When Hockey Eastern Ontario (HEO) launched the green armband initiative in January 2020, its goal was to help shield young on-ice officials from verbal abuse hurled from the crowd and the benches.
The initiative states that all officials under the age of 18-years-old will wear a green armband that will indicate that they are minors.
In the HEO, there are officials as young as 14 years old and around 300 officials calling games that are minors.
According to John Reid, HEO Referee-in-Chief, the idea came from a basketball team in Montreal.
“Umpires were kind of stuck behind the plate and it seems that group in Montreal have decided to do this green armband initiative to get parents and coaches to stop yelling at the minors,” said Reid.
“And one of the things was the umpiring is behind the plate, you can’t go anywhere.
“Whereas in hockey, you can skate to the other side of the rink, and you can move up and down the ice surface and you can kind of get away from things … when you’re behind the plate you are kind of stuck about people yelling at you.”
The initiative was brought in by the HEO as COVID restrictions lifted and the hockey season started up again. Reid says that it has been “tremendously” successful.
The green armbands do not affect the players on the ice as they are under the Canada Maltreatment rules, so it is simply just to benefit the officials under the age of 18 and could affect the coaches and parents.
Parents would simply be asked to leave the rink if found yelling or mistreating an official that is wearing the green armband.
For coaching staff if they are found yelling at a young official their penalty will be doubled.
According to Reid there are posters indicating this and the rules about the initiative in all arenas in the HEO, so parents and coaches are aware of these rules
“The reality is they’ve really been given a heads up and a wakeup call,” said Reid.
Reid said it was very easy to get this initiative started and the HEO provided them with the funds to purchase the armbands.
“Our bands cost $6 each. They sent us off with a $2,000 fund to go ahead and purchase the armbands and then we distributed them through our 10 different district Referee in Chiefs,” said Reid.
Reid said there are officials as young as 14 refereeing AAA, under 18 hockey or junior hockey and the program has been very beneficial to them, even at such a high level. Not all the young officials wanted to wear the band.
“I think there’s one official in junior that wasn’t certain about wanting to wear the green armband, but at that point when they’re 17 and they’re officiating that high level, my argument back to them is you should be proud about wearing the green armband and being able to showcase yourself,” said Reid
The green armband initiative is starting to “catch” on according to Reid. He said there has been inquiries from Manitoba, BC, Alberta and Texas.
“I’m saying this is not just a harassment program that would be for hockey, but it to be incorporated into any sport,” said Reid.