Let`s Take a Look at a Hockey Referee

Updated Friday April 26, 2013 by Red Circle Hockey Club.

Let's "take a look" at the official who is alleged to be responsible for the inability of players to score goals and teams to win games. He is the living barrier who mysteriously transforms victory to defeat. What are his qualifications and is there anything to be said in his defense?


In the first place, the IDEAL referee must be an apt student, who is letter perfect in the laws of hockey and their interpretation. Unlike judges in our courts, he must see the crime; identify the offence and hand out the sentence - not later in the day, tomorrow or next month, but all within seconds.


Next, the IDEAL referee must be a good skater and physically sound.  A player can get frequent relief, but officials must be on the ice for the entire game.  Moreover, hockey officials are expected to act as peace officers and prevent crime by restraining angry players who are intent upon "beating up" their opponents.


An IDEAL referee, and there is no such person, should have the speed of a sprinter, the endurance of a marathoner, the tact of a diplomat, the mind of a professor and the unruffled demeanor of a supreme court judge.  It would also help if he had 20-20 vision and was stone deaf.


Fans, players, coaches and management alike expect too much of officials.  Few players ever think their sentence was deserved; coaches shriek in anguish at a borderline off-side call; and fans view with alarm, every decision that goes against their favorites.  Yet contrastingly, a judge has his judgment appealed and his decision repealed without loss of prestige. No less than perfection is expected from the versatile hockey official.


It is an old but valid argument that referees don't make the rules; they are merely agents charged with the responsibility of enforcing the laws as provided by the rule book. The fact that player’s trip, charge, smear or high-stick is not the referee's fault any more than a police officer is responsible for the actions of offenders who break society's laws.


Few men are so constituted that they can suffer silently while they are publicly criticized. While it is unlikely that hockey's governing bodies will do much to ease the referee's life while the sport is enjoying a prolific boom, it does seem that there should be less official criticism of referees and linesman.  For instance, it isn't fair to second guess them with slow motion film.  The man on the ice has to call the play instantly; he can't wait for the crowd to tell him and he can't see what goes on behind his back.  Neither can he ponder over border line incidents in his private chambers or delay a decision momentarily while waiting the instant replay.  He just has to do the best he can based on his years of experience.  He doesn't expect to be popular; but he has a right to be recognized as the representative of the law makers and to be spared from public humiliation and criticism from those who are themselves involved in the development of the sport.


Certainly, hockey cannot exist without officials; so we had better learn to live with them and, who knows, we might even learn to like them.