By Eric Cowsill, IHOA President
Did you know that every year every official must recertify in order to officiate? Well, they do. And this year is no different. This year every official is required to complete an online video session and successfully pass the imbedded exams; attend a seminar conducted by the Illinois Hockey Officials’ Association; pass the USA Hockey online exam; and levels 2, 3 and 4, must pass the closed book exam administered during the seminar. Finally, all level 4 officials must take and pass a rigorous skating exam. And we do this every year. We do this every year because rules change; officials must get into the mindset to officiate; and expectations must be laid out to the officials as to the upcoming season.
But the process of officiating is not complete simply because an official registered and complied with the above requirements. During the hockey season, all Illinois officials are subject to evaluations by AHAI and IHOA through a process where an evaluator is assigned to observe a game and file a written evaluation report for the officials in the game. The officials are rarely told about the presence of the evaluator before the game but at the end of a game, the evaluator will meet with the officials and discuss their strengths and weaknesses evidenced during the game. After the discussions are complete, the evaluator prepares and files a written summary of the game and the officials’ strengths and weaknesses. These reports are used by me and the Evaluation Committee to determine if an official is skating at a level commensurate with his/her abilities. Further, the reports are used to determine the appropriateness of the assigning process and if officials are not meeting the expectations laid out during the seminars, they are encouraged to attend any of the continuing AHAI/IHOA Development sessions to become better officials. Officials who continually receive negative evaluations and who do not make the effort to become more proficient may ultimately lose game assignments.
Now clearly, there are not enough man hours and resources available to evaluate every game throughout the season and this is where you the player, fan, coach or administrator come into play. Every person observing or participating in a hockey game has the opportunity to evaluate an official after the game is completed. You may head to the IHOA website and click the link regarding evaluating an official. A drop down menu appears and you may provide all of the information and your comments about an official in this menu.
A few caveats before you fire off your evaluation. The entire evaluation process is designed to help officials become better officials. It is not designed, nor will you receive a response to, an evaluation which is nothing more than a venting letter. We are looking for objective reporting about an official and how we can assist the official to become better at his/her craft. Therefore, reporting facts without emotion or personalized statements is the best way for us to help the official. And please remember, officiating is not an easy thing to do. An official must combine his/her physical abilities with judgment and game management in order to officiate properly and sometimes the challenges are great. Will mistakes occur? The simple answer is, “absolutely.” But remember, the officials are always trying to get it right.
Each evaluation is taken seriously and investigated by the Performance, Education & Development committee who receives hundreds of evaluations each season. A majority of evaluations include clipped video. While this can be a helpful tool used to educate officials, it can render the process cumbersome as the committee will not only view the clip but review the game in its entirety to apply an unbiased assessment of the overall performance of the officials.
AHAI and IHOA encourage you to wait 24 hours before submitting an evaluation. We also encourage you to discuss the evaluation with team officials or your club president prior to submitting the evaluation, as they may be contacted during the investigation of the evaluation. We also emphasize including Rule references and Rule numbers as much as possible. These can be easily located on the free USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook app.
If you would like to file an evaluation report, I encourage you to do so as long as you are filing the report with the thought of helping the official become a better official and not simply as a method of venting your frustrations. While a vast majority of evaluations highlight the negative aspects of a game, we encourage all participants to take the time and submit evaluations accentuating the positive aspects of the officials performance as these are also shared with the officials.