During my second year as a hockey official, a senior referee showed me how to walk out of an arena holding my skates with the blades facing outward. It was in case an irate fan, coach, parent or player attacked one of the referees, we at least had a weapon for fighting back.
In minor hockey games throughout Saskatchewan, on-ice officials almost never have protection from an unruly crowd. It sounds like that was the environment for a bantam game in Hague, Sask., against a visiting team from Prince Albert. The crowd and the game were out of hand. RCMP officers were summoned.
The officials, including a 29-year-old who had been officiating for 14 years, decided it was unsafe, so they suspended the game.
The Saskatchewan Hockey Association has, in turn, suspended the officials for not following protocol, which included clearing the building and assessing penalties.
Who’s right or wrong doesn’t matter as much as this fact: a hockey arena is an unsafe workplace. And that has to change.