One of a referee’s toughest duties is getting in the middle of flying fists on the ice to break up a fight. But in a game in the Netherlands last weekend, one referee nearly joined a fight in the stands.
It was a March 16 Larry van Wieren Cup playoff game between the Geleen Smoke Eaters and Eindhoven in Eredivisie, the only pro ice hockey league in the country organized by the Dutch Ice Hockey Federation (NIJB). There was an altercation in the stands between a group of fans and a 17-year-old youth player, seated with his mother and father.
The father stepped in and was soon jumped by two men, one of whom put him in a choke hold on the bleachers. As the father stood up, another man shoved him off the stands onto the concrete floor near the rink boards.
The chaos soon spread to the ice, as the referee and Eindhoven backup goalie attempt to leave the ice to join the fight. Here’s one of the wildest scenes you’ll ever witness at a hockey game:
So why did the referee and the goalie want to join the brawl?
Because they’re brothers – the ref was Ramon Sterkens and the goalie was Michael Sterkens, 24 – and the man being assaulted was their father.
The game was called with 13 minutes left in the third period and with Eindhoven winning, 5-1.
The Dutch Ice Hockey Federation investigated the incident, saying that the “rioters” are both known to Geleen team officials and to police. Geleen was handed a 500 Euro fine, with 300 Euros suspended with the team under probation for a year. It demanded better training of arena personnel and promised further sanctions if the any of the “rioters” were allowed back in the Smoke Eaters’ arena next season.
Here’s a wonderful twist: The two teams meet again on March 23 in the finals of the tournament. The Federation ruled that visiting fans are to be given a “separate and shielded” area at the arena.
So yeah, that was crazy. Not the fight – the fact that a referee was allowed to officiate a playoff game involving his brother’s team …