Fed up with being inundated by cases of conflict involving hockey parents, Winnipeg Hockey officials announced Wednesday that all hockey parents in the city will have to take a mandatory online Respect in Sports program beginning in the 2014-15 season.
And it appears the policy may soon be province-wide, according to Manitoba Hockey executive director Peter Woods.
Winnipeg Hockey executive director Monte Miller said the organization had been looking to introduce the program for over a year. As the number of incidents continued to rise, the move to install the Calgary-based program became seen as a necessary first step.
"This year particularly has been a bad year with parental instances," Miller said. "Probably January was our worst month... with respect to hockey policy breaches. General misbehaviour."
There have been a few high-profile incidents, too. Just last weekend, parents and coaches from two Manitoba minor hockey teams threw punches in the dressing room at a tournament in Fargo, N.D. That incident involved parents of eight-year-old boys from Selkirk Steelers and River East Royals.
Although Winnipeg Hockey officials refused to comment on the Fargo incident specifically, Miller said: "I probably couldn’t tell you on TV or radio what I think. You probably couldn’t publish it. It’s very, very distressing. So something needs to be done. We think this is a good first step."
The course costs $12 per family and takes about one hour to complete. Once the course is completed, the child will get a number registered in the Hockey Canada database, allowing local registration to proceed.
The program is already mandatory throughout Alberta and Maritime provinces and the city of Calgary. The Ontario Minor Hockey Association, the largest in Canada, is expected to introduce Respect in Sports for parents beginning next season.
Winnipeg Hockey president Don McIntosh said the program won’t end conflicts at arenas "overnight."
"There’s still going to be problems," he said. "It’s all about education, culture and understanding."