The Need for Teamwork with Hockey Officials

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The Need for Teamwork with Hockey Officials

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Teamwork is a trait a good official must have. Regardless of whether you are a linesman or a referee, each of you is part of a team. We need to have each other’s backs on the ice and be able to support others when needed. You can’t only be concerned with doing your job – you need to work hard to support your fellow officials in the performance of their duties as well.

The fact is that there will be situations that arise in which will require support from another official. It could be as something as simple as an off-side call where you get bumped off the line, or maybe as a referee you need to do a quick pivot and miss a bad hit behind you. These situations can both be corrected with the right support.

As a referee, depending on whether you are in 4-man, or either type of 3-man system, you should work with your partner or linesmen to make sure you have the right sightlines.

I can remember a junior game recently with two of the best referees in the region working. These two are very familiar with each other – and usually can cover all areas of the ice effectively. There was a situation where the puck went into one of the referee’s corners, and he needed to jump out of the way, and at the same time, one player got a hit directly to his head just in his blind spot. Sure enough, his partner saw the play developing, and knew he needed to cover for his partner and made the call right away.

This teamwork saved his partner in this situation. If no call had been made, because it was his corner he would be the one losing credibility and needing to explain to the coach of one team why he missed a call right beside him.

Similarly, if you are a linesman, you need to ensure you are not just doing your basic duties out there – but also keeping an eye out for serious penalty situations. As linesman, often we can so focused on looking for icings, off-sides, and other primary duties that sometimes when a bad hit happens or a situation calling for a major or match happens, we don’t react or find ourselves unprepared to tell the referees what happened.

I know this has happened to me before, when a slew foot situation occurred and neither referee could see what happened. I was so unprepared to even look for a penalty I wasn’t even certain what I saw. It looked like a slew foot, but did he kick his feet out? I wasn’t sure. It’s one of the worst feelings you can have as an official because, for one you want to make sure you get the right call in a game, and secondly because I felt as though I let my referees down.

Teamwork is important. In addition, often it’s important to support your teammates through your communication. When I say this, I mean that if a coach or player is questioning an official’s actions or abilities, you back that official up. Now sometimes you won’t know why a partner made or didn’t make a call – don’t lie in those situations – but if something happens where you do know the reason, or worse, someone questions that official’s integrity, you need to stick up for them.

In officiating, like in life, it can be easy to “go along to get along”. By that I mean that in life, it can be easy to stay quiet if you see something wrong. Maybe you see someone getting bullied or harassed, or someone using improper words in describing a person – it can be easy to not step up and stay quiet. But a true test of character is what you do when something doesn’t affect you but is simply the right thing to do.

It takes character to be an official. Some of the best officials I work with are people you can have absolutely trust in, because you know that they will defend you, even if you aren’t there to hear that. It’s that type of trust that can elevate a referee crew to go from good to great. Not only is this a great character trait to have as a referee, but something that you can use in everyday life, whether it be at work, school, or with family.

Officials are a team, and as such, they will either succeed together, or they will fail together. Each official working needs to do their best and complete their jobs on the ice. At times, individuals will miss something. It is at this time that the team must support that individual. These situations often revolve around sightlines, where a linesman might be blocked out from an off-side, or a referee didn’t have an angle to see a hit in the corner. Because there are three or four officials, chances are that someone else saw what another may have missed. As mentioned, it takes an official to step up and cover his teammate.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen. And that is a tough pill to swallow. It happens because sometimes officials know it is not their direct responsibility, and so they won’t be blamed, or maybe because an official won’t want to show up another referee, even if they missed a call.

Whatever the reason, the team’s performance should come first and foremost. As a crew, let’s collectively make the right decision. The team should be held above the individual each time. We should leave our ego at home, and instead come to the rink with the purpose of wanting to make the right calls.

As an individual official, you can’t depend on your team to bail you out. You have a responsibility to your fellow officials to complete your duties, and to know the rules well. Because it is important to remember that it is not only the staff working that game that depend on you, but all officials in the league. That’s because if an incorrect interpretation is made, or a rule is not known, it puts the next crew in a difficult position of needing to correct that decision.

One of the reasons I enjoy officiating is because it allows me to practice this skill, deal with confrontation, and do the right thing even if it’s hard to do. This leads in well to the next section of the book, which discussed having courage.

Life is full of these decisions. And they require courage. You need to be able to put yourself on the line to make the right call and to have the courage of your convictions.
We all know that some coaches are easier to deal with than others. We know that making certain decisions will make us the target of the anger from the crowd. We know that we might not be able to speak with certain players for some time after a decision is made.

That shouldn’t matter. What should matter is your integrity. Life is short, and there is no higher calling than living it with integrity.

I’ve had or witnessed more than a few intimidating scenes in my time on the ice. I’ve seen coaches threaten fellow officials, I’ve seen crowds tell officials they will see them in the parking lots, in fact there have been several times where I’ve felt threatened for my own safety after a game.

We all know the pressure involved. But there is nothing more satisfying than striving for a higher good. I’m not saying I’m perfect, I’ve had regrets in officiating where I thought a call should have been different, but the realization that the pursuit of integrity is one of the fundamental goals of any official should be on the forefront of what we do.