OTTAWA -- Young referees will be wearing a green armband during hockey games across eastern Ontario next season as part of a new campaign to stop the harassment and verbal abuse of officials.

Hockey Eastern Ontario has announced it will implement the "green armband initiative" for all officials under the age of 18 starting in the 2021-22 season.  All officials will be wearing a green armband on the left arm to identify them as minors to team officials, spectators and players.

The hockey association says the campaign is designed to stop abuse and harassment of the young officials during the games. One in three referees quit after their first year, with many reporting abuse as the reason why.

Hockey Eastern Ontario referee in-chief John Reid says as part of the initiative, there will be increased sanctions against team officials and spectators for violations.

"It's only for the adults that are targeting young officials and should know better," said Reid, adding a one game suspension will be increased to two games for coaches and bench staff.

Hockey Eastern Ontario will also provide education to players, parents, officials, and team officials about abuse and harassment of officials. Over 40 per cent of all officials working in Hockey Eastern Ontario are under the age of 18.

"From our perspective for the referees, it's not every coach – let's be honest about that. There's a lot of great coaches out there and a lot of parents who respect the sport, but there are the odd few and we're trying to reduce that number," said Reid during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

"Yelling, making a bad call by an official when they're on the line and someone responding with verbal abuse, swearing at them – it's not to be tolerated anymore."

The green armband initiative was introduced in Montreal in January 2020.

"We have to accept that this is not a culture of hockey," said Reid. "We are there looking after minor hockey and looking after our officials, and we're trying to teach them how to be better officials so that they can improve and develop their own skills."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Matt Skube