CALGARY – While cases of unruly behaviour at hockey games is nothing new, officials with Sport Calgary and Hockey Calgary say there’s more tension than usual at Calgary rinks lately, leading to speculation Alberta’s spiralling economy could be a factor.
There are a growing number of reports of confrontations between players, coaches, fans and referees.
Whatever the case may be, Sport Calgary says it has zero tolerance for it.
Catriona Le May Doan, a parent and former Olympian now working with Sport Calgary says she has seen it firsthand.
“I see it, I feel it,” she said. “On my son’s opposing team (I saw) a coach that was kicked off for spitting at a ref, throwing gum at a ref and giving the finger to a ref and again, these refs are 14, 15 years old. So when my eight-year-old came home saying ‘mommy did you see that coach give us the finger?’…that’s disturbing. It’s gone beyond sport.”
But the perceived increase in hostility at the rink has some people speculating on whether Alberta’s ailing economy is playing a role.
Kevin Kobelka, the executive director of Hockey Calgary, says stressed-out parents might be spending much more time than usual at the rink. Combine that with the already emotional playoffs getting underway and things are really heating up.
“If people aren’t working right now – they have more time to be at the arena, they have more time to be involved, more time to get upset and create more tensions on that,” Kobelka said.
“Perhaps that it is the economy, but at any point, it doesn’t matter what the outside circumstances are. Bad behaviour on and off the playing field is not acceptable,” Le May Doan said.
One player reported having racial slurs hurled at him on the ice and shot a puck down the ice in frustration because the referee didn’t call it, because he said he didn’t hear it.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right and the aftermath of the alleged slur, the alleged comment – is what was penalized,” Kobelka said.
Tense moments like that have put refs in tough positions and lead to verbal abuse.
“Our referees do the very best and they try to catch every call they can. Do they miss some? Yes they do. But they can only make calls on what they witness and what they hear or see. They can’t make calls on hear say,” Kobelka said.
“I’ve been in environments when competition is extremely high, that still should never lead to disrespect,” Le May Doan said.
Hockey Calgary is taking another look at the ‘Respect in Sport’ program that is mandatory for parents to take if their child is playing hockey in Calgary, to try and address the issues.
“Should we be re-certifying that course, should it be something that they take every three years, every four years to have another introspective look at what’s going on. I think all of us need to continue to be educated,” Kobelka said. “We need to take a step back, as coaches and as parents and as people that are at the game and say, what’s the real reason we’re here.”
The Respect in Sport Activity Leader/Coach/Parent Program is to train people to recognize, understand and respond to issues of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD).
“The values of sport need to shine through,” Le May Doan said. “It’s the kids who are suffering.”
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