Howell school hockey referee fights ban after post-game fight with parents
HOWELL — One of the hockey referees involved in a post-game altercation with parents in Howell last winter says he and his officiating partner have now been banned from handling any Freehold Regional High School District home games.
Dave Brown, who alleges he and reffing partner Sal Bianco were assaulted by a pair of parents following a Feb. 7 Manalapan-Howell hockey match, said he received a phone call on Thursday from the Shore Conference referee assignor and was informed that he will no longer be working "Freehold District school system games."
"There's been no explanation at all; I was just taken off all my games," Brown told New Jersey 101.5.
According to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, schools and districts have the right to request that certain officials not be assigned to their home games.
The school district did not reply to requests for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It's the first time I've been on the ice since February to work games, and now I'm shut out of working games in my home arena," Brown said.
Most district games are played at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall, Brown's hometown. February's incident occurred at the building formerly known as Howell Ice World, where Brown had already requested he no longer officiate.
Brown said he worked two district games at Jersey Shore Arena on Dec. 13.
According to police reports, Brown and Bianco were approached by parents — initially Anthony Gallicchio — in the referee locker room where the altercation occurred. During the game, a player's mother was ejected, and it's alleged Brown made derogatory comments against the woman after her ejection, which prompted the parental visit to the refs' quarters.
"I can guarantee you that I didn't," Brown said.
Several accounts note one of the parents — Robert Dovenero — grabbed Brown by the throat during the altercation, but it was concluded that all parties "were physical with each other" and it was a "mutual fight." Both parents refused medical care following the incident; the referees were treated at a local hospital.
"My client was the peacemaker who was trying to break up the altercation and caught in the middle," said Robert Fernicola, Dovenero's attorney in Allenhurst.
No charges were filed by Howell police and individual complaints were dropped after an April mediation session.
Months later, however, Dovenero filed a lawsuit against Brown for injuries sustained during the incident. Brown later countersued.
"Civil cases move tremendously slower than criminal cases," said Freehold attorney Rich Lomurro, who represents Brown. "I imagine at the end of a civil lawsuit, we similarly will get no closure."
Lomurro describes the legal process since February as an "incredibly frustrating experience."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.