VIAHA ponders parent-free play

A proposed weekend without spectators in the stands at minor hockey games would be a last resort for the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association in its bid to eliminate verbal abuse, according to president Jim Humphrey.

"This is the last option for people on our board [which includes one member from the Cowichan Valley association]. It’s a plea for help from the majority of parents.

"VIAHA does not want to do a spectator-free weekend."

The extreme measure would only be pursued, Humphrey said, "if the message gets lost to parents and they don’t help us deal with abusive parents."

Humphrey believes that the abusive parents are an extreme minority – "maybe two or three per cent" – but that they ruin the game for everybody.

"That’s the hard part about this," he said. "If we do a weekend like this, we’d be doing it to the 98 per cent of parents that just want to be watching their children play hockey. We’re hoping beyond hope that the 98 per cent of parents see that we need their help. They’ve got to be more than just spectators."

Humphrey acknowledges that abusive spectators aren’t just a problem on Vancouver Island, and not just in the sport of hockey. Since word broke about a possible spectator-free weekend, he has heard from governing bodies in other sports: lacrosse, soccer, and even bowling.

"They’ve said, ‘Right on. When you get all this settled down, we need to get together and deal with parents the same way across all sports,’" Humphrey said. "I didn’t realize it was so rampant across all sports."

VIAHA’s proposal has also attracted media attention from far and wide, and Humphrey doesn’t mind that.

"Any time we can do things to make people aware of an issue that we need some help with, that’s a good thing," he said. "We’ve got to fix this game of ours and make it fun for the kids again."