Our readers are encouraged to send in their questions. We
will try to answer them the best we can. Remember, the best way to gain
knowledge is to ask questions. Also remember that there is no such thing
as a silly question.
Question: I would like to know what kind of
training referees receive. I know they all have to pass a test at
the beginning of the year, but after the season starts, what do
they do to improve. Players practice all the time. Is there any
comparison with referees?
Answer: Once the season starts, officials generally develop
through the guidance offered by supervisors. The problem we are
finding today is that there are so few senior officials around
that they are too busy doing games to "coach" or
"mentor" young officials. This will come to haunt us in
the very near future. While experience is the best teacher, the
pressures associated with refereeing hockey today are forcing so
many good young officials to quit before they reach their prime.
And without adequate supervision and coaching, young officials are
going to take longer to reach their prime. It is a problem which
must be addressed by associations. More money is going to have to
be provided to pay for good supervisors. A developing referee
should be seen at least once a month by a supervisor.
Question: It is very confusing for players
when one game one referee lets things go and the next game we get
penalties? Why is is so hard for referees to be consistent?
Answer: The game of hockey is one of the most
complex games in the world. Because it involves so many emotions,
and because judgement is involved in refereeing games, it is
almost impossible to achieve perfect consistency. The rules are
pretty clear, but it is the interpretation of the referee that
counts. He must take into consideration so many factors in a split
second. However, referee associations across the country are
trying to become more consistent when it comes to abuse of
officials and impact penalties. There is a long way to go, but
hopefully everyone is moving in the right direction on this
Question: Is it a good idea for a referee to
be the same age as the players?
Answer: Usually, unless it is a the higher
professional levels, you will not see a referee who is less than
two years older than the players involved in the contest. At times
you will see a linesman who is the same age as the players, but
this is not done very often. There is something about age that
commands a bit of respect to begin with, so being older than the
players gives a referee a slight edge.
Question: What happens if a referee gets
injured and neither one of the linesmen is qualified to do a game
at that level?
Answer: The old adage, "The show must go
on" is really applicable in this situation. When assigning
referees and linesmen, a referee-in-chief usually tries to make
sure that at least one of the linesmen is capable of refereeing
the game if necessary. Very seldom will you find both linesmen
incapable of refereeing. If they are qualified to line a game, it
is implied that they are qualified to referee as well. The reason
they may not have refereed any games may be more due to experience
than anything else. When an injury does occur to the referee, the
most senior and experienced linesman usually handles the
refereeing and the other does the lines. Sometime they revert to a
Question: When is a referee in a conflict of
Answer: A referee who takes his role seriously
may find himself in a situation where there is a "perception
of conflict", but in reality, no referee is every in a
conflict of interest. The referee is assigned to do a job. It
doesn't matter who the teams are and it doesn't matter who the
players are. The referee is there to administer the rules. If a
person commits an infraction, a penalty must be handed out. That
being said, a referee-in-chief will usually try to keep referees
away from situations in which the "perception of a
conflict" may create problems for the official. For example,
assigning a parent to referee a game in which his son is playing
is something that we try to avoid. Usually it is not to the
advantage of the son's team to have his father refereeing anyway.
In order to make sure that noone can accuse him of favouritism,
the father would likely be must harder on the son's team. If you
find yourself assigned to a game in which there may be such a
perception of a conflict, just remember that you are a
professional with a very serious responsibility and carry out your
assignment in the same manner as always.
Question: What is the most frustrating thing
about being a referee?
Answer: There are many things that are
frustrating about the position, but for the most part if you
understand the nature of the game and try not to take things
personally, you will get along well and maintain your composure.
However, one of the most frustrating things about refereeing is
that you have to put up with complaining and crying by players and
coaches when you call penalties. They know they committed an
infraction, but they will blame it on the other player hitting
them first, or complain that you didn't call a penalty on the
other player, etc. Sometimes you just want to hold up your hands
to your ears and scream. Another thing that is frustrating for
referees who call the game properly is that the players may be
accustomed to a much more lenient style of officiating and be
allowed to get away with a lot of stuff that you will not
Question: Do linesmen get a chance to referee
at the higher levels like Junior A and the O.H.L?
Answer: Some people just want to line, and
others want to referee. As you get into the higher categories,
officials either line or referee. For example, in the Junior A and
O.H.L., the referees only referee. The linesmen are only lining
games. However, the linesmen may referee at the Junior A level in
order to develop their skills to a point where they may be
considered for an appointment to a referee position at some
time. Nevertheless, there are many linesmen who have been
lining games for dozens of years and have no desire to referee.
Dave Marchand asks:
I am a 3rd year hockey official. This year in the Level I clinic
they said that the minor hockey eliminated the match penalty signal.
I would like to know if this is just in the Prince George Minor
Hockey Association or in all of Canada.
Answer: Various minor hockey associations
have the ability to implement different rules or regulations based
on their board of directors. The Match Penalty rule and signal are
part of the Canadian Hockey Association and are enforced throughout
Canada. The signal may have been eliminated in your area but the
signal still exists and is used in other parts of the country. The
majority of refs rarely use the signal, even in places where
it still exists. I myself have never given the signal - but I have
given a lot of Match Penalties, and my area still has the match
penalty signal implemented. Warren Kirwan.
Thank you for the response. If I have any
other questions about refereeing, I will be sure to ask you because
you seem to really know your stuff. Dave
I'm a referee out of the Hockey Manitoba area and I have a
question for you. Player seven from the black team drops his stick
in his defending zone. Play moves out of black zone into white's
zone. On the way out, seven black legitimately retrieves a
replacement stick from a player on his player's bench. Play then
moves back down the ice into black's defending zone. Seven black
drops the replacement stick he received legally at his players bench
and picks up his other stick still lying on the ice. Is this a legal
play and if not, what is the penalty to be assessed? I have been
told that this is not a legal play but have not found any thing in
the rule book to tell me otherwise. Your help in this matter is most
I will do some more research into this one, but here is how I would
As soon as he dropped his original stick, he was implying that it
was broken and therefore, an illegal stick. When he picks it up
again, as far as I know, he is playing with an illegal stick and
thus, would receive two minutes for such.
If the player or his coach complained, I would simply tell them
"point blank" that my only other recourse is to give the
player a "Gross Misconduct" for making a travesty of the
game since he was trying to play with two different sticks. I would
ask the player and coach which penalty they preferred me to call.
That would end the discussion.
I think it would fall within the "equipment rules" which
state that you cannot play with two sticks at once, even if you are
only holding one at a time, but I like the "Gross
Hope this helps.
After The Whistle
Not that I think it has any bearing on the situation, but the
stick was not broken, he simply lost procession of it and it lay on
the ice. This situation happened in an actual game and the player
was penalized by the referee. As a spectator, I went to my rule book
to find it but was not able to find any mention of this situation.
Thanks for your help.
That was the correct call. When you leave you stick on the ice
and get a replacement from the bench, you cannot retrieve your
original stick until the next stoppage of play. It is just as if it
is broken at that point. If he would have gone back and picked up
the stick before getting another one from the bench, it would have
Thanks for your interest.
I recently experienced a situation that is confusing.
It's the deciding game of a series in overtime.
The play is in our end and the puck is shot from the corner at the
net and is made contact by a high stick from the opposing player.
The puck then hits our goaltender in the shoulder and drops behind
him and rolls into the net. The referee immediately rules no goal
and signals a high stick made contact. Then he asks his lines men
and changes his ruling for the goal to count. The game is over and
the series is decided. His explanation is that the puck after
making contact with the opposition high stick then hit our goalie
which nullified the high stick call. I thought the rule stated possession
and control. How could the goalie have control of the puck if it
merely bounced off of him? When I questioned him he said that the
goalie is the key to the scenario. What do you think that means?
The referee "blew" the call.
The goalie had "possession" because he was the last
one to "touch" the puck, but he did not have control.
For example, if the puck would have rebounded off the goalie and
onto the stick of a player from the team high sticking the puck,
the play would still have been blown down because the goalie did
not have control of the puck.
An experienced referee will not be too quick to blow the
whistle after a high stick. He will wait until someone shows
control of the puck. However, if the puck merely deflects off a
defending player, that is not control.
The goal should have been disallowed and the game continue.
It's too bad for your team to lose on a call like that.
An experienced referee will also make sure that a
"deciding" goal is not scored on a controversial play
such as that. If there is any doubt, you disallow the goal and
make the teams decide it more convincingly.
For a detailed explanation of the rule, go to the following
link, which is part of our online book.
l am looking for information on how l go about reporting
a referee and linesman. We have in the pasted experience bad
refereeing, but these guys clearly need to be evaluated. I
understand many different teams/division are upset with the
quality of officiating in Welland Ontario, but is someone doing
anything about it. The game played last night in Welland was one
of the worst games l have ever seen.Thank goodness no one was
If you have any information on where l can go to put in a
official compliant, l would appreciate it. One of the parents
happen to have their video camera there,so the complete game has
been caught on tape. This tape should support the fact that this
referee and lineman's should be evaluated and discilnped for there
actions on the ice.
Minor- Bantam AAA Guelph Storm
The first thing you must do is find out the name of the
Referee-in-Chief of your league. Your coach will know his/her name
or you can call up the President of your MInor Hockey Association
and get the name of the person in charge as well.
The next thing you do is prepare a detailed, well-written
letter outlining your concerns. Address it to the Referee-in-Chief
and ask for a meeting. Do not make personal attacks or comments
about the referee in question. Be as factual and objective as you
can and state your concerns. Also, state what you would like done
about the situation. Try to offer constructive suggestions. It
will get you closer to your ultimate objective of improving the
officiating. In most cases, referees and linesmen simply need some
good coaching. In some cases, they should be removed from duty.
I'm not sure what your situation is at this time.
Make sure you send a copy of the letter to the President of
your Minor Hockey Association.
I hope this is helpful.
After The Whistle
I have a question for you. If a team loses a game, and the
referee and linesman had been swearing at the players, is it
possible for the losing team to call the game? Thanks.
If the league is a reputable organization, and if they have
done their due diligence in appointing and training their
officials, they won't ever have a situation like the one you have
described. However, be it noted that if the losing team's coaching
staff and players are swearing at the officials, then sometimes
you have to speak the language that they understand. Referees and
linesmen often become the scapegoats for coaches and players who
have no talent or class.
To answer your question...no
Publisher, After The Whistle
I don't know where to go for help. On
February 22, 2003 my son played in an Atom/Peewee select hockey game. He
was checked to the boards and knocked down. While he was down he was hit
in the head deliberately by another child. He didn't stay down on the
ice, but got up slowly and went to his bench. The child who hit him only
got a 2 minute minor. He should have been kicked out of the game. My son
could have been seriously hurt. The coaches on my sons team did nothing.
If myself and another mother didn't complain, then it would have just
been pushed aside. A protest went in about the game but I feel its not
enough. We played this team before and the was another of our players
attacked on the ice. In that game the child was suspended. This isn't
the type of hockey we want our children in. Also, when we did complain
to our coach about what happened, we were told if we didn't like it,
then we could toss in the uniforms. My son loves hockey and I want him
to keep on enjoying it, but how safe is he if we have a team as dirty as
this one and a referee that will let them of with this kind of
roughness. Please help me out because I don't want anyone on his team to
be attacked on ice again.
A very concerned mom,
Thank you for your question. This is obviously a very serious matter
and one which should be cause for concern. Let me see if I can help
First of all, in our role as Hockey Consultants, if we were asked
to provide a report on this situation, we would need to receive a
lot of missing information, but I will simply make some assumptions
The Atom/Peewee Select game is the first problem. If your son is
atom-aged, I would strongly suggest that you "hand in the
uniform" and tell him to enjoy house league while waiting until
he is Peewee-aged. This is not a good age mix and it is hard to
imagine how it can be justified. The physical size differential is
just asking for trouble.
If he continues to play, about all you can do is send a letter to
the league explaining your concerns and advising that you feel the
safety of your son is in jeopardy. Identify exactly who you will
hold legally responsible if he is injured and state that if it is
your opinion that the coach, referee, league supervisors,
referee-in-chief, etc. are negligent in doing everything possible to
ensure the safety of your son, then serious consequences may follow.
Understand that since your son plays on a "Select" team,
he may be mysterious cut from the team for some strange reason, but
if that happens we can deal with it in another form. I don't think
the coach will want to face the consequences of a decision such as
It is my opinion, once again as a professional Hockey Consultant,
that hockey associations will soon be asked to justify their actions
with respect to the safety concerns of parents for their
The sport itself is not very dangerous if played within the
rules. Generally speaking, injuries occur when players act outside
of the rules and commit "crimes of the game".
Unfortunately, many of these infractions or "crimes" are
the result of emotions which have been allowed to get out of
The main challenge facing hockey organizers today is with the
identification of the cause of this abnormal behaviour.
Understandably, when players on the ice instigate trouble, they will
have to deal with the consequences. However, all too often, the
players would be able to control themselves if they weren't being
emotionally charged by shouting parents and coaches. Also, referees
wouldn't feel as intimidated if there was less yelling and insults
going on. There are arenas where parents are behind thick glass and
the players are fine.
I would assume that the referee doing your game was not very much
older than the players himself. This may not be correct, but usually
Atom/Peewee Select games are handled by teenagers or junior
officials who are out there to gain experience. They have to learn
somewhere. The senior referees are often too busy doing higher
For example, Marty, the editor of After The Whistle, did an Atom
game in Toronto recently. He usually handles Junior A and Midget
'AAA' contests, but filled in when the league couldn't get a
referee. According to Marty, the behaviour of the parents was
"horrible". He kept pulling out his notepad (referees
always carry around a note pad for writing down numbers in scrums)
writing down comments that were being made by the parents and one of
the coaches was worried that he was preparing a report on the game.
Actually, Marty was simply writing down exactly what the parents
were saying for future reference to be used at our up-coming
"Game Appreciation Seminars" for parents. If this is what
our young referees have to put up with all season long, it is no
wonder that they quit after a couple of years.
A cross-check to the head would normally result in a five-minute
penalty and a game misconduct along with a subsequent suspension and
a lot of hollering and complaining from fans. Game misconducts
also require written game reports and game reports are often
challenged by coaches. Referees must then justify their call to
their supervisors who usually are not at the game. For a young
referee trying to move up the ladder, every time a coach complains,
regardless of the outcome, it is kept on file - mentally if not in
written form. Referees soon learn that it is often better not to
call a penalty, especially when it is something that calls for an
automatic game misconduct (checking from behind, cross-checking to
the head, etc.). If you don't call the penalty, it is hard for
someone to question you if they didn't see it. You can always say in
your opinion no contact was made. This is a defense mechanism used
by some officials, although it is more often than not true. A
referee cannot call a penalty if he doesn't see the infraction, and
we know how good players are at hiding from officials.
I have often recommended that any time a coach complains to the
league about a referee, a formal hearing should be held. If the
panel supports the referee, and in the vast majority of cases this
would be the case, then the coach should be suspended. Each time the
suspension should be increased. This would eliminate frivolous
complaints and stop the intimidation which is used by coaches who
are sore-losers. It is no different from the policy I used as a
teacher. If a child complained about a mark I gave him, I gladly
agreed to re-evaluate the test on one condition - that I re-mark the
entire test and the child accept the new mark - even if it is lower
than the original mark. Know what??? I didn't have many children
complaining about my marking.
So where does that leave you?
In your case, I would still make it known to the authorities that
you are concerned about the safety of your child and of all the
other children on the ice. If there are other parents who would sign
the letter with you, get their signatures as well. Point out your
specific concerns with respect to the violent actions on the ice
that are not being penalized. Once the coach, the referee in chief,
and the league president have a copy of that letter, they can no
longer state that they were unaware of the problem if a serious
injury occurs. This may holds them all legally responsible to some
degree. I can assure you that the next game your son plays all of
the penalties will be called. You and some of your parents may
not enjoy the game very much, but penalties will be called and no
one will get away with anything.
We have to remember that hockey is, by nature, a very physical
game. It will get rough at times and infractions will occur.
Penalties will happen and injuries will also occur - some of them
serious. I am not saying that you should go running to get the pen
and paper every time your son gets touched, however, legitimate
safety concerns must be addressed at all levels of play, and we must
all accept some responsibility.
As a parent, you now know how I feel about Atom/Peewee Select
teams. If your son is Atom-aged and you allow him to play for the
team, then as a parent, you must accept some responsibility for
allowing him to take part in a game in which his safety may be in
jeopardy. We all share responsibility.
I hope the information I have provided you will help a bit.
After The Whistle
Here is the 2nd letter
written by Mrs. Squires to provide us with more information on the matter.
My son is Peewee age. He isn't a large child by any means and I
never worried about him on the ice. He is a pretty good player and can
handle himself on the ice. I don't mind when he gets a check but
I can't tolerate bad hockey. We had trouble with this same team in
January when one of their players threw down his gloves and attacked
one of our players. In that game the referee threw the child right out
of the game. This was the right thing to do. My son is one of the
biggest players on his team. Most of the children are 10 and 11 and
not so big. Our arena didn't have enough children for a full
peewee team. This team isn't aggressive and are a great bunch of
children. They go out to play hockey the way it should be. They aren't
taught to play dirty hockey. It is against our arena's rules.
My biggest concern right
now is when we play this other team again. They are laughing at us and
consider our players wimps (they're words, not ours). How will they
treat our players next? I worry about the smaller players on our team.
I don't think our hockey committee are as worried as some other
parents and I are. This other team shouldn't be on the ice. They
are going to seriously hurt someone else in the future. What are they
being taught. As far as I can tell, the players does on ice what they
are tauht and this type of hockey has got to stop.
Our hockey committee told us they
put in a protest about the game, but I feel they only said it to shut
us up. I didn't have a good feeling when I came out of the meeting.
They were just there is give us a pat on the back and hope that this
is as far as the matter goes. They told us that nothing could be
done about the other team. That didn't go well for me at all.
Something must be done. Players can't hit another with their sticks.
That is assault. If it is an accident then I can accept it, but it
wasn't. Children like this should be out of the game, so this
rest can enjoy it.
When I told the hockey
committee the referee's number, they knew who I was talking about.
Apparently they had experience with him before. Not all referee's are
bad, but this guy should be dealt with.
happened in the dressing room that night. The parent that was there with
me that night was told to get out of the dressing room. The coach
screamed at her and then went on to say things about her son in front of
everyone. Our committee didn't think this was important. This child
played at this arena for 6 years. They didn't care that she pulled her
son from the team. After six years they could have shown her a little
respect. Can a coach disrespect a parent in front of everyone? I
feel the same. I was sick at what I saw. They just didn't
care. Now we have an important player on our team gone. My son would be
to if he didn't love the game so much. right now I am very upset. These
boys deserves better. I know the coaches do a lot for our children but
they have to have some respect for everyone. What do they say to the
children when we aren't in the dressing room.
There are many mistakes made
about what happened that night. Everyone is entitled to some, but it
didn't have to go as far as it did. One coach did apologize for not
doing what he could and I accept that, but the other one isn't sorry at
all. Even loosing his best players didn't matter because he can call
If it wasn't so late in the
season I would have changed arena's but my son will finish the season.
He will do his best because that is what we thought him. When he is on
the ice nothing else matters but the game and doing his best and doing
it the right way.
The are a lot of questions to
be answered and I know something can be done, but a lot of parents don't
like to make waves. I am one of these parents. Now I am worried. I have
a feeling our committee has let us down. I want them to know that they
can't just let things go. I can send you the letter I sent our
hockey committee about that night. I can get my friend to send you the
letter she wrote. The season is almost over and I want it to remain safe
and fun. Please help me.
Thank you for providing us with additional information.
From what I can tell, you have done all that you can. Now that
you have made everyone aware of your concerns, it is up to them to
decide if they want to take any kind of action. Taking no action is
an option, but it is one that they now make with full knowledge that
"everything is not well" in everyone's mind.
Whenever you deal with matters which are so dependent on
judgement, such as calling penalties in a hockey game, it is almost
impossible to arrive at a clear cut answer.
You and your son, as well as the other parents on the team will
also have to make a choice. Do you continue to play, or do you feel
that the safety issue is so important that you will refuse to allow
your sons and daughters to play?
Hockey is becoming a complicated game. It can be fun, but it can
cause a great deal of frustration for all participants.
Hope everything turns out well for you and your team.
After The Whistle
Just wondering if you could add a section on 'Boarding' and how it
differs from 'Checking from Behind'.
Rule 50 from Hockey Canada seems to clearly state that any body
check (even a clean check), cross check, elbow, trip, etc. that
results in the player being thrown violently into the boards, should
be penalized. I'm assuming this rule was put in place to protect the
kids by not letting players use the boards as a weapon. I've had one
too many 'discussions' with the hockey parents in the stands about
this one. Also, I've seen way too many Checks from Behind called as
Boarding. And finally, I've seen way too many injuries in Minor
Hockey resulting from 'clean' hits where the player is thrown into
the boards. The officials seem to be confused about this one.
Thanks for your comments about the web site.
I agree with you that Boarding is perhaps one of the most confusing
penalties in the book, but it is a call that many experienced
referees use for "game management".
For example, the Checking From Behind penalty was created to protect
players, but the penalty is too severe in most cases. That is why
you will see a lot of checking from behind called
"boarding", leaving the player with a two-minute penalty
instead of being ejected from the game. A good referee will blow his
whistle after a possible check from behind, but will not signal the
call until he sees if the player was injured. If the player is not
hurt, then the referee may decide to simply call
"boarding" to put the guilty party in the "box"
instead of kicking a person out of the game. Therefore, boarding is
a call that gives a player a penalty, but does not result in the
player being tossed. It is a call that is made at the discretion of
the referee and if you have an experienced referee, his judgement is
There are a lot of boarding calls that would have been fine if the
hit occured on the open ice. The impact into the boards is what
determines the penalty call. On the open ice surface the player
would simply go flying across the ice and there would be no call. It
would be deemed a good hit. If the referee feels that the players
are on the verge of getting out of control, he can call boarding and
force the players to ease up on the hits.
When making the call a good referee will try to interpret the
"intent" of the player doing the hitting. If it is felt
that he was deliberately trying to force his opponent to strike the
boards with excessive force, then boarding will most likely be
In the end, it really doesn't matter what the call is as long as the
guilty player is penalized. A cross check, charge, hit from behind,
elbow, etc. could easily be called boarding in many cases. Boarding
just seems to be more appropriate if everyone in the rink could hear
the "big bang" on the boards or if the referee feels that
the guilty party does not deserve to be kicked out of the game. It
may be a serious infraction, but just not serious enough to be
kicked out of the game.
There's not much else you can say about boarding.
Thank you again for your comments.
After The Whistle Hockey Web Site
Thanks so much for your excellent response. I now finally
have an answer to my many questions about checking from behind and
boarding. I just wish this info was readily available to the many
Minor Hockey Associations (and Hockey Parents) throughout the
country. I have 3 boys currently in Minor Hockey, so I've spent my
fair share of time at the rink. My original concern was the lack of
calls made on instances of boarding, where it appears many
parents and officials are under the impression that any clean check
should never be penalized. Unfortunately, one of my 13 year-old sons
is currently unable to play due to concussion symptoms, resulting
from a boarding incident where there was no call made by the
official. The same period saw another player injured the exact same
way - again no call.
By the way, my boys love 'testing' each other with the section on
your website ' You Make The Call' - keep it up!!