Hockey Officials in the amateur leagues increasingly wear body cameras for the same reason police do: to record the official’s point-of-view and document actions for later review. Minor league hockey referees report abuse on the ice at an alarming rate, so much so that 1/3 of many pools of hockey referees are quitting and the system faces a shortage (CBC News, 2015).
Most ‘ref abuse’ is verbal, but who wants to deal with that for the $30 a night many local hockey refs are paid? Physical abuse is rarer, but a survey of 632 Ontario referees found that 9 out of 10 of them reported being the focus of repeated abuse and aggression by coaches, players and parents (Gillis, 2014).
Some local hockey leagues are responding by proposing ‘GoPro’ cameras mounted to the helmet of referees (CBC News, 2015). The reasoning is that coaches and parents in hockey arenas would be less willing to commit assault if their conduct is being recorded.
Hockey arena and league administrators also like the idea of helmet cams on referees as they help expedite the regular risk management protocols needed to deal with the violence a few parents and coaches indulge in, particularly at Canadian Hockey games. Swedish hockey leagues, in contrast, do not report the fights that Canadian amateur leagues report (Gillis, 2014). Also, Canadian soccer leagues report much fewer assaults than Canadian hockey leagues at the same amateur levels. Preparing for legal proceedings and appeals is now a regular part of risk management in Hockey forums and minimum due process and evidence such as videos are recommended.
An example of video cameras use is in New Brunswick, Canada, at the Charlotte County Minor Hockey Association (Referee, 2015). There cameras assist in reducing abusive fan behavior and also in training new officials. Video from the body cameras is sometimes used in classroom training for new referees. There are ‘mixed reactions’ to the body cameras, and the Referee-in-Chief in Charlotte County reports that older refs do not want the cameras while younger refs almost always do. Lastly, the cameras “seem to give younger officials a bit of a confidence boost” according to the Referee-in-Chief.
Dr. Robert Hudson is the Library Director and Archivist at the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBC News (2015, Feb. 21). Hockey district considering helmet cameras to cut down on ref abuse. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/hockey-district-considering-helmet-cameras-to-cut-down-on-ref-abuse-1.2965888
Gillis, C. (2014). The new hockey fights. Maclean’s, 127(13/14), 26.
Hockey Referees Wear Cameras to Prevent Abuse. (2015). Referee, (464), 10.