Parents whose children are beginning minor hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador will be required to take a one-hour online course on how to behave at the arena.
According to a CBC report, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has initiated the program in order to cut down on incidents involving parents verbally berating players and officials on the ice. Hockey NL president Jack Lee figures it can't hurt to try:
"We're not going to stop it 100 per cent, but we think by doing this, it's a step in the right direction to make sure that people understand what the game is all about — fun."
For the coming season, the once-voluntary online course is limited to parents of new players in the system. Beginning next season, it will be mandatory for every parent of a minor hockey player in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Verbal abuse and violence involving irate hockey parents has become a major issue across Canada and around the world. Videos of such incidents are becoming more prevalent on YouTube:
NHL linesman Vaughan Rody recently spoke out about his concerns, telling QMI's Paul Friesen that parents are crossing the line more frequently than ever - and young referees bear most of the brunt:
“These kids have to be protected. They’re just kids. They’re doing the best job they can. Just because you’re wrong doesn’t give anybody the right to threaten you, push you, slash you or denounce you.”
Rody was in attendance for his son Bryson's first game as a referee. Vaughan watched in disgust as the 12-year-old was given a vicious tongue-lashing by an angry parent whose son played for the losing side.
The Globe and Mail's Hayley Mick recently tackled the referee abuse topic as it pertains to youth sports on the whole, suggesting that half of all new Canadian referees and umpires quit almost immediately due to verbal abuse or worse. The report goes on to say that some youth leagues have instituted measures designed to protect players and referees from abuse, including the presence of "field marshals" at soccer games.
As for Hockey NL's bold initiative, Lee said the feedback has been mostly positive.