Hockey Calgary gets tough on arena abuse

Hockey Calgary has had enough. An unusual increase in off-ice problems has sparked the minor hockey organization to implement a zero tolerance policy toward troublesome coaches and spectators.

Minor hockey association implements zero-tolerance policy in response to rash of off-ice problems

Hockey Calgary has had enough.

An unusual increase in off-ice problems has sparked the minor hockey organization to implement a zero-tolerance policy toward troublesome coaches and spectators.

The message was made clear on the weekend in an internal email sent to all the associations: Cause trouble and you will be turfed out of the arena — no questions, no appeals.

"Hockey should be fun — it should be for the kids, not the parents. We've got parents living an NHL career through an eight-year-old, and I just don't get it," said Sean Hyde, Hockey Calgary's vice president of operations.

The one incident that "really drove it home," Hyde said, happened over the weekend when a teenaged official was verbally abused and shoved by a parent after a peewee game. The parent waited for the official to step off the ice and began harassing him as he walked to the dressing room.

But if that were the only problem Hyde's had to deal with over the past couple month, he would be laughing.

"[Sean]'s desk is just a mess with complaints," said Darrell Martindale, officiating supervisor for Hockey Calgary. "We had hearings last night. We're booked for next Thursday completely, and the week after that. For this time of the year, it's almost unheard of."

Martindale said it was like a switch was flicked mid-season.

"At the beginning of the year, everything was nice and quiet. Starting with January, everything exploded," he said.

It hasn't been run-of-the-mill incidents either.

"A lot of them are one-of-a-kind cases," Martindale said.  "We've all been involved in hockey for years, and we've never heard of these incidents happening before — from throwing coins on to the ice to another parent putting a coach against a wall during a game, stuff like that.

"Over 20 years, I've never heard of this happening."

Change in temperament

And neither he nor Hyde can figure out the sudden change in arena temperament throughout the city.

"If I could figure that out, I would've stopped it already," Hyde said. "It's happening at all levels and all age groups."

"It's almost as if a lot of people aren't enjoying it as much," Martindale added. "A lot of the games you go to are very tense. You can almost feel it. I don't know the reason. Maybe because the economic downturn, the frustration — is this a way that they're taking it out? Is it an outlet for them going to the rink? Who knows?"

Most of the parents and coaches are still being very supportive and not causing trouble, Hyde said, but he hopes that strengthening the policy will make the troublemakers think twice before doing anything they might regret.

"It's quite the spectacle when you got to walk out in front of a bunch of people when you've been thrown out," he said. "Usually that does send a message, and with the zero tolerance there's going to be no discretion anymore.

"We just want to make our rinks a more pleasant place to be."