Protecting referees a new, but overdue priority for the B.M.H.L

Jordan Bray

BOTHWELL - Following a rough 2016-17 season that saw a number of incidents involving BMHL players and on-ice officials, the league has enacted a tough new rule to help protect referees.

Referees in the BMHL have been able to use the "nuisance rule" for a few years now, where they may eject any player from a game at their discretion. The nuisance rule will now feature a potential "Abuse of Official" tag which will carry and automatic 1-game suspension, and will result in a lifetime ban from the league on a player's third incident.

The decision comes as league executives learned that longtime referees Jim Hawthorne and Jeff Parney will no longer be a part of the BMHL officiating team this season. Their departure was reportedly fueled by a number of on-ice arguments from players; Hawthorne was even bumped into by a player arguing a call last season.

"Our referees are what makes this league so great," said one league executive. "Without solid officiating, this would just be a shinny league. If and when our refs decide to call it quits, the BMHL will instantly be on a major decline."

Jim and Jeff are both veteran officials of the OHA, and have spent time as officials in professional leagues such as the UHL, IHL, and in the Ontario Hockey League. Jim is one of only a handful of level-6 referees in the province, and has been a major force in referee training clinics for a number of years. To have officials like this looking after the BMHL was something the league may never see again.

Thankfully, head official Rob Hawthorne has been able to assemble another well qualified group of officials who are each mainstays in the OHA at the Jr. "C" and Jr. "B" levels. Hawthorne does admit that if there would ever be another incident similar to the one where Jim Hawthorne was bumped, "it's going to be tough sledding" to convice referees to come look after the BMHL.

All players, fans, and onlookers should be reminded that arguing with, taunting, and generally disrespecting an official is something that the BMHL will deal with severely. At no point in time will actions of this nature be tolerated. BMHL referees have the final say on what takes place on the ice at all times. Additionally, let's not forget that this is a "beer league" and referees are just humans like us all.

BMHL captains will be briefed on this new rule change, but all players should expect to be dealt with accordingly should their emotions overcome their logical reasoning while communicating with an official.

As CARHA (Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association) and BMHL rules describe, only the captain of a BMHL team has the privelage to speak with an official during the game. No one else on the team should approach the referees circle at any point.

Prior to the current officiating team, the BMHL had just one referee (Jordan Bray), who was not even a carded ref. It's fair to say that a return to this calibre of officiating would be a major step backward for the BMHL.