Respecting Our Officials

Updated Thursday October 11, 2018 by Red Circle Hockey Club.



The relationship between parents and on-ice officials is often a tenuous one.  Parents are primarily concerned with the safety of their son or daughter, and if they are watching a game in which they fear the safety of their son or daughter is at risk, they are not in a position where they can jump on the ice to protect their loved one.


Rather than looking to blame the other team’s players or the coaches for not respecting the safety of their child, they focus on the official.  This is where it is important to have a better understanding of the role of an official.


In some respects it is acceptable to focus on the official if players are put into positions of danger, as the on-ice officials mandate is to make the game "fair" and "safe".  By calling infractions that, in their judgment, cross the line in regards to fairness and safety, the official is attempting to make the game fair and safe, and the CHA calls on all officials to follow these guidelines.


However, parents and players should be reminded that officials, in general, can only react to what HAS happened, not what might happen.  If a player is injured as a result of an illegal play, the official can only react by calling the appropriate penalty, but cannot prevent the infraction from taking place in advance.  The onus does then fall on the official to make the appropriate call, and with proper training and the opportunity to develop their officiating skills, this will happen more often than not.


Ideally, the official will set the tone early in the game of what is and is not acceptable, and players will adjust accordingly.  However, if players decide to take justice into their own hands, the CHA has clearly mandated that officials should call all infractions that cross the line of "fair" and "safe".

Officials are also to focus on the whole game while parents tend to see everything that their child does on every shift they are on the ice.  Because of this, officials may miss an infraction that happened to their child that is obvious to the parent, but the official may have been focusing elsewhere at the exact time their child was on the receiving end of some infraction.


At lower levels of minor hockey, officials are encouraged to call penalties as they happen. Judgment should not be a major factor for young officials, and a penalty that is deserved, should be called regardless of the game situation.  Penalties should be applied to the "letter of the law".


Often officials at the lower levels are young and just learning the "art of officiating", so mistakes will be made.  Is it acceptable to yell at officials when the make mistakes?  Do you yell at the players every time they make a mistake?  Why is it that nowhere else in the country except a hockey arena is it considered somewhat acceptable to yell at other peoples kids?  Please consider your actions and give the officials a chance to learn the skills needed to officiate.


As well, are you sure you know the rules as well as the officials.  Take the test below which asks some basic questions that every official should know.  If you fail, perhaps you would be wise to brush up on your rule knowledge.

The CHA has far too much turnover in the number of officials from year to year.  A big reason for this is abuse from parents.  Much of officiating is learned from experience, and if we can reduce the amount of officials who quit, the quality of officiating overall will improve.  Every time a kid quits officiating, they are replaced by a rookie who ends up making the same mistakes that the person who quit made.  This continues the cycle that continues to see too many inexperienced officials working games they are not as qualified to work as the CHA would like them to be.  Please give officials a chance to improve.  That is what the CHA's Shared Respect Initiative is all about, respecting the role of all participants of the game - players - coaches -  officials - parents.


Too often it is the "vocal minority" that creates the biggest problem for officials.  Most parents do not yell at officials.  The CHA calls on the "silent majority" to stand up and prevent verbal abuse of officials from the stands.  Minor Hockey Associations are encouraged to adopt parental "Fair Play" policies that include penalties for parents that abuse officials.  For copies of this policy, feel free to contact the Manager, Officiating.

In higher levels of competitive hockey, officials need to practice more judgment and game management skills.  In these games, the "spirit of the rule" can take precedence over the "letter of the law" scenario described previously.  Officials are instructed to ensure they call all "IMPACT" penalties.  Impact penalties are anything that seriously threatens the safety of another player (Check From Behind, High Stick, Slash, Spear, Butt-End are some examples) or penalties that deny a player a reasonable scoring opportunity.  As well, officials may make calls earlier in the game that set a standard he would like to maintain regarding various situations, such as interference, holding, body checking, etc.


In the course of officiating the game, officials may detect infractions that are penalties based on the "letter of the law" scenario, but do not cross the line in regards to the "spirit of the rule". For example, if one player hooks an opponent in the neutral zone, but the opponent immediately stops any effort to continue skating, should the hooked player be rewarded for giving up.  If two players exchange stick work that is not violent or flagrant, is the intent of "fair" and "safe" violated?  If a player skates up the ice and crosses the red line and then shoots the puck in so he can go off the ice on a line change, but just after he lets the shot go he is hooked, a penalty can be overlooked as the player accomplished what he intended to do, and the penalty was not flagrant.


The time of game and other factors may have to be determined, but on many occasions the official could overlook this type of play because the rules of "fair'' and "safe" have not been compromised.

Let's all remember to respect our officials, and give our younger officials time to learn the game.