A hockey dad says referees are to blame for a suspension handed to minor hockey coach and Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell.

Spectators at a minor hockey tournament in western Labrador said Russell berated referees and used inappropriate language during a minor hockey tournament over the Remembrance Day weekend.

Russell was ejected from a Nov.11 game as a result of his behaviour.

Shawn Crann's son played on Russell's bantam team. 

'They were out to get him' —Shawn Crann, hockey dad

Crann said the referees were the instigators.

"They were out, I don't know what it was, but they were out to get Keith Russell. They were out to get him. That's why they put him back on the bench," said Crann. "They put him back on the bench Sunday. They never had to do that," he said.

Hockey NL and premier take harder line

After an investigation, Hockey NL officials suspended Russell for six games.

But Crann said Russell should be cut some slack because he volunteered when the minor hockey team needed a coach.

"I mean he's an MHA, he's got other things going on," said Crann. "He's got a very busy schedule. And he was the only one at the time that stepped forward and said 'listen, I'll coach the kids,'" he said.

Russell's political boss, however, has taken a less sympathetic view of the situation. Premier Kathy Dunderdale called Russell's behaviour both inappropriate and unacceptable, and she said she has spoken with Russell about what happened.