Monday, January 23, 2012

Ok two years is a long drought

But since no-one is reading this but me... still a long drought.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Its the Economy Stupid

The Colorado Springs annual President's Day tournament draws an interesting crowd, but this year the crowd is smaller and closer to home, and some of the better teams just aren't here. The tournament directors don't want to disappoint any parents by dropping the AAA divisions, so instead they appear to have dropped the B divisions. The result is that nearly every team played up, but the mere fact that the division was called AAA did nothing to improve the teams coming in.

Worse, these teams would probably already have been playing up a level, B to A, A to AA, so we ended up seeing some really glaring mismatches, 11-to-0 blow-outs (some even in the finals), and a vast gulf in skill and ability. This is terribly unfair to everyone involved, and dangerous (more about that in a moment), but appears to be a fact of life. The same dynamic played in the CO Cup event in January. I'm not sure whats happening in Denver with tournaments but this year all of the COS based events are smaller.

Take for example the CO Cup, that tournament was aimed at the younger players, and the younger players have younger parents, who appear to have less money, so fewer teams are willing to travel, and those that do are the ones that can make the trip by car instead of plane. My colleagues agree on one thing, "Its the Economy, Stupid". The pain has trickled down to my side-profession, and I'm exceedingly glad that I don't need the referee income.

Back to the other issue, the danger incurred by the economic effects. By compressing the divisions, and not accepting the fact that this lowers the actual level of skill that is participating, the tournament setup an accident waiting to happen. This year I've thrown at least one Game Misconduct in every tournament I've worked, all for dangerous/injury potential play. I really don't blame the players however, in all of the cases I could see at the start that something might happen and could feel the weight of my riot-pad in the back pocket in anticipation of pulling out my USA Hockey 'cheat sheet' that I carry to make it possible to fill-out the Game Misconduct paperwork on the ice instead of in the locker room.

Fortunately, the worst of the 3 GM penalties I've had to assess occurred this last weekend, and it did not involve a game delayed due to attendance of paramedics. I've been there for some of those in years past, as a team-mate, a coach (both opposing and to my player), and an on-ice official. Frankly being the on-ice team watching a stretcher leave the ice is probably the worst of the 3 relationships, unless you are the parent or spouse of the person on the stretcher.

The bad part is that it was an insanely stupid penalty, the offending player and team was outplaying and dominating their opponents at the time. They clearly felt superior to their opponents, and this being the "final" game, one player decided it was time to do a little head-hunting while his team ran-up the score. The night prior, pointstreak's online system shows that they put 11 points to 0 on the score board against a different team. I can get into this players head a little bit and see why he figured this was an ok idea. He was wrong, but seemingly called like Odysseus baited by a siren.

But now I've gotten it out of my system and will try to forget the event so I can look forward to the next games, and hope the Economy get back out of my locker room and we can cocoon ourselves into the rink. One can hope.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Taking only the "right" calls

More shortly on this subject, suffice to say (and for memory's sake) - I learned a bit this weekend about taking only the right calls for the Tier I AAA U16s when skating the middle lane.

Monday, November 26, 2007

To my non-existent readers...

I've had a rough fall with real life work and not that many games between the lines, but thats not an excuse, just a gripe. More soon about this year's lessons learned and hopefully applied to next year's games.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Advice to the goalies

Some games are losers during the warmup, after a decade whistling kids and adults I can usually tell from the warmup who is going to win. Other games are toss-ups, two good teams prepared to duke it out. Usually not.

You can tell mostly from the effort level of the players during the warmup - do they slack off or do they charge hard. Slackers, even tremendously skilled slackers, rarely win against an opponent who is prepared to skate their ba**s off (um, is there a gender neutral equivalent?). And it usually also shows up on the score sheet in the form of penalties, slackers get more box time because instead of working hard they hook, hold and interfere to make up for the lack of hustle.

So why is this relevant? Because I find myself usually whispering to a goalie 'way to stay in the game' after a particularly bad 2-on-1 or breakaway induced goal - so long as the goaltender doesnt quit (ie: lay down on the ice and pout) the game may not turn into a sh*t fest. When the goalie quits I know I'm going to be doing a lot of talking to the scorekeeper.

Its like magic, a bunch of dimwits that stood around all period barely breathing hard and letting the netminder get peppered like a steak, suddenly discover they can use those jointed appendages below the waist to motivate them across the ice, and into the face of the stupidest opponent in order to cause an altercation. Where all that energy was being stored during the first two periods I'll never know.

So from this ref to you - 'way to stay in the game' - one save can make a 180 degree difference in a game.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

New Skates

I'm breaking in new skates, or more correctly the new skates are breaking me in - more specifically my toes.

I have a strange foot, I have a nearly opposable big toe, and widely splayed toes - monkey like actually - a flattened arch and a somewhat narrower than would be expected ankle bone. The resulting triangular shape (as opposed to the normal rectangle) means I have a nearly impossible time finding a pair of blades that fit comfortable and provide real performance.

So I opted to have a pair custom ordered, since CCM no longer makes the 1152 Tacks (my favorite) I ended up with the RBK 9k - a glisteneing nearly all black unit with an annoyingly florescent pump - yes a pump ala air Jordans - the pump was quickly covered with a few strokes of a black sharpie to make them look less childish.

So after nearly 3 months waiting my new torture^H^H^H^H^H^H skates arrived and after a short bake in the fitting oven (a throughly bogus invention as far as I can tell) I started trying to 'break' them in. This is the process by which a skate is supposed to assume the shape of your foot - or in this case, your foot assume the shape of the skate. Also the skate becomes less stiff and begins to flex in a way specific to your skating motion.

Now a little digression - a hockey skate is made from a solid footbed (which anchors the blade and carrier), a protective plastic shell over the toe (toe cap), a high stiff back (tendon guard) and finally a boot which contains the previous two items plus the eyelets and toung which allow one to be laced into the skate. In the good old days before modern composite materials the boot was leather - when you got a new skate you had to break in the leather so that it would flex with your foot (the same process that a cowboy boot goes through) and folks would soak the skate in water and then walk around the house in them, or soak them in rubbing alcohol to avoid water stains.

The downside of leather - and this is a biggie - is that it tends to stretch and become lose strength over time if overused, and if it sits exposed without being treated (oiled) it becomes hard and brittle. To solve this issue skate manufacturers have changed from leather, and part-leather skates to all polymer and composite materials. In days past the material of choice was kevlar - a fine choice if you need bullet protection but a poor choice for skate logenvity. When kevlar is stressed it performs one of two ways - either it breaks or it doesnt - it barely stretches, which is why it is used in bullet proof vests. This is what happened to my old CCM 1152s, after 6 years nearly every fiber in the boot had broken somewhere reducing the integrity of the boot and thereby eliminating any skate provided performance.

The new models use different materials, a polycarbonate inner plastic shell covering most of the foot, and a carbon fiber (graphite) woven layer around the shell to make a traditional boot with eyelets and a toung. The result is a skate that becomes nearly a seamless structure - a huge improvement over my 1152s because there is no gap between the plastic toe cap and the rest of the boot - and hence no rough edges inside the boot to rip up my tender foot flesh. The downside is that this nearly flawless single structure is much - much - stiffer than even the 1152s were when first removed from the box.

Now the manufacturers like to say that the glues used in the boot are somewhat maleable - if you heat the skate just right these glues become loose and a warmed skate will then 'form' to the owner's foot. The problem is that your foot is made of somewhat compressible material! When the skate is warm and placed on the foot you must tighly lace the boot to force it to mold to your features. However your features also warp under the tightened laces.... Dohhhhhh...

Result - I'm laying in bed with an icepack on my big toes and giant caluses forming... ahhh for the love of the game.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Teachin' the new Emphasis

So I spent a whole day, 6am to 4pm, over at the Air Force Academy working the local referee seminar to qualify the Level 1s, 2s, and 3s. A glutton for punishment I'm doing the Level 4 day in October so I didnt get my crest on Sunday.

Its a good deal, and we got Leafers to come and talk about the new rule emphasis in place for 2006-2007. Red showed up, thank-you sir, and we had the usual crowd of guys on the NCAA and IOC call list as instructors.

I dont have many comments about the new rules, other than to say its about time... 11 pages of trash dissapeared from the Advanced Officiating manual, pages on pages of meandering and less than helpful junk about 'judgement' which inevitably end up making no-one's decisions terribly well respected. A few times my supervisor told me "dont be a black-and-white referee", meaning I needed to be more flexible and allow the game to go its own way, usually down the gutter and into the sewer...

What got me was two items. The Level 3 on-ice time was meant to provide some skating and positioning help, it ended up being a nut-busting skate session because of two things:

1) during the SILENT warmup there was quite a lot of talking and not very much warming up

2) during the drills a few of the less mature teens decided this was a phone-it-in event.

Dont get me wrong, the seminar can be boring and tedious, but the on-ice time is a very special event, once a year only, and the only actual time officials get to practice. To make matters worse the two instructors for the on-ice time are nearly the most experienced guys in the state, both have worked international events, both have 20+ years instructing and still can outskate, out-hustle, out-think and generally handle any sh*t fest like the pros they are. Here they are on a Sunday, not getting paid, not with their families (and both have road jobs), and some punk ass kids blow off the time.

Ladders. Yep. Thats what the ice time ended up being. We were prepared to do full on teaching of power skating, and drills like the "full-package", goal line movement, etc. Those things that turn promising officials into candidates for development camps. Instead we worked them, hard. In the end all of the instructors agreed that they earned it.

Sigh.... perhaps next year some of them will even remember....