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Patron abuse in Canadian youth hockey

Rink rage’ witnessed by most Canadians who have attended youth hockey games: poll
Tristin Hopper | March 5, 2015 National Post

A majority of Canadians who have attended youth hockey games report having witnessed adult spectators hurling curse words and abuse at referees and players, according to a new poll by Angus Reid Institute.

“We hear the horror stories, but as far as we knew nobody had yet gone out to measure the prevalence of this,” said Shachi Kurl, senior vice-president of Angus Reid.

The survey targeted 686 adults who had attended a youth hockey game within the past year. Of those, 59% reported witnessing “inappropriate language and/or berating” directed against a referee, and 49% saw the behaviour directed at “the kids playing hockey.”

“And they think it’s serious; they think it’s hurting the game,” Ms. Kurl said.

Among survey respondents, 42% called rink abuse a “very serious issue that is hurting the game,” while another 45% called it a “very serious issue, but more or less under control.”

While aggressive spectators have long been a well-known phenomenon at Canadian youth hockey games, efforts to combat “rink rage” have increasingly been pushed into the spotlight.

In 2010, Calgary minor hockey organizers began requiring parents to complete etiquette training before enrolling their children.

Earlier this year, B.C.’s Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association warned parents that they would ban spectators from games if parents continued to express “vindictiveness” to the league’s teenaged referees.

And just last month, a junior hockey game in Penticton, B.C. required police involvement after a parent pursued a referee into the rink parking lot and punched the official’s car.

According to the Angus Reid survey, the likelihood of witnessing abuse went up sharply among regular attendees of youth hockey.

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