Chalk Talk: Remember that there are always three teams on the ice
As most people in the hockey world know, the game of hockey would not occur without the officials.
With that stated, “good ice hockey officials” are rare and more than likely will not be officiating your youth game. There are some exceptions, but that is the fact when it comes to youth and junior hockey in the Rocky Mountain Region. Good officials, like good players, move on to better leagues and most of these leagues are outside the state of Colorado or Rocky Mountain Region. I know this from my own experience in officiating and scheduling officials for higher levels of hockey.
There is not only a shortage of officials, but there is a shortage of good/experienced officials in the region. Why? There are a few reasons.
Young officials quit due to the verbal abuse that takes place from parents and coaches and officials are getting burned out by working too many games and/or the individual is not cut out to be an ice hockey official. On the bright side, the money associated with ice hockey officiating is pretty good, especially for teenagers looking for work.
I know referees that officiate youth/adult hockey for a living. Most do an OK job, but their attitude towards important youth games may not be what it should be. Many have short fuses with coaches or lack good communication skills from the onset. This plays out with frustration with coaches and players on the ice. Officials are seen as arrogant or non-communicative to coaches and players. In reality, most of the time, it is officials who have worked too many games or they feel the game level they are working is beneath them.
What you have in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region is some officials are scheduled to work games that may be above their ability. My hope is that those officials will learn on the fly or have a qualified partner. Compile this issue with those officials who are burned out and now you have a problem with the growth of youth hockey in Colorado.
On the other side of this issue, you have coaches who have very little coaching experience and feel the need to let the official to know that they are in charge. You know the ones – always raising their arms and yelling constantly at the officials. Let me give those coaches some advice – when you raise your voice once or twice a game with a request for an interpretation, my ears are wide open/receptive and my respect for you and your team has elevated. When you are yelling at me all the time, I usually ignore you and laugh inside.
If you are trying to intimidate, embarrass or show me or the other officials up in front of your players or fans, you will lose any and all lines of communication with officials.
As a former collegiate athletic administrator who employed over 70 coaches, I asked them to pick their spots when speaking with officials regarding a certain play or incident. Be direct with your comments and do not drag the conversation out. No one wants to see the officials and coaches arguing over a judgment call. Coaches need to be respectful and know that officiating is very difficult, especially in close games. You can still get your point across, as long as it is presented in a short respectful manner. Believe me, your short comments do not go un-noticed and if the comment is the only thing you have stated to me over the course of a 60-minute game, then you probably have a good point.
Kristopher Schoech is a working official and scheduler/supervisor for the Colorado Ice Hockey Referee Association and currently works for the National Hockey League as a video goal judge for the Colorado Avalanche.