Hockey Winnipeg wants to have fewer YouTube moments in the stands of local arenas, so it's going to require one person from every hockey family in town to take an online tutorial about tolerance.
The governing body is holding a news conference this morning where it is expected to announce Respect in Sport, a course co-designed by former Manitoba Moose forward and anti-abuse crusader Sheldon Kennedy, will be a prerequisite before the next hockey season starts, just like registration fees.
The course, which takes two to three hours to complete and doesn't have to be done in one sitting, aims to prevent parents from screaming at each other, referees, coaches or players.
Hockey Winnipeg has considered the program for at least a year, largely due to increasing reports of confrontations at minor hockey games. It is already mandatory for coaches of all ages.
Parents cause "the vast majority" of issues at hockey rinks throughout the city, said Rydell Lasko, president of the St. Vital Hockey Association.
"Parents getting angry and yelling at the referees changes the whole feel of the game and gets into the kids' heads," he said.
'It's not the Stanley Cup final every game your kid plays. Hockey isn't just about a game, it's life lessons, being part of a team, work ethic and respect that kids take from the sport' -- Rydell Lasko, president of the St. Vital Hockey Association
There's nothing wrong with being passionate about your children's sporting activities, but parents need to recognize just a select few players move on to the pro ranks, he said.
"It's not the Stanley Cup final every game your kid plays. Hockey isn't just about a game, it's life lessons, being part of a team, work ethic and respect that kids take from the sport," he said.
The Respect in Sport program has been mandatory in Calgary since 2010. It's now mandatory throughout Alberta, every Maritime province, the city of Regina and several minor hockey associations. Next season, the program will be adopted by the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, the largest in Canada.
When mandatory, at least one caregiver in the family must get a credit for taking the course before his or her son is allowed to play.
Parents think it's a good idea but have mixed opinions on whether a Respect in Sport course will change behaviour.
"Oh, definitely," said Sharon Gibson, when asked if such a program is needed. "Sometimes it gets pretty rowdy (in the stands) and parents need to realize it's just a game."
The compulsory course for Hockey Winnipeg could "give some perspective on what's expected" of hockey parents, said Gibson, whose son was playing for the Assiniboine Park Rangers at Maples Community Centre Tuesday night.
She was less enthused that the $12 course is taken online. "I don't think online has as much impact as someone standing in front and talking to you."
Kristy Nanton, whose son plays on the same Bantam AA team for 14-year-olds, thinks Respect in Sport will have a positive effect.
"I like that," she said when told Hockey Winnipeg approved the program. "It could make it more enjoyable for people in the stands."
Laurence Gorenstein, who has taken the Respect in Sport course because he used to coach kids' hockey, is unsure much will change.
"I don't know if parents will really learn anything. (The course) is a lot of common sense," Gorenstein said. It might cause some parents to reflect on the way they act, he said.
He said hockey leagues are trying to be more proactive about hazing and bullying.
"I've seen parents behind the penalty box berate a player from the opposing team," said Gary Ostrowski, whose son plays for the Rangers opponent last night, the home-team North West Stars.
Ostrowski has also taken the course as a coach, but is skeptical it will make much difference. He believes the referee should have the authority to throw disrespectful parents out of the arena. The game wouldn't continue until they leave.
Why does hockey arouse more passion in parents than sports such as soccer or baseball? It's fast and physical, Ostrowski said. But most of all, "it's because everybody's kid's going to the NHL."
Paul Krestanowich, vice-president of operations for the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association, doesn't believe the new rule will make a huge difference.
"But if it stops one parent from being an idiot, it will have done its job. Hockey parents can be a little squirrely. Most of them know their kids aren't going to the NHL. Our passion for the sport is ridiculous. It makes sane people do insane things," he said.
The abuse heaped on referees, some of whom aren't even teenagers yet, is one reason St. Vital is having difficulty attracting officials, Lasko said.
"Last year, we had a big drop-off in new refs. A bunch quit in their first year because of the abuse and pressure. They're 12 and 13 years old doing seven- and eight-year-old hockey," he said.
Is an online tutorial enough to educate out-of-control hockey parents about what is respectful behaviour? Join the conversation in the comments below.