I think we can all just agree right now that the sport of ice hockey is perhaps one of the most exciting and challenging games there ever was. The sport combines skill, speed, strength and smarts for the purpose of skating, shooting and scoring. And would anyone really have it any other way?
As the Illinois Referee-in-Chief, however, I have observed that those same qualities which make our game great may also contribute to extreme emotional responses by coaches, players and fans.
Every year, AHAI and the Illinois Hockey Officials’ Association (IHOA) receive reports from officials, spectators, coaches and players identifying conduct which is wholly inappropriate and sometimes has resulted in physical confrontations among officials, players, coaches, parents or spectators. In many of these confrontations, the police were called to the rink and/or the proper affiliate was notified and suspensions were handed down.
Perhaps these confrontations are based on pure emotion which runs too far afield; perhaps they are the culmination of pent up stresses which are vented during a game; or perhaps they are based on a limited understanding of officiating and the role of the officials. Whatever the basis for these issues, they are clearly not acceptable and as a group, we all need to find a way to make and keep the game enjoyable for everyone.
In order to educate the hockey community about what it is that officials do; how the officials are trained; and what the community may expect from officials, AHAI and IHOA meets with any organization or team which requests a presentation. These presentations are specifically designed to educate the public and answer as many questions as the community may have regarding ice hockey officiating.
As an interesting note, every certified official in USA Hockey must recertify every year. All officials must attend a seminar and pass a closed book exam (levels 2, 3 and 4) and an open book exam. Every year, the dedicated seminar instructors of IHOA prepare curriculum and instruct the officials in the art and science of officiating including new rules and a refresher on existing rules. The officials also participate in online video presentations, SafeSport and the screening process.
AHAI and IHOA willingly provide speakers who will attend organization functions and speak with administrators, coaches, players and fans. These discussions identify the issues common to everyone participating in ice hockey and range from playing rules to zero tolerance and everything in between. These discussions also let the hockey community know what the officials and instructors are teaching and emphasizing through the officials’ seminar process. The discussions are informative and include a question and answer period. Historically, those organizations participating with these discussions see a dramatic decrease in the number of zero tolerance violations, game misconducts and match penalties.
Anyone interested in participating with this program may send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org along with available dates, times and locations and we will make every effort to attend these meetings and conduct the necessary discussions. The seminar season for officials commences the first weekend in August and runs through the beginning of October so the officiating supervisors are busy conducting their seminars. Therefore, the earlier you contact me to schedule a meeting, the easier it will be to firm up a date and time. And, I encourage administrators, coaches, players, parents and fans to attend the session.
In the meantime, have a great and safe summer!
Michael B. Barrett, Illinois Referee-in-Chief/Supervisor Of Officials