From Behind the Glass: Life as a Referee Parent
By: Dan Stackhouse
Firstly, I would like to thank Matt Bell for telling his story. He is wise beyond his years.
When he spoke about the 14-year official who has been only reffing for about a year or so, it was like he was speaking directly about my son.
My son started reffing last season at the age of 13. Being a relatively quiet kid who avoids confrontation it was a surprise when he said he wanted to start reffing hockey. He loved playing the game - but reffing? That’s a whole other matter.
My son has embraced his job as an official. Last year he officiated over 160 games. This season to date he has officiated 125 games since Sep 2018.
In the past couple of weeks, we have had a few tournaments in the Greater Saint John, NB area. For there is nothing better than watching hockey at all levels, especially when you have no horse in the race. During a tournament weekend my son officiates several games at several levels.
I have never been the parent who drops their kid off and says see you in an hour. Generally, I will find my spot along the glass and watch the game.
I don’t say too much to others but I do a lot of listening and hear the usual “HEY DUMBASS, THAT’S OFFSIDE”, “WHAT THE HELL?? THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN 5 MINS!”, “OPEN YOUR EYES”. All of those being directed to a 14-yr. old kid who is learning the game as much as their player on the ice. Not very many people know who I am. However most importantly my son knows I am there to support him and have his back if need be.
A couple weeks ago I was in my usual spot, along the glass sipping my coffee. It was another weekend tournament going on. The two teams (Peewee B) were from NB just not our area. Most games in here are 4-man system as much as possible, 2 refs and 2 linesmen.
Almost right in front of me, a player was hauled down, both players went down. They both were up and back in the game, neither my son nor the other ref made a call.
About three feet away from me was a rather vocal dad. He was yelling the usual comments. I didn’t ask but I am sure he was a level 5 ref (aren’t they all)?
This guy didn’t stop with the usual. He slapped the glass and yelled towards my son “YOU F...... ASSHOLE!".
At that moment in time I had 101 things run through my head as a response to this guy. I stepped a few side steps and was now beside him.
I told him that kid who he was yelling at was my 14 yr old son.
I asked who his player was so I could pay the same respect towards him. I told him my voice is extremely loud and people would hear me in the parking lot.
His face kind of turned white with embarrassment and he apologized.
He said he got caught up in the game. I reminded him that the kids on the ice are Peewee B players and from what I could see, none of them were heading to the NHL.
"It is only a game". He apologized again and eventually relocated his standing spot to the other side of the rink. No, I didn’t hear his voice again.
My son came off the ice that game and said he didn’t want to wear the bands in the next game, it wasn’t worth it. I told him he knew the rules and how to do his job very well. I made it a life lesson and told him he will meet many people in life who will have lots to say about how he does his job. As an adult if I took things personal, I wouldn’t have the job I have. Sometimes we have to focus on the positives not get hauled down by the negatives. He had his break and was back on the ice for the next game.
Sadly, I could give many examples of the same conduct from not only spectators but coaches as well. The quicker these people figure out the real reward of coaching and watching their kids play is seeing their child’s skills develop from the first day on ice to the final buzzer of the season.
The bright side? This past weekend we had another tournament in Saint John. On three different occasions during three different games I heard parents reminding others the kids are on the ice to have fun, that’s it is only a game and they aren’t heading for the NHL anytime soon. Hopefully this trend will continue.
The answer? Support, support and more support.
We are lucky here in Saint John. We have very strong leadership from our RIC Robert Keays right down the line to officiating supervisors and evaluators. Our officials are not put into situations they are suitable nor comfortable working. Our senior officials give back to the minor hockey and act as mentors for our up and coming officials.
Most of all instead of dropping off and leaving our young officials at the rink, bring a coffee, find a seat and enjoy the game. Like the players, young refs like to have an audience too.