Hockey New Brunswick is investigating an off-ice incident in Sussex where a referee is accused of starting a fight with an organizer of a girls' tournament.

The group that governs minor hockey in the province says the recent incident in Sussex is probably the first where an official is alleged to have been the instigator. 

'There was some pushing and shoving initially but it went quite quickly to punches being thrown.' — Jason Thorne, manager, Sussex arena

"We've never had a situation that I'm aware of where the official is the initiator of the whole event," said Brian Whitehead, the executive director of Hockey New Brunswick.

The altercation happened following a tournament involving 12-year-olds.

The captain of a team from Moncton had been thrown out of a game after receiving three minor penalties.

When the game ended she tried to return to the ice for a post-game ceremony, but the 21-year-old referee stepped in and barred her from coming back.

After the referee left the ice a tournament organizer approached him on behalf of some parents who wanted clarification on his call to block the girl from the post-game event.

Witnesses 'quite shocked' by scuffle

Witnesses said the referee quickly lost his temper and lashed out at the organizer.

Jason Thorne, the manager of the Sussex arena, said people were "quite shocked and a little disappointed" that a referee would instigate such an altercation.

"There was some pushing and shoving initially but it went quite quickly to punches being thrown," Thorne said.

Thorne said the referee's call to keep the girl off the ice was fair, though starting a fight over it, especially in front of young players, was wrong.

The referee won't be booked for any more games and he's barred from entering the rink for the rest of the hockey season.

But Doug Bobbitt, the head referee for Sussex, said confrontations and the questioning of calls can put a lot of stress on young officials.

He said he loses a lot of young referees because they can't handle the pressure from verbal abuse.