“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 every time they put on the stripes.

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 and was trying to protect my players, but it’s still kind of embarrassing to think back to those instances.

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, is it?

The game is in desperate need of officials, especially coming out of the pandemic, which drew tons of attention to this area of the game with countless games finally being scheduled, but not played due to referee or official shortages. You can blame the pandemic all you want, but the game and the stripes were hurting long before the pandemic. The trend of losing great young officials has been one that has been around forever.  Clearly the game is desperate need of cultural shift in all aspects, especially when it comes to the treatment of those that don the stripes.

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 the proper room and environment 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, now, isn’t it?”

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

It’s time that more kids feel empowered and more importantly comfortable and accepted 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.

With many high-profile showcase tournaments on the horizon, we can never loose sight of the fact that “forgotten team” which are already stretched beyond their limits will be sometimes refereeing up to four or five games a day, just to let those young high-profile players and elite level teams play and be seen. We can talk until we are blue in the face about opportunity and exposure for high profile players and programs, but let’s look beyond that aspect of the game and watch and appreciate the refs trying to pave their way to higher levels as well. We can never lose sight of the resiliency those that put on the stripes possess. We can never lose sight of the intangibles it takes to do what they do night in, night out.

Hockey officials are a rare breed and need to be celebrated, valued, appreciated, but most importantly respected.

Where would the game be without officials?

Where would the game be without screaming hockey crazed parents and fans that really have no idea or clue about what the stripes do?

Things aren’t always black and white when you see it or look at it from a different lens.

What’s the average age of the officials that referee your son or daughter’s game?

How many times do you hear people yelling and screaming at the officials at those games?


  1. Great article Craig!
    We want to say thank you for writing and supporting the other part of the game that is crucial to play! Its a job that at time you question why am I doing this . But when you see the first hand the development of players , coachs and the officials that bloom being on the ice with them. That is the wow factor ! Like they say! Before you yell ! Put on the stripe shirt! See how it feels!!! You might change your opinion as you will see the game from another angle!


  2. Great article Craig. This is certainly an element of the sport people forget about. This is the best sport in the world, and officiating is how I made it to some of the best moments of my life. Everyone should give it a try. Thanks again Craig


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