A minor hockey referee from Steinbach says there is no place in the sport for coaches or fans who threaten referees. Riley Kielich has been a ref for 12 years and says he has never encountered what happened to two teenage referees in Ste. Anne in November where a coach allegedly threatened their lives. He notes these cases are rare but when they happen, it's important for minor hockey associations to take a strong stand.
"At that point, I would say it's really important with situations like this that governing bodies like Hockey Manitoba or Eastman Minor Hockey or whichever it might be, get involved and send a clear message that there's no place for that in hockey and that it's not to be a part of the game."
Police investigated the incident in Ste. Anne. The coach has been charged and will appear in court in Steinbach next week.
Kielich says coaches and parents need to remember a few things before lashing out at officials.
"Some of these officials are as young as 13-years-old. That's when you can start refereeing. Some might be doing their first game. They're learning, they're not high-level officials, they're not professional referees. Always remember that anytime they're on the ice, just like all the players and the coaches, these aren't professional athletes, these aren't professional referees. And, the other thing, there are always going to be children watching. If children or other spectators see that it's okay for a parent or authority figure to be yelling at a referee, they might be inclined to do so themselves."
Kielich adds it's also very important for referees to keep lines of communication open with players and coaches.
"Some people want to talk, some people want to be heard. Hockey is a passionate game. There's always going to be tempers rising, frustrations hitting tipping points, but I think it's important, as referees, that we keep an open line of communication to avoid these situations. But, sometimes these situations are just unavoidable."
Kielich says the job of a hockey referee is to make judgment calls in a fast-paced environment under the scrutiny of coaches and fans. He says people will not always agree with a call and that's why open lines of communication are so important because, often, people just want to be heard.