Saskatoon’s minor hockey league says it is once again attracting new referees, after incidents of so-called “rink rage” caused a shortage of people willing to wear the black-and-white stripes.

Among the ways the league is winning new refs is a new policy of zero tolerance for verbal abuse from coaches and parents in the stands.

Kelly Boes, executive director of the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association, said referees now know the league “has their backs.”

“We’ve really encouraged the referees to try and be open about anything they’re feeling isn’t right out there,” Boes added.

The league is also offering more education, and promoting rewards like scholarships and opportunities to travel for national tournaments.

Saskatoon's minor league isn’t alone in facing rink rage. Six in 10 Canadians surveyed by Angus Reid Institute last year agreed they had seen parents using inappropriate language toward junior hockey referees. Nearly five in 10 said they had seen verbal abuse aimed at young players.

The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association has gone even further than Saskatoon. After losing about 20 officials early last season, it banned eight parents who were deemed verbally abusive.

VIAHA president Jim Humphrey wrote an open letter explaining the decision, saying that the invective was “resulting in a loss of both promising young officials and senior officials alike, as well as making (it) difficult for the players to have fun.”

With a report from CTV Saskatoon’s Matt Young