An average night at the Rosedale Arena turned ugly last month when an on-ice brawl broke out between spectators and referees, and a symbolic protest was staged over ice time. But the city isn't saying how the situation is being handled, and some say city staff are dragging their heels.
It happened on Feb. 17 during a Rosedale Minor Hockey midget division playoff game between the Kings and the Panthers. At the end of the game, two people — reportedly relatives of a player — stormed onto the ice to confront the referees.
'I'm not sure of any job where you can show up and drag someone out from behind their desk or heckle them at their door.'—Joe Lampkin, referee-in-chief
One man can be seen shoving and grabbing a linesman in the video above, which was obtained by CBC Hamilton from a parent of a youth who played in the game directly afterward. Players in this division are typically 15 to 17 years old.
Linesman John Tluczek told CBC Hamilton he was shocked to see people coming after him on the ice.
"I've never seen anything like it," Tluczek, a 14-year veteran referee, said.
He says tempers flared at the end of the game when he tried to restrain a player after he drove another player into the boards. "I had to jump in there and break it up," he said. "Then all of a sudden grandpa and the mother are on the ice."
Police were called to the arena, but no charges were laid and no one was arrested, says Const. Claus Wagner. "The complainant himself was fine with not pressing charges," Wagner said. "They were fine with them just being spoken to."
But Tluczek isn't okay with the incident simply falling under the radar. "The city should ban them," he said.
But the city won't tell the public what, if any, disciplinary action has been taken. They also won't say who was involved.
Ann Lamanes, communications officer for the city, says recreation staffers are "aware of the incident" and dealing with it under the city's Zero Tolerance Policy, which can be read in full here.
According to the policy, "aggressive approaches or physical striking of another individual" are not acceptable and come with a minimum two-month suspension from all city recreational properties and facilities. The city's director of culture and recreation can extend that suspension if he chooses.
"[We] won't be able to comment any further on the specifics of the ongoing investigation, nor would we release the results in detail upon conclusion, as per our standard process," Lamanes said in an email.
'Referees don't get paid enough to get treated like this'—Dan Rosser, president of the Rosedale Minor Hockey Association
Dan Rosser, president of the Rosedale Minor Hockey Association, says he feels city staffers have been dragging their feet on an issue that "should have been dealt with immediately.
"I don't care what's going on — unless it's something terrible, you don't come on the ice," Rosser said. "It's ridiculous."
"Referees don't get paid enough to get treated like this."
But the on-ice brawl wasn't the only contentious incident that took place that night. Because of the fight and subsequent police investigation, the next game on the schedule between the Sabres and the Nordiques was pushed back by about half an hour.
Referees ended the second game early in the third period citing curfew violations, Rosser says. Players were told they had to get off the ice to make way for the next game, which prompted some parents to tell their kids to stay on the ice anyway, blocking the Zamboni.
That resulted in a string of suspensions for some players on the Nordiques team, effectively ending their season — something Nordiques coach Norm Jackson says is too extreme.
"The bottom line here is that this is very heavy-handed in the case of a peaceful demonstration," Jackson said. "Now we have to plead our case in front of two representatives who were not even there."
'No help from the city'
Parents of the suspended players are scheduled to meet with city staff to discuss the incident. The city will not comment on these hearings.
"We're getting no help from the city," Jackson said. As many of the players on his team are 16 or 17 years old, this may be their last chance to play house league hockey," he said.
"I have one case already where one of my kids wants to try out for high school hockey but can't, because he could be arrested if he enters a city run rink," Jackson said. "This kid has not had his meeting yet, but has already been presumed guilty — as are the remainder of the kids that have been named."
But Rosser says there are other more effective ways to protest rather than blocking the ice.
"Holding the association hostage is probably not the best way to make your point," he said, adding that house league games get "curfewed" all the time — be it because of injury, fights, or teams that aren't ready to play.
"That's life," he said. "It isn't always going to go smoothly."
Code of conduct needed, refs say
These incidents illustrate the need for a code of conduct that all parents, coaches and players need to sign and follow, says Rosedale Minor Hockey Association referee-in-chief Joe Lampkin.
"Some of the behavior and the way we are treated is unbelievable for house league hockey," he said.
Lampkin has spent 30 years as a player, coach and referee in the Rosedale system. He says a code of conduct could go a long way towards curbing the "abusive behavior" he often sees at rinks around the city.