Abusive coaches, parents, and players have led to a severe referee shortage in Massachusetts as officials have left en masse both before and in the early portion of the season.
Massachusetts Hockey, which governs youth hockey in the state, said this week that “a large number of referees” have either not returned this season or left since the season started, leaving them with a “severe referee shortage.”
According to the organization, it is down approximately 900 officials from before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, with some games forced to be canceled due to a lack of referees.
“While we are still investigating and trying to determine the basis, our initial investigation has determined that the biggest reason cited is the abuse they receive from coaches, parents, and players,” Massachusetts Hockey President Bob Joyce stated.
“The constant harassment over calls over the split-second decisions they are making on the ice has taken its toll. Massachusetts Hockey is down 900 officials from pre-COVID season numbers to now.”
Joyce said that there have already been multiple “troubling incidents” this year involving said parents, coaches, and players.
“Since this season started, we have already experienced several troubling incidents, including: a referee needing a police escort after an 8U game; a young female referee quitting in the middle of a set of games due to parent harassment; a parent coming on the ice trying to get at a referee; and a parent entering the scorer’s box to berate a player on the other team for a penalty against her child,” he noted.
“These are just a few examples of what is going on every weekend.”
In response to the ill will toward referees, Massachusetts Hockey is calling for steps to be taken “in a positive manner to reverse this,” noting that the referees being heckled are everyday people who are working a side job.
“Our officials are everyday people just like our parents, who have real jobs but try to work a side job to help our kids play a game, earn a little extra income and give back to the game,” Joyce stated.
“It would appear that many people, for whatever reason, have lost this understanding and somehow believe that our officials need to be at the same level as what they see on TV at the college or NHL level.”
Joyce said anyone found abusing officials, including players, coaches or parents, will be subject to discipline, including suspension or being banned from games.
“Just as a player will turn a puck over or a coach make a wrong decision during a game, we realize that our officials can miss calls that may or may not have an impact on a game,” Joyce continued. "That said - this does not give anyone (parents, players, coaches) the right to abuse them.”
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