USA Hockey Needs to Reign In Apathetic Referees

by Dave Hamilton


I had to admonish a youth hockey referee today (I took his picture since he wouldn't give me his name). It's rare that this happens, but it happens probably once per year. It could be stopped, but USA Hockey is clearly not interested in solving this problem they have.

He just doesn't care about the kids. It's sad.

He just doesn't care about the kids. It's sad.

Youth hockey referees are out there to help keep our kids safe and help kids properly learn the game. In that order. That's it. No personal agendas, no goals of making the game more like the NHL. Not even a goal of "keep it balanced even if that means ignoring some infractions."

None of that. Safety and education are the priorities. That's it. 

Today's recipient of the Hamilton Treatment was a referee who has violated his responsibilities in front of me once earlier this year, letting kids fight without stopping it, later watching while a child used his skate to kick another child who was down on the ice. I said nothing to the referee (but I did document it and report it to the rink scheduler).

Today that same referee was intentionally ignoring head contact. The coach on the opposing team asked/argued with him about this and the referee said to him that head contact was not something he was worried about. Unbelievable.

Later in the game my own kid got shoved down in such a way that he hurt his head. The ref put both kids in the penalty box (I'm fine with a ref putting two kids in to calm a game down. That's smart). But when they got to the box the referee actually yelled at my son for getting hurt when my son asked him why he, too, was being put in the box. I was right there doing the score and corrected the referee that he shouldn't be ignoring when a kid tells him he has a head injury. He started to tell me I wasn't a coach and had no right to talk to him. I explained how my position as a parent trumps all. No one disagreed.

This referee should be relieved of his position. Frankly, he should be wise enough to realize it's time for him to quit. Apathy towards children's safety is a bad quality in a youth hockey referee.

But no one watches these referees. No one is there to see when there's a problem developing. And it seems like no one cares even when an issue like this is reported. Which it was. Earlier this year. If my son has a concussion I will probably sue this guy for medical expenses just to make a point. I've had it. The first question to ask the referee: did you check every player's helmet to ensure the stickers are all up to date? I can guarantee you he did not.

Until there is some regular referee oversight by USA Hockey we must continually pressure the referees to pay attention to our children's safety. Many of these guys forget that they are teachers out there, and if USA Hockey isn't going to put a system in place to point out when they miss that, it's up to us parents to do it. This sucks, too, because it creates an adversarial relationship where one should not exist, but it must be done.