New Brunswick

Basketball coach speaks in support of hockey referee who quit over threats

A basketball coach in Charlotte County says rowdy spectators are a problem at all sporting events in the region, not just hockey.

Bonnie Rogers says she understands fear ref Jason Porter felt because she has been victim of aggressive fans

High school basketball coach Bonnie Rogers says rowdy fans are a problem at all sporting events in Charlotte County, not just hockey. (CBC)

A minor hockey referee who quit officiating games in Charlotte County last week after a "scary" altercation with angry spectators has gotten the support of a female high school basketball coach in Saint Andrews.

Bonnie Rogers, who coaches the girls' team at Sir James Dunn Academy, says she understands the fear Jason Porter experienced when he and three other officials were trapped "like caged animals" on the ice, with fans hurling threats and insults at them.

Rogers says she was attacked by two aggressive fans of the opposing team following a game on Dec. 10.

She says a grandmother had taken issue with her decision to allow one of her players to remain in the game after the girl had been in a scuffle on the basketball court.

Rogers says she explained to the woman that as long as the referees didn't see an issue with it, there was no problem. But the woman persisted.

Jeanne Calhoun, 'proud Charlotte County hockey parent,' contends parents in the region are being unfairly portrayed as 'violent and animals.' (CBC)
"She continued to argue with me and I turned away and said, 'You're acting like a crazy parent and you need to calm down,' and then I walked away."

"She yelled that I had hit her, and was on my back at the time. So people turned around as her daughter took her fist and hit me on the right side of the jaw and my glasses flew off."

The confrontation was captured on surveillance video, said Rogers. Both women have been charged with assault and both have pleaded not guilty.

Rogers says rowdy spectators are a problem in the region, no matter the sport.

It's not right when it's abusive, or it's threatening, definitely not.- Jeanne Calhoun, hockey parent

Area resident Jeanne Calhoun, a self-described "proud Charlotte County hockey parent," whose daughter played in the game Porter officiated last week, contends there's no culture of aggression — just very enthusiastic fans and a few bad apples.

"I feel it's a bit unjustified," Calhoun said of Porter's reaction. "He singled out Charlotte County parents, which wasn't the case," she said.

"I just feel that we're very unfairly being called down as being violent and animals. There were no game incident reports written up. We had no parents evicted. The other team, on the other hand, did."

"It's not right when it's abusive, or it's threatening, definitely not," she added.

More protection needed

Porter, the former referee-in-chief with the Charlotte County Minor Hockey Association, told CBC's Maritime Noon, the situation erupted with 12 seconds to go in a Bantam C hockey game earlier this month.

A Charlotte County team was down by two goals and pulled its goalie in favour of an extra skater. A young official did not notice the goalie had left the crease and thought the team had too many skaters on the ice, so he whistled down the play.

Jason Porter said minor hockey associations must do a better job at protecting officials. (Jason Porter/Facebook)
The officials huddled at centre ice before going to the bench to explain the error to the coaches.

Once the game ended, Porter said he could see how upset many spectators who were lining the boards were. So he advised the other officials to take the nets to the other end of the rink and he left the ice to try and get help to clear a path to the officials' room.

That's when he said he was grabbed, pushed against the glass and had a clenched fist raised against him. While he was off the ice, he had asked for someone to call the police, but no one made the call.

Eventually, the officials got some help, hustled off the ice, into their dressing room and locked the door. They stayed there for about a half hour and then slipped out a side door to their vehicles.

"I can't describe to you well in enough in words how horrible and scary the situation was," Porter had said.

He contends the treatment of referees has gotten worse over the years and fears someone will get hurt if the hockey association's board of directors doesn't find a way to better protect officials.

The association posted a notice on its website apologizing to the officials and saying it does not "condone the poor behaviour of our Charlotte County parents [or any parents, spectators] towards our officials."

With files from Shane Fowler