Volunteer monitors aim to keep a P.E.I. minor hockey tournament safe and respectful

Jonathan Mosher sits on the organizing committee for the Sherwood Parkdale minor hockey Early Bird tournament. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)
Jonathan Mosher sits on the organizing committee for the Sherwood Parkdale minor hockey Early Bird tournament. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

Spectators at the Sherwood Parkdale minor hockey Early Bird tournament will notice a new feature at this year's event. Every team has a volunteer rink monitor, working to keep the game safe and respectful — both on and off the ice.

Tournament organizer Jonathan Mosher said the concept came from soccer, where volunteer field monitors ensure parents and spectators maintain respectful behaviour.

"They're just in the stands just seeing how the behaviour is, making sure there's no disrespectful behaviour towards the players, the referees or any of the other spectators," he said.

The monitors have been put in place to watch out for incidents like what happened at last year's tournament, when a goalie from Nova Scotia had racist slurs directed at him from the crowd. The Hockey P.E.I. disciplinary committee later suspended five minor hockey players from the Island for 25 games for the incident.

Mosher explains that by having volunteers from each team in the stands, organizers hope to keep the game enjoyable for all players.

"Youth participating in hockey should be able to do it in a fun, safe and healthy environment," he said. "This was just another step to try and build in some framework to make sure we're keeping it as fun and safe for the minor hockey players as we can."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

Parent Jonathan Hunter stepped up to volunteer as a rink monitor with the Cole Harbour U11 AA team. He said he's always at the games anyway, and based on his experience so far, he would volunteer again next year.

"I think it's a great program that the Early Bird put on to make sure the kids have fun," he said.

If an issue arises, rink monitors can try to defuse the situation on their own. If they need more support, they're able to ask organizers for help.

"The idea was maybe someone who's a peer might be able to diffuse the situation a lot easier being a peer-to-peer type of situation as opposed to someone in a position of authority and already having that conflict starting," said Mosher.

If this year's tournament goes smoothly, Mosher said organizers will look at bringing the rink monitor program back again next year. He said ultimately, the monitors are there to help remind everyone what it means to be a good sport.

"It's youth hockey, everyone's here to have fun," he said.

"We're trying to keep it fun for the parents, too…. It's just a way to have the spectators participate and make sure that we're keeping the game fun and safe."