On ice incident in Baie Verte leads veteran hockey official to question future

Published on May 4, 2017

A referee at a game in Baie Verte was punched in the chest by a Midget minor hockey player. The player has since received a 10 game suspension from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador.

BAIE VERTE, NL — Intentional physical contact between players has long been a part of hockey.  

The contact that took place during the game in Baie Verte April 19took an unexpected, and unwelcomed, turn.  

This year I’ve taken more abuse than I have in the last 17 years.

Oliver Penney

A Lewisporte Seahawks Midget player struck an official while playing against Bell Island  and, according to the official scoresheet, was penalized for punching an official in the second period.  

[Minor hockey player punches referee during game in Baie Verte]

Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has since confirmed the player  received a 10 game suspension.

The player punched veteran official Oliver Penney in the chest during the game and was assessed a game misconduct.  

“This year I’ve taken more abuse than I have in the last 17 years,” said Penney. “Players, and the coaches more so.”

Penney says the behaviour of coaching staff towards officials this season has resulted in an increase of abuse from players. Penney says coaching staff provide a model of behaviour for players and players mimic the example provided by coaches. 

“I’ve said to the coaches, ‘Your actions and your verbal assaults now is giving the OK basically to the team to do it,’” said Penney. “What I’ve found is the kids were more readily having their say after that.”

Officials have the option of penalizing players for misconduct and often do according to Penney. However, the punishment has not deterred the behaviour, according to the veteran referee, and can ever further agitate situations. 

“I can send them to the box and that’s it,” said Penney. “They’re going to get pissed off with me and probably do more, but I said (to coaches), ‘You guys have more control, you can sit them or whatever.’”

Penney recalls a game earlier this year in which the majority of penalties taken by one team were earned by their coach, leading to his ejection. 

“He thoroughly lambasted me for calls,” said Penney. “After, he said the game was lopsided, but up to (the ejection) his team had less penalties.”

Penney is calling for increased protection for officials. He says HNL has placed increased focus on curbing abusive behaviour coming from the stands over the last few years, and he would like to see the campaign extended to on ice officials. 

“Someone needs to jump in there or go around and talk to referees about what they are experiencing and provide some kind of support,” suggested Penney. “I’ve been trying to do something, or over the years have my say, but it seems it hasn’t reached an ear that could or would do something about it.”

A previous version of this story referenced the Bantam team, when in fact it was the Midget team participating in the game. The Pilot apologises for any inconvenience this may have caused.