Massachusetts youth hockey officials say they are facing a serious lack of referees, largely due to the recalcitrant behavior of parents, coaches and players at games.
Massachusetts Hockey, the state governing body for youth hockey, said this week that “a large number of umpires” have either not returned this season or gone since the start of the season.
The organization said there were 900 officials fewer than before the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, games even had to be canceled due to a lack of game masters.
The main reason cited by officials for non-return is the abuse they experience from coaches, parents and players, Massachusetts Hockey said.
“Since the beginning of this season we have seen several worrying incidents including: a referee who needed police escort after an 8U game; a young referee who stopped in the middle of a series of games due to parent harassment.” ; one parent gets on the ice and tries to get hold of an umpire; and a parent entering the marker box to scold a player on the other team for punishing their child. These are just a few examples of what is going on every weekend, “Massachusetts Hockey President Bob Joyce said in a statement Tuesday.
With the pool of referees dwindling, the organization is taking steps to reverse the trend, Joyce said.
“Our officials are just ordinary people like our parents who have a real job but are trying to have a side job to help our children play a game, make a little extra income and give something back to the game,” said he. “It seems that a lot of people, for whatever reason, have lost that understanding and somehow believe that our officials have to be on par with what they see on television at the college or NHL level.”
He said anyone found abusing officials, including players, coaches or parents, would be disciplined, including a suspension or ban.
“Again we ask you to exercise patience and good judgment,” said Joyce. “The children are all watching us and following our example. We must all do more to respect the officers and keep them at work.”