Citing Abuse, MA Hockey Officials Quitting En Masse

October 7, 2021 / Athletic AdministrationCoachingHockey
As of October 5, Massachusetts youth hockey referees have lost roughly half of their officials from a year ago due to ongoing harassment and abuse from parents, coaches, and players.

Typically, the Association for Referees of Massachusetts Hockey employs anywhere from 1,700 to 1,800 officials. However, according to a statement from the association, they’ve lost 900 referees this year.

officialsWGBH News spoke with Bob Joyce, president of Massachusetts Hockey, and said poor behavior by parents, coaches, and players is nothing new, but more referees are deciding not to return this year.

“It’s just a few bad apples, really, that kind of spoil the bunch,” Joyce told GBH News. “99.9% of our parents are great, but it just takes a few that create uncomfortable situations in the ranks — abuse of officials, coaches harassing officials, kind of not understanding that, just like coaches and players who make mistakes, so do officials.”

Some games have already been canceled as a result of the shortage and the remaining referees are being asked to pick up the slack as the infusion of new officials has been slow in recent years.

Citing one incident Joyce told GBH News that one referee was scheduled to officiate three straight games, only to be subjected to poor behavior from multiple parents and a coach.

“And at the end of the first game, she just packed up her stuff and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. It’s just not worth my time and effort,’” Joyce said.

Below is an excerpt from Massachusetts Hockey’s statement.

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; parent entering​ the scorer’s box to berate a player on the other team for a penalty against her child. These are just a few examples of what is going on every weekend.

The referee pool is dwindling, and we need to take steps in a positive manner to reverse this. 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. 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.

To read the full report from WGBH News, click here. To read the full statement from Massachusetts Hockey, click here