Cy O’Leary was a minor hockey referee in the 1970s in the Lower Mainland, a time when Philadelphia’s Broad Street Bullies were winning Stanley Cups and Punch MacLean’s New Westminster Bruins were brawling their way through junior hockey seasons.
The 80-year-old Parksville resident only remembers tossing an unruly fan out of the area once — a woman he said screamed at him for about an hour.
“As a referee, I imagined I had nine layers of skin,” O’Leary said last week.
O’Leary said he doesn’t believe banning all spectators from minor hockey games for a weekend is a good idea. It was something floated by the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association (VIAHA) recently in light of what it said has been an increased level of abuse hurled at officials and players.
“That will never work,” said O’Leary. “The kids, they want their parents there, they want them to see them and be proud of them.”
VIAHA president Jim Humphrey sent a memo to all member associations, including Oceanside Minor Hockey, earlier this month about the no-spectators idea.
“If we are unable to stop this disrespectful behaviour from this small number of our minor hockey spectators, VIAHA will have no other option but to ban all spectators over the course of a weekend to show people what the future of our game will look like if we do not put a stop to these very few disruptive people,” Humphrey wrote.
The memo got media attention across the country and had people talking about the issues in arenas up and down the Island.
Oceanside Minor Hockey Association president Andrew Copley said the association has faced a few unruly-parent issues this season, “but it hasn’t been any more or any less than in previous years.”
He said the memo issued by Humphrey “definitely upset a few parents.”
There are about 400 youngsters playing minor hockey in the Oceanside association.
As for those parents who insist on verbally abusing young officials from the stands, Copley said he believes Humphrey’s memo may have some positive effect.
“I hope the media attention that’s been given to it will wake those parents up,” he said.
O’Leary, the retired referee, said he used to try to settle the issue of unruly and loud fans with measures on the ice. He used to give the young players some suggestions.
“Don’t look up at them, but when play stops, look up at them and smile.”