Hockey officials block out negative comments

Penticton Minor Hockey Association officials say it is easier to block out negative comments when they are older.

Treven Stetsko

Treven Stetsko

Imagine what it would be like to have someone tell you to “go kill yourself.”

That’s what a male said to Treven Stetsko and Branton Grinde while leaning over the glass as they officiated a Penticton Minor Hockey Association game last season. Stetsko admits to swearing at the person, but laughed about the comment and said, “Sorry buddy I can’t.”

It did shock him to hear that.

“I don’t take it to heart. Everyone makes mistakes,” said Stetsko, who is in his fourth year as an official. “I’m not perfect. I can tell you that. I always learn from it I just know I won’t make it next time. I won’t have to deal with people yelling stuff at me.”

“I have a thick skin,” said Grinde. “If I was a younger official, that can be pretty detrimental. I get used to it. People get highly emotional when it comes to hockey.”

That’s the worst of the verbal assaults the two have heard.

Stetsko, who also officiates in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, said he usually ignores comments, but it does bother him at times. He already feels bad about making the wrong call, he doesn’t need to hear overly negative comments. When it comes to coaches, they are pretty good with him. If he makes a mistake, Stetsko will tell the coach, who accepts his apology and asks that he tries not to make it again.

Grinde, an official of nine years, said if an official is young, it can deter them from wanting to continue.

“You may ask, ‘Why am I doing this? Putting myself in this position?’” he said.

Grinde said it is important that officials are put in a good environment to learn. He added how is an official expected to do well when they hear negative comments.

Stetsko, 20, has never considered quitting.

“I love this. I get to watch some of the best hockey from the best view,” he said. “I get to watch it right in front of me. I get to be a part of it.

Grinde said he thought of quitting when he was younger.

“I shouldn’t have to deal with that,” he said. “The younger ones don’t like the abuse. I have been able to get through it.”

Mitch Hardington, the PMHA Referee in Chief, said the retention rate for officials is about 20 per cent. Twelve-year-olds quit after just one year because grown adults harass them and abuse them every game.

Stetsko added officiating at the younger levels is more intense as there is more screaming by spectators.

“They think 12 year olds should be perfect at reffing when they have only been doing it for a year,” said Stetsko.

Tyler Sterk, 23, has been officiating for seven years and nearly quit while working a men’s league game with his dad for extra money when first starting. He said he can deal with players as they get caught up in their emotions. He was the same when he played. With fans, he said they see what they see on TV and expect it in a game.

“People aren’t going to like everything,” said Sterk.

Like Grinde, Sterk blocks it out. When asked what kind of message they would pass on to people, Sterk said “grab a rule book and sit down and read it.”

Stetko’s message is not to take it to heart.

“It’s just a game and people get emotional,” he said.

Unlike fans, Grinde stressed they don’t have a bias towards teams. Officials see things differently. He said that officials have standards in which they are to call games. Grinde said the way a game is officiated at the peewee level will not be called the same in midget.

“We call games as fairly as we can,” he said.

Sterk said that games at the peewee level will be called different from midget because there is no hitting.

Stacey Gagno, president of Penticton Minor Hockey Association, said the Respect in Sport for Parents has helped with how they are towards officials.

“At every level we are trying to change those kinds of things so that there is respect in the whole sport,” said Gagno.”With coach to coach, from officials to coach, parents to officials. In all directions. I think that is really important piece of the puzzle. We’re also trying to raise our children to be good citizens.

Gagno said she doesn’t hear or see as many incidents and believes it is getting better. She has also noticed unsportsmanlike penalties issued to curb bad behaviour.

“We’re trying to be respectful for everyone who is participating. The officials are typically kids too or very young adults,” she continued. “Everybody is playing a game. It is just that. I think it’s important to try and build respect in all directions.”