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Roller Hockey Reffing

August 10, 2011 General No Comments

Roller hockey reffing
By Ken Brody
Oct 29, 2001, 21:00


In the past—say four or five years ago—ice hockey and roller hockey were very different games. Most players played one or the other, but few played both.

With or without body checking, ice hockey was—and remains—a fast, forceful game. Roller hockey, on the quad skates of old, was a slow, deliberate, puck-control game.

The strategy in roller hockey was to wait for the opponent to make a mistake rather than to “take the play” to them, the ice hockey approach. How patient were roller players? I once saw a delayed penalty call last over eight minutes!

Hooking and slashing, however seemingly insignificant, were completely discouraged and immediately called in roller hockey. In ice hockey, on the other hand, hooking, slashing and cross-checking is often (too often) ignored by referees. This, in turn, encourages players to increase both their attempts at, and tolerance of, this kind of stick work. And that’s too bad.


A whole new ballgame

Today, ice hockey hasn’t changed much. It’s still a game of physical prowess, aggressiveness and speed. But roller hockey—wow! It’s barely recognizable as a descendant of the old quad game.

In-line skates have revolutionized the game. They have sped up the game so much that the old slow, deliberate style of the past is virtually non-existent today.

Roller hockey, in essence, has become much more like ice hockey than different from it, and now there is a high percentage of player crossover—people who play both brands of hockey. In fact, the top roller hockey teams often recruit players from ice hockey backgrounds.

Of course, this new breed of player also brings with them the ice hockey mentality of what is acceptable—in terms of hooking, slashing, and all rules-related behavior—to the world of roller hockey. And that’s not always a good thing.

So where does this leave the roller hockey referee?


Running refs?

In the past, referees often ran the rink in shoes. And sometimes a player involved in the game would double as a referee. No more.

Today, the increased speed of the in-line game makes it impossible to ref on foot. And with the increased competition for sponsorship, league prizes, etc., it is imperative that the referee is completely impartial; that means no more player-refs.

Where are the new breed of roller refs coming from? Ice hockey, of course.

This is a very positive development, because USA Hockey takes great care to train their ice hockey referees—a situation not often found in traditional roller hockey circles. But there is a danger here, as well, and one that runs the risk of ruining roller hockey. I’m talking about the “ice hockeyization” of the roller game; the tolerance of what should be intolerable stickwork in the sport.

I feel that tolerance of illegal stickwork is already way too widespread in ice hockey, and it must be kept to a minimum in roller hockey.

Hooking and holding have a much more debilitating effect in roller hockey than they do on the ice. And with the roller game being much more wide open by design—4-on-4 versus 5-on-5 in ice hockey—the style and feel of the game would be severely hampered by increased tolerance of stick and restraining fouls.


Both can learn

Ice hockey referees would be wise to take a cue from roller refs and lower their tolerance of this type of foul. Skill development and recreational enjoyment are the main objectives in amateur hockey, and clutching, grabbing and stickwork only detract from those objectives.

Roller hockey referees, on the other hand, would be wise to take a cue from ice refs and develop a more professional and thorough attitude toward officiating. They should train harder to develop their skating skills, their knowledge of the rulebook, and especially their skills in managing game situations.

With all these factors in mind, the sports of ice and roller hockey are now so similar that they can be called the same way—in a style acceptable to the principals that make both sports so great.



Ken Brody has been a referee for ice, floor and roller hockey for 20 years in New York, Illinois, and California.

This first appeared in the 06/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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