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Attack shocks linesman, 18

Might quit after players lit into him

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Officials intervene in the on-ice melee Sunday in which a young linesman was physically attacked.

CHRIS GAREAU PHOTO Enlarge Image

Officials intervene in the on-ice melee Sunday in which a young linesman was physically attacked.

Scott Miskiewicz figured he'd pretty much seen and heard it all in more than five years of minor hockey officiating in Manitoba.

Then along came Sunday, when the 18-year-old found himself in the middle of an ugly incident that has again put the issue of on-ice violence in the public spotlight.

Miskiewicz, working as a linesman in a provincial bantam playoff game in Stonewall, was physically attacked by several members of the Lake Manitoba First Nation team, according to witnesses.

He was allegedly shoved and even kicked by players while down on the ice. A 14-year-old girl then took aim and allegedly fired a slapshot in the direction of Miskiewicz and the two older referees who were struggling to regain order. The puck just missed.

"As a referee, you're getting yelled at all the time. But it was the physical abuse here that was shocking," Miskiewicz told the Free Press on Monday.

He declined to discuss specifics of the incident from his perspective, citing instructions from hockey supervisors to keep quiet because of the ongoing RCMP criminal investigation. Miskiewicz has given a full statement.

Although he didn't suffer physical injuries, Miskiewicz admits the attack has left him re-considering whether he wants to continue officiating. He said it's a lot to tolerate for the $20 or $30 per game he earns.

"I'm going to take some time and think about it," he said. "I mean, you hear of stories like this happening, but they're rare. I just don't know."

Miskiewicz admits this has put a damper on the game he loves and has played since he could lace up a pair of skates.

He began refereeing when he was 13 and has played high levels of hockey. Most recently, he has been a defenceman with the Stonewall Jets of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.

One of the coaches who had a bird's-eye view of the melee in Stonewall says stiff sanctions are needed to send the message this sort of conduct won't be tolerated any longer.

"It's just sad. It's just another black eye for the game," Peter Mandryk, a coach with the Stonewall Blues, told the Free Press on Monday. "In all my years of involvement, I've never seen anything that bad."

Mandryk was working as the timekeeper Sunday afternoon for the final game in the best-of-three provincial final between his Blues and the Lake Manitoba team.

The teams had split the first two games, meaning this one was for all the marbles. Bantam hockey is for 13- to 14-year-olds, and both teams had girls and boys on their rosters.

Mandryk said the game quickly got out of hand when the Blues scored three goals in the first period and appeared well on their way to victory.

The Lake Manitoba team began playing aggressively, resulting in several major penalties and a total of four ejections on match penalties, including cheap shots and head contact.

Mandryk said Lake Manitoba parents were screaming and harassing the referees, claiming they were calling a one-sided game.

The game reached a boiling point with 11 minutes left in the third period and Stonewall holding a commanding 5-1 lead.

Mandryk said one of the Lake Manitoba players attacked a Blues player, resulting in a skirmish that necessitated the intervention of the two referees and linesman.

At this point, Mandryk said three or four Lake Manitoba players began attacking the fallen linesman.

"To see that level of disrespect is unacceptable," Mandryk said.

After the puck was deliberately fired in their direction, the officials called the game, awarded the Blues the championship and quickly ushered them off the ice.

Mandryk said his players and their parents were shocked. Instead of a deserving on-ice celebration, they huddled in their dressing room while the Lake Manitoba players remained on the ice and the RCMP rushed to the arena to deal with the tense situation.

Police ultimately escorted all the Lake Manitoba players and parents out of the rink and took a series of statements as they launched a criminal investigation. They are also reviewing video and pictures of the incidents. No charges have been laid.

Mandryk also serves as president of the Stonewall Minor Hockey Association and said his executive will discuss potential sanctions, including the Lake Manitoba team's expulsion from the league, to bring to Hockey Manitoba officials who oversee it.

He said Lake Manitoba was banned several years ago for other incidents of rough play and unsportsmanlike conduct but were eventually given a second chance and let back in.

Officials with the Lake Manitoba team and the Interlake Minor Hockey Association did not return calls Monday seeking comment.

Mandryk said contrary to some reports, there was no fighting in the stands or any incidents involving parents beyond verbal abuse of the referees.

The incident is similar to one on Feb. 16 at the Southdale Community Centre between Brokenhead and Sagkeeng First Nations.

Coaches and other players physically abused officials as they tried to break up an altercation and stick-swinging incident on the ice. A 12-year-old boy broke his wrist in the melee.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Will the new program to teach parents how to behave at arenas stop the violence at amateur hockey games? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2014 A3

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