An 18-year-old referee assaulted during a youth hockey game in Stonewall says a message from an NHL linesman has helped him decide not to hang up the whistle.
Scott Miskiewicz was in charge of a game between the Stonewall Blues and Lake Manitoba First Nation on March 30.
It ultimately had to be stopped and RCMP called after it erupted in fights on the ice and in the stands. Police said Miskiewicz was also assaulted by a 14-year-old player.
It is also alleged that a Lake Manitoba player shot a puck at Miskiewicz during a stoppage in play.
Miskiewicz said in his five years of reffing games, he's never experienced anything like it.
"Both verbal and physical, I've never been physically punched or anything like that before so it was the worst experience I've had for reffing, that's for sure," he said.
He was thinking of giving up refereeing altogether but then he received a supportive email from NHL official Vaughan Rody.
"Well at first it was shock, like I couldn't believe it — that an NHL linesman, getting a hold of me. It's obviously great hearing from anybody, any support, but NHL, what every kid, every player, every ref or coach dreams about," Miskiewicz said.
Rody, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, said he was stunned when he heard about the incident.
I put myself in that … young man's shoes. It's you against you know, all of those fans and they've actually lost control. You're out in the middle of a rink and you're just trying to survive," he told CBC News on Wednesday.
"We're all in this together,” said Rody. “Anytime you put on a jersey of any sport really — an official’s jersey — you kind of face the wrath of the fans."
In his letter to Miskiewicz, Rody wrote: "Our crests may be different colors Scott, but make no mistake, 66 National Hockey League officials plus every man or women working amateur hockey is supporting you right now."
Miskiewicz said Rody's words have resonated and inspired him to keep going. He plans to attend Rody’s annual refereeing clinic at the MTS Iceplex in June.
The incident in Stonewall is under investigation by RCMP and Hockey Manitoba.