Thank the Stripes campaign wants you to show a little love to refs in hockey

A Manitoba hockey campaign is asking sports fans, parents and coaches to take a moment to thank their referees this weekend — and to remember that it's never OK to dish out abuse.

Campaign to support officials, educate parents and coaches runs Friday to Sunday

Referees, many of whom are young themselves, often face abuse from parents and coaches, Hockey Manitoba's Scott Furman said. (Shutterstock / AlexTois)

The leading association in Manitoba hockey is asking sports fans, parents and coaches to take a moment to thank their referees this weekend — and to remember that it's never OK to dish out abuse.

Hockey Manitoba's Thank the Stripes campaign encourages hockey lovers to recognize the officials who referee for the association, many of whom are teens.

"A lot of times it's just a thank you that means everything," said Scott Furman, director of operations at Hockey Manitoba, the governing body of amateur hockey in the province.

"For those tough games and those tough moments that many of our officials go through — because it is a very difficult job, and it can be very tough with parents and or coaches — just a thank you and a recognition for what they do and what they're going through to try and do their best, sometimes is just what it takes to keep kids going."

The association has close to 1,700 referees officiating its games this year, Furman said. That's a jump of 50 to 60 referees from last year, he said, after an overall drop in recent years. 

The campaign, which runs Friday to Sunday, encourages others in the hockey community to say thank you, whether that's with a handshake in person, snacks offered at the game or a post on social media.

I've seen officials leave games in tears and things like that, and frankly it breaks my heart to see that.- Scott Furman, director of operations, Hockey Manitoba

"It's really anything. It's any good deed," Furman said.

It's also an effort to raise awareness in the community about the abuse young officials often face from parents and coaches, Furman said.

"We're in a power position … and it can have such a big impact on our young people," he said. "I've seen officials leave games in tears and things like that, and frankly it breaks my heart to see that."

Education for parents, coaches

The association is working to improve officials' experience on the ice, Furman said, with programs including education for parents and coaches as well as on-the-job shadowing for new referees. He hopes the jump in numbers this year is a
sign the efforts are working.

"We found the best thing to do is to educate people," he said. "The more people that are on the same page and understand what we're trying to do and what's important, we can have a bigger impact on maybe some of those folks that don't understand that or aren't following those guidelines."

Association officials launched the Thank the Stripes campaign last year and got such a positive response they decided to bring it back this year

If you want to get involved with the campaign on social media, you can do so using the hashtag #ThankTheStripes.

With files from Pat Kaniuga and Nelly Gonzalez