An NHL referee is reaching out to a teen ref in Manitoba who was in charge of a recent game that erupted in fights on the ice and in the stands.
The RCMP ultimately had to be called to the game, which was played March 30 in Stonewall. Police said one of the referees was struck by a 14-year-old player, which ignited the brawl.
"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," said Vaughan Rody, born and raised in Winnipeg and a National Hockey League official.
"I believe that people think that they have it in for him: 'Well, you know, that ref lost control.' No he didn't lose control. You know what? The coaches are the ones who control the bench and it's like a pack of sharks."
The game between the Stonewall Blues and Lake Manitoba First Nation had to be stopped and about 100 people had to leave the arena, but no one was seriously hurt, RCMP said.
Blues coach Peter Mandryk said the Lake Manitoba team, which was losing the game, was not respecting their opponents or the officials. He said the players from that team tried to start a fight and one player shot a puck at the referee.
Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief Barry Swan, who was at the game, said officials were calling too many penalties against his community's team. He denied anyone shot a puck at the ref and said the officials lost control of the game.
Rody, who said he was stunned when he heard about what happened at the game, sent an email to the young ref to offer support.
Rody believes hockey loses thousands of officials a year in part because of what they have to face on the ice. He'd like to see lengthy penalties for people who abuse officials.
Young referee not quitting
"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."
The Stonewal referee said he didn’t want to comment because the RCMP and Hockey Manitoba are investigating the incident.
But he did say he was contemplating giving up refereeing until he got the letter. Now, he plans to go Rody’s annual refereeing clinic at the MTS Iceplex in June.
Ian Heather, an instructor at Rody’s clinic, said he wasn’t surprised Rody stepped in to offer support, adding officials deal with abuse too often.
Hockey Manitoba deals with 10 to 15 cases of abuse against officials every year.
“NHL officials do go back to their roots, and we do support each other,” he said.
Rody's full letter to the ref
First of all I just want to say, I'm sorry you had to endure what you did last week. Its unfortunate that anyone has to go through that, I will say, by all reports you handled your business like a true professional and you should be commended on that.
My name is Vaughan Rody, I am an Official in the NHL, originally from Winnipeg, I received my start out of Winnipeg Minor and have remained loyal and proud of what our Province is all about.
In the summer for the last 3 years I have brought my own Officials School back home as a way for aspiring young men and women to advance their career as well as learn this great craft. Our camp is in June, I have attached a Flyer, I would very much like to offer you a free spot in it if you so desire.
This occupation is amazing Scott, it is filled with many wonderful opportunities. My hope is you do not allow this to deter you of Officiating.
We lose 10,000 great young men and woman a year due to abuse.
We need solid young men like yourself to see it through.
My own career was not without altercations, but as I look back now, those situations developed my passion for this game.
Our crests maybe 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.
Please pass this along to your parents so you may get their blessing if you so wish to attend.
We would be honored to have you.
If you feel like just talking, please call me on my personal line @______.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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