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R.I. Interscholastic League's PCOA raises concerns about fan conduct at boys' hockey games

March 24, 2014

PROVIDENCE — Based on Monday’s discussion amongst the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Principals’ Committee, there appears to be growing concern with regard to fan behavior at boys’ high school hockey games.

“We feel that we’ve seen and heard of more issues happening at the rink. Not really players, but parents and students in the stands,” expressed Tom Mezzanotte, RIIL executive director.

Save for Mount St. Charles and Burrillville, hockey contests take place at off-campus sites. It’s imperative, Mezzanotte feels, that fans remember to abide by the same code of conduct policies that are in place when games are held on school grounds. Nothing changes just because the venue does not have a direct affiliation with the participating schools.

“I think that they feel that because it’s off campus, they can ridicule officials, the other team and spectators,” Mezzanotte pointed out. “It presents an atmosphere that’s not educationally based.”

The gate receipts from boys’ hockey goes directly to the RIIL. To that end, Mezzanotte cited that corralling fans is “a difficult situation to deal with” and the goal is to create a better environment where off-ice issues don’t supersede the spirit of competition.

“I found a few,” said Mezzanotte when asked if he saw any incidents of fan misconduct during the just-completed hockey playoff series held at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium.

Based on conversations with attendees at the MSC-Hendricken state finals series and the Division II semifinals involving Cumberland and Lincoln, the crowds were vocal and loud, but also respectful. Moving forward, the hope is that administrators become more involved with game supervision.

“As a former principal (at Classical High School), I feel a principal has a lot more clout in terms of dealing with issues with parents and kids,” said Mezzanotte. “Police are there in the event that something significant does happen, but when fans start acting in an unsportsmanlike manner, I think it’s incumbent upon a principal or a school supervisor to go over and remind them that this is a high school event and we try to play by good sportsmanship rules.

“I think when parents and kids know that someone from the school is there, they’re more responsive to acting appropriately,” he added. “It’s incumbent upon our school administrators to make sure parents know that these are school events. We expect appropriate behavior by all.”

Below are some other items discussed by the PCOA at RIIL headquarters, located on the Rhode Island College campus:

– The preseason schedule in football has been changed to accommodate the heat acclimatization guidelines and the new 90-minute contact rule. The first official day of practice is Thursday, Aug. 14, a date that meets the criteria of camp opening 18 days prior to the Injury Fund (not counting Sundays).
Contact is not permitted until the sixth practice. The 90 minutes of preordained contact must be spread over a four-day period. Only helmets and shoulder pads are permitted the day after the first scrimmage.

– Staying with football, the Principals’ Committee voted 13-1 to a one-year extension to the officials’ contract whose membership is headed by Jim Ashley, commissioner of officials for the Southeastern Massachusetts Football Officials Association.
Last spring saw the PCOA and SEMFOA enter into a two-year agreement that would feature Ashley assigning officials to be used in RIIL contests. The contract would have expired at the end of the 2014 football season. Now discussions for a new deal won’t be opened up until 2016.
“It gives us continuity over the next two years,” cited Mezzanotte.
Also, the 2014 football schedules have been revised to reflect the change of non-league games taking place on Thanksgiving.

– Two-year realignments in boys’ and girls’ soccer were unanimously approved. Locally, the biggest change for the boys is that Woonsocket drops from Division I to Division III. For the girls, Lincoln will play in Division I the next two seasons following a successful stint in Division II.

– Bishop Keough was fined $100 for using an ineligible athlete during the 2013-14 girls’ basketball season. The athlete-in-question transferred to the Pawtucket-based school with Keough officials interpreting that non-league games on the schedule were considered scrimmages rather than actual games.
The athlete played in two non-leaguers for the Koalas. When the matter was brought to the league’s attention, the RIIL contacted Bishop Keough only to find that the school sat the young lady for two additional league games in compliance with the policy on transfers.
With the appropriate number of games to sit out having been already made up, Keough did not have to forfeit any games with the punishment only consisting of a fine.

– Committee members were handed packets containing information about the transgender policy that the RIIL is strongly considering. The goal is to have the drafted legislation ratified for approved at the next PCOA meeting in June.
One of the pages in the packet deals with the different scenarios that may come up with another page focusing on proper documentation.
“It’s important to be ahead of this before it’s an issue,” noted Kevin McNamara, principal at Lincoln High School and PCOA chairman.

– Mike Whaley, principal at Burrillville High, was officially appointed as the co-director of the baseball committee.

– A moment of silence was held for George Nasuti, the beloved Woonsocket athletic director and coach who passed away last month.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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