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....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Slow summers = bad choices

I made a bad choice recently, a really bad choice, I attempted to play in a league again... oh why do I do this stupidity... Now I blame me, entirely, so dont read this post and think I'm an ego maniac - thats only on alternate Sundays - and anything bad said here should reflect more on me than the related parties.

The facts: at 5'10" and 170lbs I hardly qualify as petite, but I'm also not muscled (or fatted as the case may be) like many on the ice, as an official my life depends on speed, and reaction times, but definitely not on my ability to move the puck around, so my stick handling leaves a bit to be desired. I dont wear shoulder pads (too heavy for my slight frame), I have cut down on the gear to a minimum other than a cage helmet (several years ago 12 stitches taught me a lesson about facial protection) and my stick is the lightest one I can stand to afford.

Combined these facts are a problem. A big problem. Most players in the adult rec. Leagues dont know the difference between a speedy player and a good player. I am the former but not the latter. I am a role player, I can pass, see the ice, defend the net and make nuisance of myself, I do not generally score goals or carry a team. Actually looking at the last decade of play I have about a -20 average, 6-10 goals, somewhere between 30 and 40 assists and about 400 pims. Those stats are for the guy that gets dropped in the pre-season, actually that kind of player gets dropped during the red-shirt walk-on tryouts...

Anyway I apparently have some kind of masochistic streak because I get bored and think "self, lets try to play, lets have fun" and my self-correcting pre-frontal cortex (the area of the brain that is supposed to make sensible decisions) takes a vacation and I plunk down some cash to strap on the player's gear.

It lasted all of 5 weeks.

I joined a league that has novice and intermediate, I have a strong connection to the Novice league through my family and volunteering at the rink. There is no advanced division. Mistake number one, dont poop where you make your relaxation time.

I cant seem to control my instincts to coach, arrrggghhh! I can see clearly where some help would improve things, and instead of worrying about myself I try to give that help when it seems I wont be making people mad. Second mistake, dont mistake voluntarism for a need to have something done, when people are ready and need something badly enough they will ask (usually).

I know too much about the game - nearly every match I have ever played since getting my stripes I have felt a need to analyze the officials performance - usually I hold myself to muttered comments under the breath - but when the whistles working my game are personally know, and they boo-boo big enough, I have to try to point things out. Mistake number three, never mix business with pleasure.

Finally, I know too much about the game, in the sense that I know how to get even when I'm pissed off at an opponent, I know the angles, the cheap tricks, the subtle aggravations that get someone to stop playing the game and start playing you. I have to, you cannot function as an official without learning these things. And as a small guy on the ice, sometimes its the only weapon I have to get through the shift where a 250lbs jerk is putting novice level hits on you and the guys working the game cant tell the difference between someone who fails to turn and ends up hitting you, and someone who lines up and rams you. Mistake number four, dont get mad, dont get even, play three periods and put your skates away...

So once again I learned something about myself - I suck... as a player... and I cant manage to turn off my referee instincts...

I'm not catholic but I do need to confess:

The last game (possibly my last ever competition as a player):
Period 1, first shift on the ice, I'm carrying the puck up ice on the left wing, I get hooked, no big deal, I shrug it off and continue, but this slows me enough that a big fat slob (who apparently used to not be a slob and played USAH Jr.s) can get his hands on me and do the rub-a-dub with my body against the glass. As usual I keep going until the puck gets stripped by his handiwork and then.... I get pissed. I turn around and try to hook the sh*t that stole the puck... dumb idea, I get 2, the first hook guy gets 2 and everyone in the rink things I'm a hot-head. Of course no-one notices the large and growing welt on my forearm from the rub-a-dub... but then most folks in this rink that night couldn't tell the difference between a hip-check and a cashiers check.

Period 2, lots of grabbing of my sweater, but I drink from the calm pool and try not to react, much.

Period 3, I grab a loose puck, head up ice and while fumbling (I said I cant handle the puck well) an opponent who is staring at the puck (and only the puck) drives right into my body - I try to side-step him but end up making it look worse and the more Jr. of the officials decides I put a knee-hit on the idiot who nearly knocks the wind out of me. 2 minutes in the box for me. [By the way, can anyone tell me what the correct call is for a hit with the 'Knee'? Anyone... Anyone... yes thats right Virginia, a "Kneeing" is always a 5 minute major, and a game misconduct].

Period 3, one minute to go, tied up. Puck loose on the left boards inside my blue-line, I head for the puck to wrap around my goal, as soon as I get a handle on the puck, Mr. Slob drives me shoulder first into the glass... OUCH!!... I see him coming, I know its going to hurt, but I do my job, take the hit and poke the puck along the boards, in the mean time Mr Slob falls over on his stomach and then proceeds to kick at my legs. Now I dont know if he meant to get me, but I do know that I dont ever allow myself to get swept to the ice, so I jump, and being pissed about the board hit I land on him. Dumb. I get clear and skate away, back to Mr. Slob, who then proceeds to swing his stick at me, hitting the bruise from the first period, and then cross checks me into the glass. I fight back not at all. I'm done. My brain is already planning the exit from the building and the league. No need to create a police blotter item. Mr. Slob apparently isnt done and wants more. He fails utterly to get satisfaction. (alarm bells should be ringing now...) I allow myself to be ejected from the game with little argument.

Locker room, bag open, gear coming off slowly and painfully, dimly aware of a figure rushing through the door, its Mr. Slob, determined to take up where the on-ice action left-off. Moron. Proof of this fact comes quickly as he attempts to reach for me, I put a foot on his abdomen. Instead of grabbing the foot he attempts to swing a punch. At this point I'm deciding how badly he should be injured before I allow him to quit, but cooler heads dressing the the next game manage to remove him from danger. My foot is hovering over his crotch just as they pull him away, maximum damage intended. I'm probably lucky they intervened, the courts and the police dont generally handle assault without maximum damage to all involved, and he would surely have a good reason to claim harm if it had continued.

Sigh... so ends my life as a hockey goon.