The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) has introduced a new online tool aimed at helping young referees deal with verbal abuse.

Kelly Boes, executive director of the SMHA, is optimistic their new measures will work to combat the problem before it gets worse.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to deal with things when they’re smaller as opposed to when they are bigger,” Boes said.

Official abuse

The Saskatoon Referees Association’s (SRA) saw a decline in numbers of minor hockey referees this year. They had over 200 last year and now have 160 this year.

referees

The SRA is struggling to staff minor hockey games because of their low numbers of officials. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

​SRA executives said it is particularly hard to retain new, minor hockey referees between the ages of 13 and 15 because they are often not equipped to defend against verbal abuse from coaches, parents and players.The SRA said that one of the prominent reasons for their falling numbers is "abuse of officials."

Consequently, the SRA is struggling to keep minor hockey games in Saskatoon and across the province properly staffed with officials.

Finding a solution

Executive members of the SRA and SMHA met on November 18 to discuss the problem.

Their solution is a web-based, complaint form for young officials to use to document and submit grievances against coaches.

“As opposed to waiting for something to happen on the ice — where there’s a game misconduct given to a coach and usually by then the coach has crossed the line — we want to deal with things before they get to that point,” Boes said.

'The worst case scenario for any coach if they are abusive to officials is going to be removal from the bench and they will essentially be asked not to coach anymore.'- Kelly Boes, SMHA executive director

“So we’ve given the officials the opportunity to do a coaching evaluation online, that is then submitted to Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association, which will then go back to coaches themselves, as feedback, right from their zone commissioner.”

The online tool is an extension of an existing online evaluation tool on SMHA’s website, originally intended for the evaluation of officials.

Now the digital complaint form contains a new portion for the evaluation of coaches and team officials.

Boes said the SRA and SMHA are taking the problem seriously. They plan to monitor and follow up on the complaints against coaches and parents as they are reported.

“The worst case scenario for any coach if they are abusive to officials is going to be removal from the bench, and they will essentially be asked not to coach anymore,” Boes said.


Replay the Saskatoon Morning live chat about referee abuse. If you'd like to weigh-in, leave your comments below.