Observations From the Rink “It’s Not So Black and White”

Minor hockey associations need young officials now more than ever.

The game of hockey needs them more than ever, but let’s face it would you want your son or daughter to be an official?

We all know the answer to that.

Sure there’s a percentage of parents out there that believe it’s great and extremely rewarding and an honourable job and you know something they are right.

Nevertheless, the game of hockey has a unique way of closing the door on its young officials.

Where lies the problem?

Obviously, it all starts with abusive aspects and total bull shit referees and young officials are confronted with.

Unfortunately, I’ve had my share of run ins with officials over the years.

I’m certainly not proud of it.

Actually looking back on it, I probably meant well, was trying to protect my players, but it’s still kind of embarrassing.

I was never assessed a bench minor. I was never ever thrown out of a game. I never verbally abused an official, but I did raise my voice a time or two.

I guess it all comes down to this foundation question.

Would you want to put your child in that situation?

Would you want adults yelling and screaming at your kid if they missed a call, a penalty or an offside?

You see it’s not so black and white. The game is in desperate need of officials, but the game is desperate need of cultural shift.

I’ve gone on record countless times harping on the importance of player development, what about developmental programming for young officials?

It exists and there are some exceptional resources out there.

You see the hockey playing world don’t always hear about that, because they’re too busy trying to get to the next level.

Some associations make it mandatory for their young elite players to take officiating courses and try putting on the stripes.

Personally I wish more associations would implement that, but again things aren’t always black and white.

You can search for the solutions and all the reasons why associations across the country and world for that matter are starving for young upcoming officials, but let’s face it we all know why and we have turned a blind eye to it for so long that the day of reckoning is upon us.

The game now more than ever needs to welcome and embrace young officials.

We need to give them room to grow.

We need to support and left them up, instead of grounding them before they can take flight.

The game of hockey needs to look at itself in the mirror and realize it’s not all about the players and coaches journey, that there’s another team in play.

Some may even argue the stripes are the most important team of them all.

The game doesn’t exist without the stripes, how’s that for being black and white?

Oh and the next time you hear a hockey crazed parent or fan belittle yell and scream at a young official, just imagine if it was your son or daughter how you would feel, but more importantly how would they feel?

Try this on for size, this comes from a longtime official.

“Imagine the father of the 16 year old referee screaming at your son the 14 year old defensemen when he coughs one up in the middle of the ice, what would you have to say or think then? Shoes on the other foot isn’t it?”

It’s time to take action and change the cultural norm and acceptance around abusing officials once and for all.

It’s time that more kids feel empowered and comfortable when it comes to putting on the stripes, but most of all it’s time for the adults to grow up, unfortunately some things aren’t so black and white.


  1. Would love to see more coaches take referee courses-unfortunately the price to send them is more than they or assoc are willing to pay-then there is the time
    Also agree that it seems the more we educate parents -the worse it gets!
    Don’t know if there is a clear solution-but can’t blame a kid for $15 -not wanting to go out and get abused


  2. Over the 36 years i have been refing i have never seen a time where we have been this desperate for officials kids don’t want to ref ad be abused and why should they. Most will come out and try it for a year more two and a few will keep with it but most just call it quits. It’s one thing to verbally belittle the official but there are times when it becomes physical, and in the eyes of the law that is abuse. But there are people out there that feel because it’s hockey they it’s acceptable. In no other sport especially in Canada do officials take the abuse hockey officials do. Hockey fans are like cows. Laugh if you wish but it’s true see a cow is a herd animal and as long as the cow is part of the herd it feels safe. So are hockey fans as long as they are part of the herd (audience / crowd) they feel safe to say what ever they what want no matter what verbal garbage comes out of their mouths. Try being a player and being verbally abusive as a player or coach in basketball / football or baseball you get thrown out of the game no questions asked in hockey they yell more and, the crowd cheers the player and boos the official. My favorite quote was from a AAA Midget game years ago. As I was escorting the player to the penalty box he said do you know who I am? I am going to make sure you lose your job and never officiate again. I just started laughing at him and said you think i do this for a living, idiot.


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