Nearly 4 years after the rink-rage death of one hockey dad at the hands of another, a Swampscott father has been banned indefinitely from attending local youth hockey games after witnesses said he grabbed an 8-year-old around the neck and cursed at him following the boy's on-ice shoving match with the man's son.
A Peabody magistrate is scheduled to decide next week whether Jordan Waldman, 51, will face assault charges in what state youth hockey officials say is the most egregious incident since they adopted stricter rules for parental conduct in 2003 after Thomas F. Junta beat Michael Costin to death during a 2000 youth hockey practice in Reading.
Kevin Holt of Salem, whose son plays for the Salem-Swampscott team, said last night that he saw Waldman grab Cameron Byrne by the shirt at his neckline and yank him forward after a game Dec. 26, saying something like, "Keep your hands off my kid."
"He sounded real mad, and he grabbed him pretty hard," Holt said. "I was just amazed."
"I'm just glad it wasn't my kid that he grabbed," Holt added. "There'd be two of us going to court."
Tim Byrne, Cameron's father, who filed a criminal complaint against Waldman, said his son confirmed the account.
Waldman did not return calls yesterday seeking comment.
At least three parents quickly intervened, Byrne said, pushing Waldman away from Byrne's son.
Holt was in the locker room picking up his son's goalie equipment after the altercation and said he also witnessed Waldman attempting an apology. "He was saying: 'Oh, Cam, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to,' " Holt said. "The kid was pretty scared."
Cameron's mother saw Waldman with her son and "freaked out," Holt said. He said that Waldman touched Cameron's mother, apparently trying to comfort her, and she warned him not to touch her.
"The bottom line is, no matter what the kids were doing, an adult just can't touch a kid like that," Tim Byrne, 38, said yesterday. "You just can't. He should have gone over to the coach or even talked to my wife if he thought my kid was doing something."
After a league disciplinary hearing Tuesday, Waldman was banned from attending all Salem-Swampscott Youth Hockey League games. Waldman -- who did not attend the hearing but could appeal to Massachusetts Hockey, the state youth hockey association -- subsequently pulled his son from the league, officials said.
As for his son, Byrne said "he just wants to know when it's going to be over."
The Salem-Swampscott Youth Hockey Association has about 140 players, ranging in age from 6 to 17, said association president Michael Cheever. The incident happened after a game involving 6- to 8-year-olds against Masconomet at a Peabody rink, as Cameron Byrne and Waldman's son were coming off the ice. The teammates shoved and elbowed each other, Cheever said.
Cameron scored a hat trick during the game, fulfilling a promise he'd made to his grandfather to celebrate his birthday, Byrne said.
Cheever said the association decided to hold a disciplinary hearing after receiving complaints from Byrne and witnesses and in accordance with the rules of Massachusetts Hockey. The parents' code of conduct states, in part, that parents will "never yell, taunt, threaten, or inflict physical violence upon any player, coach, official, or spectator at any youth hockey activity."
Gino Cresta, the team's coach, said last night before practice at the William Connery Rink in Lynn that he did not require parents to sign the code of conduct form before letting their children play.
He described Waldman as a "decent guy" who has a child in the hockey program for the first time. "I've dealt with him all year," said Cresta. "He's been a gentleman. I think he just overreacted."
Cheever also said that the league has not had a similar incident and that he had not heard of previous problems with Waldman.
Daniel Esdale, the vice president of Massachusetts Hockey, said he could recall only one other recent incident at a youth hockey game, an altercation in Melrose last year. In that episode, Paul Johnson, Melrose Youth Hockey assistant coach, allegedly grabbed 19-year-old referee Mark Ceruolo of Saugus during his team's game against Everett at Winthrop's Larsen Rink, after Johnson's son was checked from behind and fell to the ice, a league official said.
Winthrop police were poised to press assault charges against Johnson, but Ceruolo declined to cooperate. Massachusetts Hockey later banned Johnson.
Esdale said local hockey leagues are responsible for getting children and parents to sign the codes of conduct, which Massachusetts Hockey started distributing in 2003. The codes were not prompted by the Junta case in particular, he said, but by the general concern about violence in sports. Junta, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, is serving six to 10 years in state prison, a sentence that was upheld on appeal last year.
Still, Esdale said, some parents fail to control their impulses, even after clear warnings.
"Some people have no idea what the code really means," he said. "You can preach to them, and until they get themselves in a situation, you're not sure how they'll address it. . . . People react before thinking."
In addition to distributing codes of conduct, he said the association is testing programs in six communities that incorporate lessons about preventing violence during parents' orientation.
That public effort has created a greater awareness about violence in all sports, not just hockey, he said.
"The sad thing is it's not a sport thing," Esdale said. "It seems to be a societal issue today, the way people deal with matters."
Erin DelVecchio of East Boston, whose two sons were also practicing at the hockey rink in Lynn last night, said nothing has changed since the Junta episode.
"It's sad. There shouldn't be any violence around kids. It's a game," she said.
Mac Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.