St. Stephen Aces stress safety, fan cooperation

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St. Stephen – Fans who attend St. Stephen Aces games are being asked to cooperate with the rules of conduct established by the Aces hockey club.

One of those rules is “fans will sit only in their ticketed seats and must, within reason, remain seated during play of game.”

“When the puck is in play, they should be seated,” said Sweeney. “People should not be walking up and down the stairways.” – Bob Sweeney, St. Stephen Aces Vice-President, Business

This, said Bob Sweeney, vice-president, business, with the St. Stephen Aces Jr. A hockey club, especially applies to youngsters, teens, and adults who move around the Quartermain Arena at the Garcelon Civic Center during the hockey games.

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“When the puck is in play, they should be seated,” said Sweeney. “People should not be walking up and down the stairways.

“For all intents and purposes, the biggest challenge we have is not with adults, it’s with the kids – kids running.”

One of the main rules of conduct, highlighted on a post beside the arena doors, is the stipulation “children must be supervised at all times.”

It further states: “Fans must supervise children that they bring with them to ensure they are not running throughout the building during games to ensure their safety and so not as to interfere with others.”

Kids running around the arena during hockey games “seems to be a little more acute this year than it has been in previous years,” stated Sweeney.

He said part of the issue is the club has had a difficult time recruiting volunteers to act as security during the games.

The other is parents aren’t always controlling their kids’ actions.

Sweeney said he had a few parents speak to him following the Oct. 21 game when the civic centre’s fire alarm sounded. The crowd was slow to respond to the alarm.

He said a couple of parents told him they were quite concerned when they realized it was a fire alarm, and told him, “I didn’t know where my child was.”

He said the Aces franchise is recommending fans sit in their seats and keep their kids with them.

Sweeney said not only is it a safety issue to have people moving about during a game, it also interferes with the enjoyment of the game for others.

“Somehow we have to get the message to the fans, to the parents,” said Sweeney. He said security during the games is the Aces club’s responsibility from 6 p.m., when the doors open the night of a game, to about half an hour after the game ends.

The club uses volunteers to patrol the lobby, the arena and the public area around the canteen on the second floor.

Sweeney said the club has approached one or two groups in town seeking security volunteers.

“Ideally what we’d like to have is not unlike what you’d see at Harbour Station where you have ushers at the top of the stairs.”

For the civic centre, that would mean at least 12 volunteers per game.

“The best we’ve been able to do for volunteers is maybe four to six people per game,” said Sweeney.

He said security volunteers have become frustrated because there are limitations on how much authority they can have.

“You have somebody’s child you’re trying to reprimand… the best you can do is escort that child back to the parent.” He said the difficulty with that is a lot of the kids don’t carry their tickets so security personnel don’t know where the parents are seated.

Sweeney was asked how the club responded to complaints that older teens and adults leaned over the rails from the walking track, disturbing the game for people sitting in the tops rows of seats.

“We’ve had some complaints of people standing at the rail. That’s more of a courtesy thing,” he said. He said security personnel, when there are enough of them, are supposed to take care of that.

In the case of a combative fan, or other serious issues encountered by security, Sweeney said the first call for back-up is to the civic centre staff.

He said walkie talkies are used in the timekeepers area to connect with security, and a communication system is in place to contact the civic centre.

“As a last resort, we contact the RCMP.”

He was asked about the possibility of referees not starting the game until everyone was seated.

“That’s an interesting approach,” he replied. “We’re just asking the parents to keep their kids under control.”

When it was pointed out fans don’t go to games to babysit other people’s kids, Sweeney replied “to some extent that’s what we’re asking our security people to do, babysit, and that’s not what they’re there for.”

His message to fans?

“The place to be is sitting in your seat, and keeping your eye on the game.”