A minor hockey referee is blowing the whistle on the Saskatchewan Hockey Association after being suspended for cancelling a game due to officials’ safety concerns.
Kyle Chudyk, 29, officiated a game in Hague on Jan. 26 between the town’s bantam team and the Prince Albert Hurricanes in the Sask Valley Minor Hockey League.
He said the visiting team’s fans and coach were verbally abusive throughout the game, with one fan being removed after allegedly yelling obscenities at the referees.
“I’ve been reffing long enough to learn you hear stuff up in the stands, you tune a lot of it out,” he said. “But to have a dozen fans and parents all yelling at you, that’s a little over the top.”
Chudyk noted the abuse continued to the point where P.A. Hurricanes coach Bill Hoko was kicked out for harassment of officials and “making a travesty of the game” in the second period.
“He told us we’re supposed to put up with some of this (abuse),” Chudyk said. “In his mind, it was our job to put up with harassment.”
The 15-year officiating veteran said it took several minutes of arguing before Hoko left the ice surface.
Hoko, also president of the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association, declined a request for comment.
According to Chudyk, fans continued to yell and swear. During the second intermission, he said fans of the Hague team called Rosthern RCMP to observe the situation.
When the third period began, Chudyk said Hurricane’s fans began leaning over the glass and threatening the officials, swearing at them in both English and Cree.
The referees then decided to call the play with 18 minutes left in the third.
“We felt that the game was no longer deemed a safe hockey game,” he said.
The remainder of the game was cancelled due to the safety concerns. Chudyk said players initially complained, but later apologized.
The officiating crew was escorted to their vehicles by two RCMP officers, with parents continuing to hurl insults as they walked through the lobby.
Chudyk said he and the other referee had never experienced a game like this before.
“We’ve had RCMP escorts before,” he said. “But we’ve never had to call a game.”
Chudyk said his co-official filed a report on the incident and the game sheet to the SVMHL and the SHA following the event.
Last week, however, the pair were informed by the SHA they had been suspended from officiating bantam games in the SVMHL and from provincial playoff games for the remainder of the season.
The association called the cancellation of the game “unwarranted” and said it created undue pressure on the schedule, since the teams would have to complete the game on a different date.
SHA General Manager Kelly McClintock said the referees didn’t file a report on the incident and the game sheet wasn’t done properly. He declined to provide the documents to 650 CKOM.
McClintock noted there were other measures to be taken before cancelling the game.
“You don’t just stop a game,” he said. “You could ask both teams to have the (fans) removed from the playing area.”
McClintock said if the fans didn’t listen to that request, delay of game penalties could be issued until the situation calmed down.
He added in 23 years of working with minor hockey associations, he’s never dealt with a game being cancelled for officials’ safety.
‘Disheartened and unappreciated’
Chudyk said he’s been frustrated by the SHA’s failure to act on incident reports in the past, saying the association is going against Hockey Canada’s commitment to zero tolerance for abuse of officials.
“We would’ve thought we’d have some backing from the league,” he said.
The suspension has soured the relationship for Chudyk, who said he may not officiate again.
“Disheartened and unappreciated are the two words I would use for how I feel.”