BOSTON, MA -- The one thing that we do know about consistency is that it's very inconsistent.
For the most part, coaches, players and fans expect the officiating crew to make the same decisions on every single play, which quite frankly is easier said than done.
In order to have game consistency, the entire crew must have a comprehensive knowledge of the rulebook in the interpretations on how the rule should be applied.
The next thing the entire crew has to have is sound mechanics, making sure that all areas of the ice surface are visually covered and to make sure player safety infractions that could lead to injury are observed and reported to the lead official.
The next thing that comes into play are other rules and interpretations that can affect outcomes, for example a puck that was high sticked into the net.
Everybody in the arena knows the puck was played with a high stick. However, depending on the rulebook you are using, you may have a different interpretation on where the puck was played with that stick, so a coach or a fan with a son or daughter who are playing in multiple leagues will think the official has made a wrong interpretation on the rule.
They don't fully understand that one high stick in one rulebook is completely different when played under a different rulebook, for example USA Hockey vs. the NCAA Rulebooks.
You as an official have it right under the rules you are working. However, the lack of knowledge from the coaches and fans can make your day miserable, because no matter what you do now, their impression is you did not get it right when you know you did.
There is a much bigger picture here. Lack of experience and the constant yelling from the bench often clouds the inexperienced official’s judgment and could also have a negative impact on calls later in the game.
My experiences with these officials are that they're constantly second-guessing themselves even when they make the correct call.
For the most part, hockey is getting more emotional. Coaches are screaming on every play and for some officials, due to their inexperience on where to draw the line with coaches’ conduct, the game gets out of hand very quickly.
In hockey, on the officiating side, we've always said a moving puck is our best friend. Hockey is a fast-paced game and unnecessary stoppages for ticky-tacky penalties slows the game down and makes it pretty boring.
When making decisions, a good rule of thumb is advantage versus disadvantage. Always penalize a team that, as a result of an infraction, affects a change of possession or more importantly player safety. Those penalties should be enforced consistently.
If you stick to that rule of thumb, the more you see the same coaches in the same leagues your credibility will rise to a point where every single call is not questioned because you have set a standard in which coaches and players will have a full understanding on where the line will be drawn.
For those officials who are currently USA Registered or Members of National Ice Hockey Officials Association (NIHOA), who are interested in advancing to the junior and collegiate levels, we have have several tournaments starting in April each year at the midget and junior levels that will include secondary training on player safety, game management, and on-ice mechanics for all officiating systems. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gene Binda Jr. at email@example.com.
After successful completion of the classes, you will be added to the staffs at the junior level to the United States Premier Hockey League and the Eastern Hockey League, which are the training leagues for the NCAA Division 1 Atlantic Hockey Association.
I will also add you to the staffs of College Hockey America, a Division 1 women’s league, and the following men’s leagues: the Division 2 Northeast 10 and at the Division 3 level, the New England Hockey Conference and the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference.
Eugene Binda is the President of Referees Crease LLC assigning and developing ice hockey officials in the East since 1982. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.