Taking passion too far

In today’s minor hockey leagues, why do parents mistreat officials and players?

^Canadians are passionate about their hockey.

But sometimes parents of young children can take their passion for hockey too far, yelling at referees and players, behaving in an inappropriate manner.

In light of recent incidents across B.C. and the wrapping up of the hockey season, the Capital News asked members of the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association why they think some parents behave inappropriately during hockey games.

Head coach of the association Quintin Laing said there’s a connection to the game for parents, but he hasn’t had to ask a parent to leave or had any incidents in his year as a coach.

“It’s where you’re born. You’re from Canada, you’re passionate about the game. I think it’s just a feeling that comes out when we’re watching the game,” he said, noting that most parents offer positive encouragement.

Overall, Kelowna Minor Hockey association referees agree that bad parent behaviour is not an issue in Kelowna, but they have a few ideas on why parents take things too far.

For the 2016-2017 hockey season, head referee Gord Hynes said about six parents had to be asked to leave the stands, out of around 1,300 games in a season.

He’s been called every name in the book as an official, but verbal abuse is not limited to hockey. Hynes said he sees yelling and abuse towards officials in other sports as well and added social media has made it more noticeable with hockey.

Dedicated referee Kelly McKenzie who comes from Edmonton, has been an official for 23 years and has had experiences of parents who take cheering too far.

“It’s parents I think living vicariously through their kids. They see their kids as their meal ticket,” he said.

Hockey is an expensive sport. In minor hockey, parents spend $400 to $500 to play recreational hockey and between $700 to $900 for rep in registration fees. The price does not include travel expenses and accommodations. To join a hockey academy, it typically costs more than $30,000 a season per player.

The chances of becoming an NHL legend are slim, however. Since the turn of the century, only two members from the Central Okanagan, Josh Gorges and Justin Schultz played in the NHL.

Dave “Mac” McClellan has been involved with the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association since 1978 and he believes parents become more invested in children because of how expensive hockey is as well as the lack of accountability with players and parents, who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.

The most verbal parents, McClellan finds in Tiers 2 and 3.

“I don’t think they recognize how small of a fish they are,” he said.

The officials say coaches are responsible for controlling the game, not the referees.

“The coach is the guy that manages the game,” said McClellan. “We are only there to access the game. Their responsibility of the game is a lot greater than ours.”

Less friction between parents and coaches lies with proper training of young officials.

The hockey association has introduced headsets to allow experienced officials to guide young refs through a game.

“I definitely agree with the referees that you talked to. It is up to the coach to control the game, not the ref. Coaches must hold their players accountable for their actions on the ice,” said Laing. “Usually, if a coach is calm and well mannered behind the bench, his or her players will behave that way on the ice. When a coach becomes too loud and emotional behind the bench that’s when control of the game is usually lost. Hockey is a very emotional game but it is up to the coach to control his or her emotions and that will help with control of the game.”

As a parent and a coach Diano Zol agrees with Laing, saying he hasn’t seen a lot of bad behaviour from parents and says he thinks it’s more prominent with hockey because it’s the country’s national sport.

“A lot of it is dreams of kids making it to higher levels,” he said.

The Kelowna Minor Hockey Association lists on its website a code of conduct which is to be expected from parents.

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