Monday, April 25, 2005

Why so quiet?

The hockey season is almost over, at least for youth hockey, and I'm planning to spend the summer training on a bike, the other choice is to work adult leauge - ummm - not exactly the way to stay sharp. Posts will be sparse until youth play starts in September.

Canceled games


So I tell my wife I have a game, skip playing some lunchtime drop-in and lock-off a bunch of time to drive to the rink and wast a half-hour sitting in the locker room waiting for the game to start, only there's no game because there's NO TEAMS!

The rink had a power-outage so there would not have been a game anyway but somehow the teams found out and skipped the drive. Call the referee, nope - why bother. So I dont get paid (because the rink is closed and the game postponed) but I'm the only one who has to waste a whole night prepping, driving and waiting.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


A common problem is players using their hands and arms as an extension of their body during a check - usually this is seen with the player bringing the hands together and impacting the chest of his target, and very often the hands will then travel up the chest and end up hitting the chin or facemask. While not intentional the result is a "Head Contact" penalty since it is "reckless contact with the head of an opponent".

I ran into an interesting thing tonight - a player who was pushing the line on illegal body checking, and after the game I spoke with the coach who pointed out that the player also was a football linebacker which influences how he hits. He is used to grabbing his opponent at the shoulders and pushing during a tackle at the line of scrimmage.

I'm wondering how much else is creeping into the sport?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pioneers repeat

I was on the ice working during the NCAA Final but the DU Pioneers have now duplicated last year's trumph. I ended up working because a few spoiled souls wanted to watch the game - and it turned out quite fine for me.
I started this thread over at opining about the effect of the "grand pronouncement". For some reason leauges have a knee-jerk reaction to playoffs, issuing fatwas about this rule or that rule.

Even worse, in the case of the NCAA an 'open letter' was sent at the beginning of the season about enforcing obstruction penalties, but I saw more than one WCHA game that utterly failed to implement this edict. Just before the Frozen Four the NCAA reiterated the command and said "The rules are the rules and we don’t change rules once we get to the post-season".

<BIG-FOAM-CLUEBAT>Here's a hint for you leauge organizers, if you find yourself defending your rules and telling everyone they've been enforced, you are delusional.</BIG-FOAM-CLUEBAT>

The temptation to issue rules 'emphasis' and other flourishes can and will backfire when your officials are set to the task of actually handling three periods. Some will listen attentively and implement your desires, most will add it to the 100-200 pages of rules they already have and continue to perform as they always have. Players will be bitten, coaches will be struggling to keep up, and spectators utterly bewildered, if not enraged - and all of that fury will land on the officials because they are the ones who seem to have made a change of character.

Engage us, find out what we think is plausible BEFORE commanding sweeping changes on a 1 page memo hung on the inside of the dressing room. Now the NCAA did try, they told everyone, loudly what they wanted the officials to do - and yet humans being fallible, it didnt really get displayed until the national championships... as a fan I'm upset about the number of marginal calls in today's game, as an official I get why it happened, the officials did as told, and from my vantage point turned a sporting event into a legal travesty - we'll never know which team had the better athletes because the rules overshadowed the play.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Go.... Tigers

NCAA Men's Ice Hockey has the culminating event starting tomorrow with the CC Tigers vs. DU Pioneers at noon Mountain time. As a Colorado resident I have been lucky to see a few Stanley cups, and of course last year's Final Four champions - in both cases Denver managed to be an underdog against bigger markets. This year however I'm hoping for a win by a real underdog team, the CC Tigers. These students attend a small school (so small the other Division I teams tried to have them excluded) in a small town, and yet they play big hockey.

<soapbox> Not to get off on a rant (hattip Dennis Miller) here but I see lots of players at all ages and skill levels use brute force as a crutch when their skill is lacking - not as a tool to supplement the game. Nothing is worse than watching a game devolve into a demonstration of the physics of inelastic colisions. The bigger body mass usually wins merely by hammering the smaller body. In rare cases I see small teams out hustle, out skate, and out score an opponent with grit. The CC Tigers are such a team, they can hit but when their game is flowing its part of the play instead of a demonstration of hammers and anvils.</soapbox>

I am always impressed with coaches, especially when their team is losing, who coach the skill game and push their players to hit only when necessary - and I'm always a bit resentful of coaches who yell out "play the body" - "hit him" - "finish your checks" - because I can predict about 75% of the time I'll hear that same coach complain when I issue a boarding, cross-checking or check from behind to the player that listened to the advice and forgot to play the puck.

Here's hoping this weekend's Frozen Four is an example of skilled athletes competing at the highest level with the spirit of sport in their blood, not their blood on the ice. And whoever wins - keep your sticks on the ice eh!

T...I...G...E...R...S Tiger Tigers Tigers

Monday, April 04, 2005

An injured player - and nobody's at fault?

It happens sometimes when a player gets injured through no fault of any opponent - its always a sickening feeling when I blow the whistle and someone stays down on the ice for an extended period.

Whats shocking to me is that its nearly automatic that when a player is ejected for causing an injury (USA Hockey mandates an major penalty and game misconduct for an injury caused by an illegal check) the coach somehow manages to ignore the pain and suffering of the injured player to begin arguing some mythical "right" on the part of his players to play "tough" and "agressive" hockey.

Heres a news flash for all you coaches - there is no such right! Infact on page 'xix' of the official rules there is a 'Point of Emphasis' on "Fair Play and Respect" - its hard to imagine that attempting to argue out of a penalty is respecful, especially while the injured player is still lying on the ice with paramedics attempting to provide medical care.

I have to be circumspect about when and where it happened but a recent incident of the above mentioned "no fault" argument shook me. Seeing a profoundly injured player lay on the ice, clearly in great pain but bearing it with grit and amazingly quiet calm, and then being verbaly acosted by a coach claiming innocence on the part of the inflicting player, saddend me.

Shouldnt our coaches be teaching responsibility? Is a one game suspension for breaking the bones of an opponent really a grevious insult?

How funny can it get?

I hear two things from players and coaches that make me laugh (although I try to not laugh in their face).

The first is "You hate us" - here's the funny part - I dont even know who you are! I cant count the number of times a player or coach has greeted me by name - my last name is on the back of my sweater, and I often will greet the coaches before a game with my first name to break the ice. But if I work 5 games in a 3 day weekend span I dont have room to remember all the faces and names of the coaches. Once even I saw a coach twice in the same weekend at a tournament, and I didnt remember him until he said "I hope your in a better mood" - duhh, if he hadnt said anything I would have smiled and skated on. As it was I ended up pausing for a moment and trying to find a diplomatic way of saying "get over it".

The second funny thing people say to me is "call it both ways" - usually when they are behind in the score - this one I can understand - I ocassionaly make the mistake of trying to play - and its a sign of fustration when you feel that the game is tilted against you. The problem is that officials rarely intentionally tilt a game in any direction, but they do have a standard you might not understand. The simple fact is that the best officials are so good because they know precicely what that standard is, and the "bad" officials dont. Telling an official to "call it both ways" never works because he is already doing that.

My advice - consider the official's goals, a USA Hockey official's "prime directive" is to enforce the rules, not to make you happy. One of the best ways to win friends is to approach the official with respect - "Sir" and "Please" are more effective than a finger pointed at the chest or a "you have to call that because I think its a penalty".

The most effective coach I can recall is a quiet fellow who asked me "What can I tell my players to do to stay inside the lines" - and then he made a point to remind his players at each opportunity "keep those hands down boys" - when he next asked for a consultation I gave him the time as a reciprocal courtesy.


About me:

I am a USA Hockey Level 4 referee in the Denver area. I have been working games for close to a decade at the youth and adult levels up to college club. I am also a seminar instructor and a mentor.