Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Even in a perfect game with no penalties the officials will be seen holding the puck about once a minute. This is usually because the players are lazy (ok, maby not, just sloppy?) and so the frozen puck under the goalie, or the poorly executed pass on the blue line causes an offsides, or the puck gets 'iced' for a whistle.

*huff* *puff* go the players as they swing in over the boards to the nice little benches and sit down, drink some water and b*tch about the poor job those refs are doing. What am I doing? Skating my n*ts off retrieving the puck for my partner, or hustling to get in position between the benches, or more rarely getting to go stand on a faceoff dot and prepare for mayhem.

What most players dont understand is this - I'm not trying to make your life hard... really! I'd love to drop a sweet puck, flat and clean right in the center of the dot, no bounce, and if left unimpeded it would simply rest there motionless. It happens, but never in your game dummy - why - because your swinging that piece of lumber AT ME!

If youve never had the pleasure of risking your hands to the average hockey player here's the situation. When the centers face each other they are required to have their stick in contact with the ice, have their feet square to the circle and be suitably far away from the center of the faceoff dot. What actually happens is these turkeys try anything, and I mean anything, to get an advantage. Most coaches really fail to teach the simple art of faceoffs, so the players hear all sorts of strange rumors and try them. Thats not really a problem in itself but most players NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESNT!

So they try the same stuff, every stoppage. Again, not a problem in itself - I could care less if you lose every faceoff, I'm still going to have to skate the game - but those wacky faceoff theories all seem to involve someone telling newly minted centers "pssst - you - you'll surely win the puck if you swing your stick at the ref! no one will think of that, and he'll get out of the way for you... your special".

Reality check here fellas (and ladies), I will NOT get our of your way to make your faceoff more successful. I usually try to high-tail it out of the vicnity of the drop for self-preservation. You are not special. If you swing your stick in my direction I'm unlikely to allow you to sweep my feet in order to win the puck. If you raise your stick in the air... well, the puck is usually on the ice... huh... go figure... and if you hit me, dont expect to win a faceoff all night.

See that circle is awfully large, I am legally empowered to place that puck anywhere within the bounds of the circle, and I can. its a fine art, I'm a lousy shot with a basketball (BRICK) but I can hit any spot on a red faceoff circle I want without even looking. As often as not, if you hit my with your blade on the last drop, the puck is going to go either right between your feet, or elsewhere away from you, and most importantly, away from me!!!

Next week's lesson, how scorekeepers can break a good game and make the entire rink groan.

It's dead Jim...

The youth hockey season that is, at least for me. Now I must be crazy because I'm considering taking up roller hockey. Apparently its big down south where theres not much winter (not the frozen kind at least).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Give blood - referee hockey

You know those shirts - lots of hockey goofs wear them - pithy sayings meant to evoke Red Cross blood drives - "Give Blood - Play Hockey" - very macho. Players dont get bloody much anymore - USAH frowns upon that - as do the parents - and with adult league everyone (I hope) figures there are too many chances for Officer Johnson to come handcuff your ass to actually do the fist-fight thing. On the other side of the whistle we officials get it, sometimes in the teeth, usually in the hands and legs.

Earlier this season (I've been saving this post for a while) I had the honor of working a Midget AAA major game at a skating rink located in a shopping center - the "Brawl at the Mall" as we call it down here. Not only is the ice smaller than normal, the kids egos are super-sized, and the zebras are just "in the way" to these Jr. Claude Lemiuxs...

So here I am calling the lines - carefully attending to the 'dont watch the puck hit you in the face' rule when play rushes up the boards on my side of the ice when its my blue-line, partner nowhere in sight so I hold out a little while (.000001 seconds to be exact) and still the paired off players are charging right at my soft little unprotected body - so now I look over the shoulder at the neutral zone - and to my suprise theres a white jersey charging my way looking for a puck.

Where can I go? No-mans land might be tempting if I didnt know that its a sure way to get really - really - seriously - E.R. time hurt. Flat-backing it might take the edge off the impending doom, so I get small... and I bend one knee hoping to hold out well enough from the impact to stay upright.

Guess what happened? I managed to stay upright (hey boss, no beer for you this time) but to my suprise a sudden feeling of pain comes from the leg I left straight in contact with the ice - whats wrong with this picture - I have pads on (kneecap to ankle length balistic plastic)...!??!

Turns out my lightweight referees pads which work really well to cusion the blow from face-off stick whacks (a story for another day) will slide around the leg if given the right impact from the side - when I chose to get flat against the boards my straight leg (holding my weight) became exposed - and the player pair with the puck went down before coming my way - an errant player's skate came up and hit my leg, followed almost immediately by the weight of the teammate charing my way from the other side of my body.

After all that I got back to the locker room between 2nd and 3rd to find out my leg was bleeding... OOOWWW. But then I do feel some pride in that I finished the period (with plenty of face-offs risking further assult to my leg) and then the game - of course my partners let me have it for being a dumbass in the first place...

Why have I been MIA?

Long story short - buy a new house - get your wife pregnant - start a new job - these things take like all of your time to deal with... argh.