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"Inside the Stripes..."
Edmonton, AB • Canada • 22 Years Old • Male


Posted 4:12 PM ET | Comments 3
This website for the most part is about the NHL, which makes sense, but the site is called hockeybuzz not nhlbuzz, so I'm gonna go ahead with this.

I'll start by saying that I have officiated minor hockey in Canada (Alberta) for the past 10 seasons. And while I enjoy every single game I do, there are always things that bother me. The big one being lack of understanding of the rules. One such instance happened last night, when I was refereeing a game in the Midget 15 year old league. The puck was in the end zone, and the defending team cleared it out but it was stopped about 2 feet outside of their blueline. Attacking players were still in the end zone, and the defending centerman who had been in the neutral zone picked up the puck and brought it back into his own defensive zone. I was skating by the bench at the time (of the defensive team) and some of the players on the bench started screaming "offside offside!" after the linesman correctly made a washout. This is the correct call (not offside) as the rule is that if the defending team brings the puck (or shoots or passes it) back into their own zone from the neutral zone, any player from the other team in the end zone is not considered offside.

So I quickly turned to the bench because I was right there anyway and said "no your player brought it back into your own zone." expecting that at the midget level the player would realize, remember the rule and the light in his head would come on. But instead, he yelled "So?! that's brutal! Offside!...."

And that got me thinking, how can a player in the midget 15 league (just a step below AA - so reasonably good hockey) not know a simple rule like that? And when I turn and say what I did, it doesn't occur to that player that maybe I am right. I mean I have only been taught the rules, own a rulebook, and obviously am a good enough official to be working that game, but he must know better than me. But it's little stuff like this where most controversy and problems arise from during a hockey game; players, coaches, and fans not understanding the rules of the game.

You hear everyone yelling at the refs about this and that and most of the time if you actually listen to what they are saying, it doesn't even make any sense (that is if you are knowledgeable of the rules). Chances are when a call is made, the ref is right. If they see it, and call it, odds are either they saw something that you didn't, or saw it differently than you did if you disagree with the call. But that is what they have been trained to do, and what comes with the experience of working games. You see things that other people don't, and you see what both teams are doing, not just one (I love the comments about there are two teams on the ice - of course there are, but a lot of the time one is disciplined and one is not. There is nothing that says the penalties have to be equal to each team, they just get called as they happen).

But of course sometimes the fans and players are right, sometimes the ref did miss something. But ask yourself this; What is behind you right now? Did you have to turn around? Probably. Refs have one set of eyes just like you do, they have to be looking at something to see it, and have to see it to call it. Next time you are at a high level hockey game (it doesn't happen quite the same in the 4 official system, so try when there are only 3) watch the ref's head when he is on the ice, see how many times he turns and swivels it so that he can see what is happening. But there is always that time when he swivels to watch the players on his left, and something happens to his right. It's unfortunate but it happens.

So back to my main point, the fact that so many problems arise in a game because of a general lack of understanding of the rules. I wish it were mandatory every season for players and coaches in minor hockey to have rules sessions just like we do as officials, so they can better understand the rules of the game. So many situations for potential conflict could be avoided if even basic rules (like offside from above) were understood properly. The difference between diving and tripping a player and then hitting the puck second, or diving and taking the puck first and then taking the player. (If a player hits or knocks the puck from an opponents stick prior to making actual body contact, the tripping action shall be ignored - from the Hockey Canada rule book). But it may never happen that players/coaches have to take a course like I mentioned. For minor hockey resources would be a problem, and it is just unrealistic considering how many kids are actually registered in minor hockey.

So how else can we improve the rule knowledge of everyone involved in hockey? I have no idea really, there isn't an easy answer. But I can mention a couple things. First off, watching the NHL and listening to the commentators is not always a good thing. I stopped counting how many times I've heard an NHL commentator incorrectly explain a rule (and I know that the NHL has some league specific rules compared to minor hockey in both Canada and the US, but I try to keep up on them so that when I am watching a game, I know what is happening). I just shake my head at some of the stuff that comes out of the color guys mouths especially, because a lot of them are ex-NHL'ers, and they still have no idea. The most common one I have seen is too many men on the ice. It must be intentionally played by the player in question, the other team shooting the puck and it deflecting off of his skate and down the ice doesn't count. There must be intent to play the puck. Yet the color guy is wondering how the ref could miss such an obvious call.

Second, if you are playing in a game, and the ref explains something, actually listen. Don't assume they don't know what they are talking about, because they probably do. Go in assuming that they are right instead of wrong. It will help you, trust me.

And third, pick up a rule book. If you have a son or daughter than plays minor hockey, and you find yourself wanting to scream at the ref, grab the book first. They cost ten bucks, go to your local minor hockey office, or talk to your local referee-in-chief, or someone with minor hockey. Or you can go online (at least for Hockey Canada) and look at the online rulebook on the officiating program web-page. My bet is that you will learn something you didn't know.

I hope that anyone who managed to finish reading through my ramblings here has taken something from it, and think about these things next time you are at a game. Everyone involved is there for the love of the game, so let's try to keep it as fun as possible.

And if you have a rules question, feel free!
Filed Under:   Officials   Officiating   Referees  
November 22, 2007 8:16 PM ET | Delete
Good stuff Deke. I wonder if organized hockey at all levels shouldn't do more to make sure players understand the rules. Is there any standardized training program for amateur players, either in-person or internet-based ?
November 22, 2007 11:23 PM ET | Delete
i totally agree. majority of fans do not know why they are yelling at the refs. and not to mention players always argue with the ref at all levels if the call is against them. i am an off-ice official for the ahl in philly. i see the same thing with players and fans, and even some coaches. it really is sad.
November 23, 2007 2:52 PM ET | Delete
Hockey Canada has released a DVD aimed at clarifying the new standard for obstruction penalties, but that is it as far as I know. There isn't anything that I have seen regarding more general rules, not just obstruction. There has been an effort made to have meetings and discussions in some areas between groups of coaches and referees, to try and improve the lines of communication between the two. But again, not really an emphasis on rules. I'm not sure if USA Hockey has anything similar.
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