Junior hockey player gets lifetime ban for punching referee

A USPHL player has been given a lifetime ban for punching a referee during a hockey game.
A USPHL player has been given a lifetime ban for punching a referee during a hockey game.

As fans, referees are often at the forefront of our qualms and complaints about our favourite sports. Players spend a lot of time arguing with referees about unfair or missed calls, further riling up those watching from the stands and at home.

But one thing that we can never condone is an assault on an official.

On Sunday, Paul Halloran of the USPHL’s South Shore Kings struck a referee after the player was unhappy about a penalty call in the first period of a game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.

In the footage of the incident, Halloran can be seen shoving the referee after the two collided in front of the Kings’ bench. The ref immediately blew his whistle and animatedly pointed to the penalty box. As he was being escorted to the penalty box by the linesman, Halloran punched the referee, knocking him to the ground.

The referee quickly got up, seemingly uninjured.

USPHL Commissioner Bob Turrow issued a statement shortly after the incident, condemning the player's actions and issuing the 20-year-old Halloran a lifetime ban.

“The action taken today by a USPHL player is completely unacceptable in the USPHL. The USPHL has zero tolerance for any player striking any official, at any time. The player in question’s actions have led to a lifetime ban.”

Halloran's actions could also have consequences beyond the rink, as the situation is being investigated by local authorities.

This incident comes amidst a referee shortage that has hampered youth hockey in the United States over the last few months. Many older refs reportedly stepped away from the ice due to concerns over COVID-19, while programs struggle to replace them with younger men and women who are hesitant to endure endless abuse — usually verbal but sometimes physical — from parents for relatively meagre pay.

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