The 2019 minor hockey season is in jeopardy. The Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association (PRMHA) is facing a crisis, but this crisis is not the kind that plagues other hockey leagues around the country, such as concussions, or fighting.
The PRMHA doesn’t have enough referees, and their attempts to get more of the striped saviours of the sport has been fruitless.
Rosa Miller, President of PRMHA and Vice President of the Northwest District Hockey said that the upcoming season is in dire straits because people don’t understand the importance of referees.
“There won’t be a game without these officials, it’s a position that’s often overlooked,” Miller said.
The provincial championships are right around the corner in March, luckily BC Hockey will provide referees for the big tournament but for smaller tournaments and other regular season games it’s on the PRMHA to find its officials.
The often understated and constantly berated referees aren’t signing up in the numbers they used to, and it’s not just affecting minor hockey in Prince Rupert, the problem is stretching all the way to Vanderhoof.
“We need to have refs or we won’t be able to have hockey in the northwest,” Miller said.
The reason for the shortage is unclear but Miller and Carmen Aceto, the head-ref allocator for the PRMHA said that there have a been a few cases brought forward that could shed light on a larger problem.
“We have lost about four kids in the system because of negative interactions with parents, coaches and players,” Aceto said.
Referees often get the brunt of the boos, taunts and jabs from fans and players and they are rarely celebrated for their successes, something that is driving them away from the game that so desperately needs them.
To combat this the PRMHA has increased refereeing fees, making the rate $40 a game — but to no avail.
The PRMHA is trying to get people back into refereeing offering training courses, but unfortunately, they are failing to gain any traction.
“As an association, we are doing everything we can,” Miller said. “We had nobody sign up for the December clinic and we had to cancel.”
The future of minor hockey looks bleak in the northwest, something that few parents players or coaches want to hear.
“How heartbreaking would it be to host the championship here in Prince Rupert this year, then not have any hockey here next year,” Miller said.
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