There were roughly 500 ice hockey referees in the Eastern Townships prior to the pandemic, according to Hockey Estrie, but that number has since trimmed down to about 300 in the past two years, causing game delays and forcing associations to rely on inexperienced officials.
On Sunday, a 15-year-old linesman took a punch to the face from a disgruntled Sherbrooke Phoenix player after he had been ejected from an under-18 hockey game against the Dynamik de Coaticook in the Ligue Hockey Orford St-François. The player has since been suspended.
The referee didn’t suffer any injuries, but it has left him rattled and rethinking his future as a hockey official. Hockey Estrie Chief Referee Jean-François Lapointe said that this attack, which was caught on video and shared on social media, could impact the next generation of referees.
“Definitely,” said Lapointe. “I spoke with an employee not too long ago, his son has been looking into becoming a referee, but he saw the video over the weekend and he told his father, ‘well, I’m not sure I want to be a referee,’ and this is just one case because he saw the video.”
The younger generation who watched this video might be questioning whether they want to be scolded, disrespected, and in this case, clocked in the face, on a daily basis, he continued. Lapointe noted that players as young as 10 years old have been getting into it with referees.
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