“It’s an outright, vicious assault by a hockey player towards a referee,” Troy Howatt told The Guardian Friday. “It crossed the line of anything normal in a hockey game.”
The Guardian has obtained video of the incident from a couple of sources.
One shows the referee holding a player’s arm as he is led off the ice. The player, as he gets to the boards, swings his arm, pushes the referee and appears to punch the ref twice with his right hand.
As the nine-second video ends, a linesman and the player’s teammate arrive.
A second video shows a scuffle in front of the benches, the player being led off the ice and men from the stands rushing down the stairs towards the gate. One of the men appears to try to grab the official.
“Oh my God, this is ludicrous,” said Howatt, of his reaction upon first watching the video. “It’s shocking. You don't expect an official to be attacked in such a way.”
It is not clear what led to the alleged assault.
The RCMP arrested an 18-year-old Charlottetown man and his 41-year-old father, a resident of Morell. They were released, but each will be charged with one count of assault on the official.
The court documents, with the men’s identity, have not been filed with the provincial court. The men are scheduled to appear in court on April 26.
Sgt. Leanne Butler said officers are conducting interviews with witnesses. She would not say how many people police have spoken with.
“We treat this as a regular assault investigation. It doesn’t matter to us where it happened,” she said. “We investigate all criminal assaults the same way.”
Howatt has been officiating since he was 12 years old, but he has never been involved in anything similar to the alleged incident. He rarely comments about issues, but this one forced him to speak publicly.
“Those actions can’t be condoned. Regardless of the emotion, the tempo, the pace of the game, they have to play within the confines of the playing rules,” he said.
Howatt said it is not a common occurrence, but hockey branches across the country are dealing with abuse of officials. His peers are concerned.
“They’re worried about what’s next.”
Howatt estimated four or five match penalties were called on P.E.I. this season for physical abuse of officials. He said players and fans have to be held accountable for their actions.
“Hockey is a privilege. It’s not a right,” he said.