FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME!
Some Things to Think About…
Welcome back hockey fans! Let me start off this month with, my recent surgery (non-hockey related) has had me sidelined from refereeing and pretty much limited on travel and being in the rinks.
So with my feet up, I’ve been able to do some internet and phone research at various rinks around Florida, in fact all of them. While there is no rhyme or reason as to which rink offers a free introduction to hockey program, the programs are out there, and the programs vary. The best way to know is to inquire at local rinks, and if they don’t have one, try to “plant the seed”.
Watching a lot of hockey video, and fielding questions from out on the ice via email. One topic that rears its head often is – Coaching and Officiating. From a referee stand point I’ve seen them all, quiet and reserved all the way to loud and vulgar.
Hockey is a passionate game! Players, Coaches, and Parents become very vocal in their enthusiasm, which inevitably leads to the excitement and cheers and awes we hear during a game. USA Hockey started a grassroots program this year trying to educate players, parents, coaches and even spectators on the proper etiquette that should be followed, called “Codes of Conduct”. This information has always been in the USA Hockey rule book, but special emphasis was placed on it this year. They distributed these as flyers to be given to participants; be they players, parents, coaches, ice officials, or spectators.
These guidelines are worth a look. Hockey has had a long history of being a tough and brutal sport, including the fans. I can remember going with my dad to Buffalo Sabers games and seeing beer thrown on the ice, at players leaving the ice, at officials and so on. The National Hockey League has changed most of its tolerance polices over the years to create a more “Sport Driven Game.” This translates all the way down to playing rules themselves. Just as an example Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabers just took a 10 game suspension by the league for an illegal check to the head of Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The sport on all levels is trying to get back to the “Art of the Game.” The day of the Goons and Goon lines is pretty much done, sorry Hanson Brothers.
All that being said, parents and coaches need to convey to their kids out there, this is not the NHL. Recently I pulled a kid off a face-off because he would not line up properly. He looked like an NHL player and refused to put his stick on the ice. When he asked why I did that, I explained the reason as such. “This is not the NHL, We follow a different set of guidelines and rules for fair and safe play.” The face- off procedure needs to be adhered to and when directed by an official to do something, you need to follow direction. It’s fine not to agree, and it’s fine afterwards to ask why an official made that decision, as long as it is done in a polite and respectful way. Needless to say he shrugged it off – we’ll see if the information got through.
Forwarding that to the bench, I have to wonder. Coaches and parents while your – mite, squirt, or peewee player is playing no-check hockey, hockey inherently is a contact sport. There is legal body contact allowable in those levels. And while you may see the contact as unnecessary, an on ice official may have seen the contact as incidental to the playing of the puck. USA Hockey has several great videos on their YouTube channel that demonstrate, both legal and non-legal contact in a no-check classification.
Just as a suggestion. Watch some of the games your kid, or your team is “not” playing, a game where you don’t have a vested interest in the outcome, and look to see what is happening. Also, most referees at those levels don’t mind explaining calls they make. If you know a referee ask what their take is on the call. Also bare-in mind referees are human, and they do make mistakes.
This brings us to the real crux of the situation. As a coach or parent is yelling at, screaming at, or even cursing a referee the right option? First I don’t want my or any kid on a team whose coach acts that way. Second it is one heck of bad example to set for the kids of the team, and you as a team official need to be setting the example. While you may not like or agree with the call, or non-call. Going over the top is not going to change the referees mind and may incur additional penalties to your team. Parents this is the same issue, really, your kid does see you and how you act and the combination relates to the child on the ice.
Remember this is a Game. Not every kid on that team will end up in the NHL. It has to be fun! If your kid’s not having fun, they’re not going to learn, they’re not going to progress, and they most likely won’t play for very long. Watching some interviews recently, a common link in all successful NHL players is, “They Love the Game!” Yes they love it! It’s not just a job, not just something their good at, the “LOVE OF THE GAME” is in them!
From an Officials view. These lower level games excluding playoffs and state championships are usually officiated with a two official system. Both officials act as referee and linesman. That being said, there are some things to consider. The official is watching 10 skaters, 2 goalies, the play, behind the play, blue lines, goal lines, line changes, goalie substitutions, possession of the puck, goal scorer and assists, icing, and off-sides, all while trying to communicate with their respective partner with subtle hand signals, position on the ice, hold and release the line and manage the flare-ups between players so they don’t escalate. While it may appear that something happened in front of an official, it may have been in their periphery, which they may only see motion and not the actual offense. And if an official didn’t actually see the trip, they can’t call it. So when they say “I didn’t see it”, they most likely-didn’t see the offense.
USA Hockey is currently going through its annual recertification of referees and intake of new referees. Seeing some new young faces as far down in age as 10 getting into the referee side of hockey. Naturally I had to ask, “What made you decide to try this?” The impressive answer came from a 10y/o, he said, “I want to know the whole game, I want to see what the refs see.” Some other answers came from older newcomers to the referee ranks, those who hit U16, U18, and junior levels and got cut. They stated “I just don’t have the skill, I thought I did, at some point you have to know when you’re not going to go any further than where you are. I still love the game and want stay involved, so I want to try my hand at refereeing.” Further-more when the 10y/o was asked if he could deal with a loud obnoxious coach, he said “Yep, I hope I can change that. I played on a team with a coach like that, and I learned nothing from him, all he wanted was wins, screamed at us, and the refs the whole game. Around the end of the first period I didn’t even want to play anymore! It didn’t matter what I or anyone did, it was always wrong, and to top it off, we were winning!”
Thank you for reading and please feel free to shoot me an e-mail and let me know of some stuff going on in your rink, on your team, with your child or player. I’d love to do an article on them.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
~ Kenneth Tomory email@example.com