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In Stripes: Defining Consistency

September 29, 2011 General 2 Comments

In Stripes: Defining consistency
By Ken Brody
Oct 31, 2001, 16:42


Consistency and skating ability are the two most important ingredients a referee can bring to officiating a hockey game. Skating ability can be measured immediately, while consistency must be evaluated over a long period of time.

But if a referee is to be respected—and survive a long period of time—consistency must be demonstrated from period to period, game to game, and year to year.

So what is consistency? How do you get it, and how do you keep it?

Well, the dictionary says that consistency is “conformity with previous practice.” And that’s exactly right, but its application to hockey officiating leaves much room for individual interpretation by the person in the striped shirt.

Consistency in hockey officiating is the ability to apply the rules and spirit of the game to every individual situation that occurs in a game. Beyond that, it gets more complicated.

Are you going to ref a beginners game the same way you referee the national championships? Should you? Of course not.

Are you going to ref a game between two teams known for dirty play the same way you ref a game between two traditionally clean teams? Maybe, maybe not.

And are you going to ref a game between two evenly matched teams the same as a game in which one team will dominate another? You should try to!

Where do you start?

Where do you, as an individual referee, begin to make and act on these decisions?

First, develop your skating ability and knowledge of the rules outside of the game. Game time is no time to learn the job. Experience will help you get better over time, but know your job going in.

During the game, the first thing you must consistently be is in position. Better positioning results in more correct decision making, and less getting hit by the puck—or players. Goal line positioning (for refs) and line positioning (for linesmen) are the most crucial.

The next item in which a referee can develop consistency is in understanding the level of the game that is being played, and the general mentality of the players who play at that level. Let’s look at four levels of play, all non-checking.

Beginner. The player’s knowledge of the rules is minimal, as is their skating ability. A high percentage of collisions is likely to be accidental. If two players accidentally collide with each other, no penalty is warranted. But if one player accidentally collides into another, strongly consider that it might be a penalty (and certainly if the player is injured).

Referees must constantly talk to the players about not body checking, and about staying out of the goal crease. You might want to call stick fouls more strictly than at other levels, because beginning players have a tendency to raise their sticks to ward off body contact. The referee should use his or her authority to eliminate that behavior as early as possible.

Intermediate. The most important aspect of the game the ref must be consistent in at this level is in addressing the player’s aggressive tendencies. This is the first level at which the players realize that they can intentionally hurt someone, and that—for whatever reason—they might want to. So keep a sharp eye out for boarding, charging, and roughing fouls. If you don’t, there surely will be a lot of retaliation fouls. High sticking will also occur at this level, as skating ability has risen, while stick control might not have.

Intermediate-advanced. At this level, the ref must understand a player’s emotional level and ability to harness his or her anger. These players are good, but many think they’re great, so if something doesn’t go their way they will get frustrated. Make sure you call the obvious penalty right away or both teams will jump on you for the entire game.

Talk the players out of restraining-type stick fouls as often as possible, but call them if they persist. And be wary of cheap shot fouls behind the play. They will occur at this level more than any other.

Some of these players are good skaters without much hockey experience, and some have a lot of experience but without enough ability to play at the top level. So again, while this is perhaps the toughest level at which to officiate, remember that your consistency will help keep the players’ volatile emotions in check.

Advanced. Usually these players have a lot of hockey training—professional or collegiate—and don ‘t believe the referees should interfere in the game. So don’t, unless you have to.

Be consistent in calling injury-potential penalties and penalties that create and deprive scoring opportunities—and not much else. Do your best to talk the players out of taking penalties in all those other situations, including making unnecessary contact with the goalie (watch for this during power plays and late in a close game).

Realize there will be a lot of intentional contact and determine whether it is a flat-out body check or a mere rubout. Players at this level accept the rubout, but not the full body check. They’ll also be able to handle some stick-restraining, but not during the scoring chances. If the game becomes a rough one, look for a good opportunity to call a clear-cut penalty and settle the players down.

Quest for calm

Another major consideration in your quest for consistency is the referee’s demeanor during the game. A ref must always maintain calm and poise, no matter what the situation. If you can’t control your own emotions, one might well ask, how can you expect to help the players control theirs? The referee must always strive to diffuse potential problems, but if he can’t, he must calmly and rationally penalize the players without emotion—without anger at any of the players. And certainly if an exciting game is being played, the referee can add to the positive situation; first by hustling, and second, if he wants to make any comments, make positive ones.

Remember these basic principals of consistency, and you will find that hockey players will really enjoy the game, and enjoy the fact that you are their referee. Refereeing can never be an exact science, but by becoming a consistent referee, you can raise it to an art.



Ken Brody has been a referee for ice, floor and roller hockey for 20 years. Currently he is the head referee for the California Cup and NARCH.

This first appeared in the 09/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Teige says:

    Wonderful exoitnaalpn of facts available here.

  2. losses made says:

    I can already tell that’s gonna be super helpful.

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