A meeting was hosted by Pine City Athletic Director Rick Engelstad at the high school auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 12, to address a recent directive by the Mississippi 8 Conference regarding behavior of some high school hockey parents and fans, specifically during away games.
Englestad noted at a school board meeting two nights prior that the varsity hockey teams were in jeopardy of losing their place in the conference if parent and fan behavior didn’t improve within a year.
An email was sent to Engelstad by the Mississippi 8 stating:
“M8 has a concern about the conduct of your parents and fans. The M8 will continue monitoring our hockey culture during the 2021-22 season and into next season. We’re hoping it improves in our own arenas as well as yours. There is a possibility we will end our partnership if things do not improve at your school. We know hockey games can be challenging, and we’re all in this together. Thank you for partnering with the M8 and for working on the culture of hockey.”
Engelstad noted, “We don’t know who these few parents or fans are, but the biggest problems occur when we’re on the road … I wouldn’t let a kid listen to the live feed. The swearing and threats are unbelievable.”
He added that it is primarily parents or fans of the boy’s varsity hockey team and that he feels it is a quick fix if parents and fans cheer positively for their player and the team and say nothing negative toward the opponents (players, coaches and fans), officials and our players and coaching staff.
Losing a spot in the M8 Conference would result in the search for another conference which would be very difficult, Engelstad added, as other conferences are not likely to welcome a team with a negative reputation.
“Without a conference, there is a good chance our teams will not get to play a full schedule of games,” stated Engelstad. “Non-conference games can be hard to come by.” He added that if they could find games to play as an independent team, travel distances would likely be further.
“Right now many officials would rather not officiate Pine City games,” he added. “Many officials have left the game due to COVID and fan behavior. They don’t get paid enough to be harassed. Do they make mistakes? Of course they do; they are human.”
Discussion was held among audience members and Engelstad regarding interaction with referees. It was suggested by a meeting participant that the referees should be able to control the behavior of crowd members, and one parent felt the Dragon players were being unfairly targeted by the referees.
Engelstad responded saying, “We have an agreement about our behavior with the Mississippi 8 and with the Minnesota State High School League.” He added that referee numbers are currently down about 57%.
Another meeting participant questioned whether the people who were creating problems could be asked to leave the arena. Engelstad said that other arenas don’t want to deal with the behavior, which is why the school is being told to clean up their act.
Engelstad closed the meeting imploring everyone to support each other in positive behavior.