Lawyer: Response to Howell hockey fight puts all refs at risk
The lawyer for one of the referees who alleges he was attacked in the locker room after last week's Howell-Manasquan game said the NJSIAA did not respond quickly enough to the incident, or follow its own guidelines.
Attorney RIchard Lumurro, who represents referee David Brown, is looking for a "change in policy and a change in action" after Sunday's alleged incident at the Howell Ice World. Brown claims two parents came into their locker room and began punching him after a game that included a parent being removed from the game and players ejected.
The involved parents — who have not been named by police — have both publicly disputed that account. Ocean Township attorney Mitchell Ansell reportedly told NJ Advance Media Sunday, on behalf of parent Anthony Gallicchio, "at no time did Mr. Galicchio ever assault anyone that day, let alone a referee."
"Dave Brown made derogatory and obscene comments about Mr. Gallicchio’s wife that were heard and confirmed by several juveniles," Ansell statement continued, according to the report "Mr. Brown then compounded the situation by turning a civil discussion into a physical altercation.
Brown has described the incident as an unprovoked assault by Gallicchio and another parent, Robert Dovenero, as an unprovoked assault. He's been supported in that account by another involved referee, Sal Bianco.
"Dave was let down by the NJSIAA," Lumurro, speaking on Brown's behalf, told New Jersey 101.5.
He cited procedure in the NJSIAA handbook, which he described as "the law of the land" when it comes to New Jersey high school athletics. He said the rulebook states that when games that become unruly, officials are supposed to be escorted safely back to the locker room and no unauthorized people are supposed to be permitted in the room.
"Obviously that did not happen in this case. These are the rules and the law that this organization holds itself out to follow. It was not followed and it must be followed in the future," Lumurro said.
Lumurro said Howell Police also let Brown down because "they did not do a full investigation of what happened. The case is closed according to the police department but there's several witnesses who were never interviewed," including Brown, he said.
"We want this never to hapen again," said Lumurro, who also said Brown has been a referee for the past 30 years. "It's about the thousands of other referees and officials who need to have the confidence they'll be protected" from whatever happens during an athletic event once the game is over. If the referees can't be confident they can't do their job appropriately because they're concerned about somebody attacking them after the game it compromises the integrity of high school sports and our children's sports entirely."
Referees were concerned enough about their own safety following Sunday's incident that many initially refused to officiate games involving the Howell Rebels in the Shore Conference hockey tournament that started on Thursday.
"The hockey officials had concerns and wanted assurances they would have a safe working environment," the NJSIAA said in a statement describing the planned boycott. The NJSIAA would not reveal every step taken to satisfy safety concerns but said the parents accused of being involved with the Howell Ice World incident were not allowed to attend the Howell-Toms River East tournament game on Thursday.
Rusty Todd, the athletic director of Ocean Township High School and the president of the Shore Conference, told New Jersey 101.5 "We don't condone anything that happened at the rink. But to deny officiating a member school's game when many of those kids didn't do a thing, we were going to halt the Shore Conference tournament . If they weren't going to officiate one Shore Conference game they they weren't going to officiate any Shore Conference game."
Todd said that under the New York-New Jersey Chapter of the National Ice Hockey Officials agreement with the NJSIAA, "they can't boycott. They can't have a stop workage."
Lomurro did not comment specifically about the threat of a boycott but said Brown has a "community of people who have been completely supportive and encouraged him to do what he feels is right."
Gallicchio, one of the parents, has filed his own criminal complaint against Brown according to NJ Advance Media. Lomurro has told New Jersey 101.5 his client is filing a criminal complaint against the involved parents.