Police advise charge after hockey-fan fracas

Off-ice altercation a sign of a larger problem in youth sports: Semiahmoo president

The West Vancouver Police Department is investigating an off-ice incident that allegedly occurred between fans of a Semiahmoo Minor Hockey team and one from Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver Friday.

Police and ambulance crews were called to the rink after at least one fight broke out in the stands of a youth game between the two associations’ bantam ‘A1’ squads.

According to West Vancouver Police, an argument arose between two men in the viewing area of the arena. One man allegedly grabbed the other, and other spectators then stepped in to help break up the situation.

No serious injuries were reported, according to West Vancouver Police Const. Jeff Palmer.

The alleged victim, a 67-year-old Langley man, reported minor bruising and soreness.

Police say they will recommend a charge of assault against a 45-year-old West Vancouver man.

The accused was arrested and released on a promise to appear at North Vancouver Provincial Court on May 6.

There were reports over the weekend – which travelled quickly via social media – that the altercation started when a Semiahmoo player was spit upon by someone in the stands, but neither Palmer nor Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association president Ian Maguire would speculate on what may have sparked the melee.

“For us, the focus is just on the altercation between the two men,” Palmer said.

Maguire – who was not in attendance at the game, played by 13- and 14-year-olds – said his association, as well as executive members from Hollyburn, were working with BC Hockey and the police to get to the bottom of the situation.

“We’re digging into it now, and from what I hear, Semiahmoo parents were fairly well-behaved in all this,” he told Peace Arch News Monday, adding that the game was apparently an “animated” one that included the ejection of at least one player.

“But if it turns out that there is something one of our parents did that is unacceptable, it will be dealt with and dealt with swiftly.”

Regardless of what sparked the confrontation, Palmer said it’s an important reminder for fans to keep their cool during games.

“In a general sense, we would recommend – and I think 99 per cent of people would agree – that people bear in mind that it’s just a game,” he said. “Cheer on your own family members, and your team, but don’t let it escalate to the point (where assault charges) are involved.”

And though Friday’s incident is unfortunate, Maguire hoped to use it as an example that, when it comes to fan and parent behaviour at youth sports events, there is much work to be done.

Earlier this year, hockey associations on Vancouver Island discussed the idea of parent-less games, so poor was some behaviour from fans.

Maguire said he supports the idea, and is also a proponent of putting small GoPro cameras on the helmets of referees, to see and hear what they deal with from parents, coaches and players alike.

“We might try that a few times next year,” he said.

Semiahmoo has always been one of the more pro-active associations when it comes to a code of conduct, Maguire added.

For example, Maguire said all parents of Hockey 4-division players are required to complete a Respect in Sports course – something only a few associations require.

“We have a responsibility to build a positive hockey experience for players aged five to 18, and we do as much as we can as an association to make sure that happens,” he said.

“But overall, I don’t know that (behaviour) is getting better. It’s actually probably worse. There’s not a week that goes by where an incident like (Friday’s) doesn’t happen at a rink somewhere in Canada. Overly passionate parents, grandparents and other fans are driving the sport to a place it shouldn’t go.

“Sometimes parents don’t behave the way that they should.”