Hockey Winnipeg says abuse of referees has reached epidemic proportions. ((CBC))

Attacks on minor hockey referees in Winnipeg have reached epidemic level, warns a letter to coaches issued this week.

Glenn Asselstine, vice president of Hockey Winnipeg, said young referees have been pushed, punched and bitten and the violence must stop.

He said the majority of abuse against officials is coming from players in the 15 to19-year-old age group.

But even younger players have acted out.

Asselstine said in one case a 12-year-old player used his hockey stick to hit a referee.

"We're talking about a 16-year old referee who was terrified."

Sixteen serious cases of abuse are under review by Hockey Manitoba.

Don McIntosh, president of Hockey Winnipeg, sent an email letter Wednesday to all minor hockey coaches in the city.

"In the past two weeks I have personally participated in three disciplinary committee hearings with Hockey Manitoba involving physical abuse of referees. In two instances they involved players physically assaulting a referee and in another a coach of a seven to eight-year-old team pushing a referee," McIntosh said in the letter.

"There have been other hearings at Hockey Manitoba this year and three hearings pending from very recent incidents. This is reaching epidemic status."