With the exception of professional athletes, hockey like any other sport is just a game, right? Apparently someone didn’t tell that to the man who was charged with assault, uttering threats of bodily harm, and causing a disturbance. A 47 year old man was arrested on Saturday for threatening hockey officials in a midget house league women’s hockey game at Holly Recreation Centre in Barrie on Sunday March 2, 2014.
Reports indicate that the man berated and insulted the two officials throughout the course of the game, and proceeded to confront these officials after the game ended. It is alleged that the man threatened to attack at least one of the officials and attempted to enter the referee’s dressing room where the officials were able to lock themselves inside. The man is alleged to have been screaming and swearing, all of this conduct occurring in front of others attending the game including children.
If this man is found guilty of one or more of these alleged offences, this is a case where the set of facts are particularly aggravating. It is aggravating that allegations of assault and uttering threats occurred in front of children. It is aggravating that this conduct is alleged to have occurred throughout the course of a game, and is clearly not a single, isolated emotional reaction to an event that occurred on the ice. It is also aggravating that the conduct then continued after the game had ended, forcing the officials to lock themselves in the dressing room.
Just imagine your daughter, son, wife or husband was one of those officials who had to lock themselves in the dressing room out of fear that they may be physically assaulted. Many of these officials are young women and men, and they choose to get involved in officiating not because they have to but because they enjoy it and it is a way of giving back to the hockey community.
I cannot begin to imagine how embarrassing it may have been for some of those players to witness the conduct that is alleged to have occurred. I know if that was one of my parents that acted in that manner I would not want them at any of my games. It is this type of conduct that can discourage kids from playing hockey, as well as discourage young women and men from becoming involved in officiating.
Responsibility of Coaches and Parents
While I do have sympathy for the young girls that may have witnessed this man’s alleged conduct, I have a difficult time sympathizing with the coaches and parents. If this man was berating and insulting two officials, where were the other parents? After the game, where were the coaches? Did any of the other parents make an effort to speak with this man, to try to calm him down, to tell him that his behaviour was not appropriate? While everyone must be held accountable for their actions, surely parents and coaches have a responsibility to discourage other parents from behaving inappropriately in front of children.
What Can You Do When Another Parent is Acting Inappropriately?
From a legal point of view, if a person’s actions are threatening or the person verbally utters a threat, another parent would certainly be justified in contacting the police. Even where no threat has been made, the police may still be contacted where another person is causing a disturbance. Section 175 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that “Every one who (a) not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place, (i) by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language… is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Now I know no one is going to call the police any time they hear another parent swearing at a hockey game, but conversely, a person cannot be allowed to freely and continuously berate, insult and use obscene language in a public place. As uncomfortable as it may be to call the police with respect to the behaviour of another parent, we should not be allowing a person’s behaviour to escalate to the point that he or she is approaching officials after the game and verbally threatening them.
Whether or not these allegations are proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court, there needs to be a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated under any circumstance. There is simply no explanation that can be offered that would begin to excuse the conduct being alleged.
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