” In his opinion, this would be a huge loss for the kids that work hard and love the game.
But he knows something has to be done.
“My mother has watched me ref a maximum of seven times in these six years and I ref over 150 to 200 games a season,” he says. “She doesn’t come watch because she can not handle sitting in the stands and watching me take abuse and listen to what these people are saying about me, and to me.”
Deschenes wants parents to remember that referees are somebody’s child too, and they are doing the best job they can.
WATCH: A referee with the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association speaks to Global News’ Jill Krop about his experience on the ice: