This is a portion of a column appeared in the Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times on December 20, 2015 as my regular ice hockey notebook. Some agreed with the position we took on the issue. At least one reader did not.
What was most important to us was calling attention to an ongoing issue. In short, we made people think.
The holiday break marks the unofficial halfway point of the high-school hockey season. It’s rare, in fact almost unheard of at this juncture to have three unbeaten teams in one division, but that’s the case in SHSHL Continental. North Penn, Central Bucks West, and Central Bucks South, are a combined 20-0-1 in league play. The Bucks and the Titans have each lost to Holy Ghost Prep but have been perfect otherwise.
Things will be heating up after the New Year when the contenders start facing each other. The focus has largely been on crossover games up to this point.
From time to time we have touched on the importance of players disciplining themselves on ice. This season they’ve done a good job of that for the most part.
But there have been problems with fan behavior, specifically student fan behavior. The latest episode occurred Wednesday night (December 16) at Hatfield when a game between North Penn and Pennridge was halted with 46 seconds remaining after a spectator sitting in the Pennridge rooting section threw debris on the ice. It was a potentially dangerous situation; debris on a hockey rink can cause a catastrophic injury. Earlier in the evening a spectator sitting in the same section of the stands was ejected from the building.
The individual most upset by the incident may have been Pennridge coach Wayne Stabile. “This is the first year we’ve really had fans coming back,” he said, “but obviously I don’t want that kind of experience.”
It’s not the first time this season that student fans gave caused issues, to the point where student fans at Central Bucks South have been barred from entering unless accompanied by a parent.
But it must be emphasized that this issue is separate and distinct from what is happening on the ice. From what we’ve observed so far this season the coaches and referees have done a commendable job of cleaning up the extracurricular activity.
But considering hockey’s unique status as a club sport (in most instances), it’s unrealistic and unfair to hold coaches accountable for the actions of students and others in the stands. They have enough to deal with controlling their players.
Part of the solution involves increased security at the rinks. On Wednesday night at Hatfield there was just a single security guard on duty. The next night, when Truman and Hatboro-Horsham skated at Grundy Arena, the security force numbered three, including a Bristol Borough police officer. We’ve seen police on hand at other SHSHL venues in past. Perhaps it’s time for that practice to become standard, and for the schools themselves to crack down on students who act up.
Some are taking notice. One administrator told us that if that school’s hockey team or students becomes a continuing source of problems that the school will require the players to remove the school’s name from their uniforms. That would classify as the ultimate embarrassment.