The state of hockey officiating at amateur levels of the sport across New England is in “critical” shape, and it’s threatening the game of hockey itself.
That’s the message delivered on the latest episode of the RinkWise podcast from Gene Binda, the president of Referee’s Crease and an officiating supervisor with Mass. Hockey, and Katie Guay, a veteran official of many levels of hockey who was the first woman ever to officiate a game in the American Hockey League.
They joined Stephanie Wood, the new host of the RinkWise podcast, to discuss the problems facing officials.
“Older, more experienced officials are leaving in droves,” Binda said. “The problem now is that we don’t have enough people coming in to replace them.”
Abuse endured from parents and other spectators at amateur games is a key reason. Binda and Guay examine how bad it’s gotten for officials and consider steps the hockey community can take to improve conditions for officials and hockey players alike.
Guay, on officiating youth hockey:
“I think if I had started with youth hockey first, I wouldn’t be talking with you today. I had that taste of college (officiating), which opened my eyes to what was out there but also I think there was a little bit more respect for the game as you develop at the different levels. Some parents are a little overly excited during their games and it’s hurting their kids in the end because there are games with no officials. And if there’s no refs, there’s no game. So the kids are the ones, in the long run, hurting from the parents’ behavior.”
Binda: ‘We have a lot of games with just one official’
“People don’t realize how bad this really is. The numbers are in critical condition. One thing we don’t look at is: The hockey that’s expanding and the numbers (of officials) that are shrinking. There’s going to be a lot of games that are going to go dark. I tell everybody. ‘Without us, it’s just a scrimmage. That’s all that’s going to be happening out there.’ ”
Binda, on how to fix the problem:
“USA Hockey has been very proactive on how to address it. … The whole thing is going to come down to execution. Until we start removing parents from the rink and saying, ‘This is going to be a problem,’ … and as much as I hate to say this, maybe the kid has to go, too. Let everyone know it’s going to affect everybody, not just the parent. Because if there’s no sting, they’re just going to keep coming back. I don’t want that road, but maybe that’s one of the things we should be looking at.”