By Mark Lichtenfeld. Originally published at LetsPlayHockey.com:
As regular readers know, when September rolls around the OS inbox becomes inundated with letters and complaints from Level 3 refs around the country beefing about the USA Hockey registration process. From the Central, Pacific and Northeastern Districts, veteran officials continue to pour their collective grievances to OS. Yes, there has always been a consistency to these complaints. Foremost is the time requirement necessary to simply become a registered official. We’re talking SafeSport training, online modules, open-book exam, seminar attendance (with classroom time varying wildly by District) and closed-book exam studying.
Let me better elucidate by example:
Individual A. Profession: Lawyer. Experience: 29 years. Annual state bar association license renewal fee: $345. Hourly CLE requirements: approximately 12 hours. Annual testing: None. Service to community: protects life, liberty, property and preservation of inalienable rights through the U.S. judicial system, thereby guaranteeing the founding principles of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton and the rest of the greatest statesmen ever.
Individual B. Hobby: Hockey referee. Experience: 26 years. Annual Level 3 license renewal fees: $80 USA Hockey, $55 local affiliate. Annual CLE: 5 hours on-site seminar, 2.5 hours online video, 2.5 hours online SafeSport video, 1.5 hours open-book exam. Annual testing: USA Hockey open-book test and local affiliate USA Hockey closed book exam. Service to community: ensures future AHL all-stars and current beer league lumberjacks follow rules when attempting to direct piece of galvanized rubber into metal goal frame.
The second issue relates to the questioning perennially inherent in the testing. To illustrate, here is one of many letters sent to OS during the past month:
The freaking online module material is pure gibberish and riddled with grammatical errors. Sometimes the questions literally do not make any sense at all. The correct answer is so far from the best answer, it’s a joke. So that’s why I’m nervous. I can study for a test, but then you throw in the fact that it’s not even accurate, and I feel lost.
Yup, I can just feel this guy’s pain as he pours through the open book. And to prove he’s not embellishing, here’s an example of a confusing question from this year’s exam that was forwarded to OS by a highly educated veteran referee along with his coherent analysis:
QUESTION: During the second period, a player in his defending zone attempts to pass the puck to a teammate in the neutral zone. The puck strikes the glove of an opponent who, while seated on his players’ bench, has a glove resting on top of the boards inside the blue line. Where is the ensuing faceoff?
1 – Team A’s defensive zone
2 – Nearest neutral zone
3 – Team B’s defensive zone
Mr. OS, the questions fails to refer to the teams as “A” and “B.” According to Rule 631 (a): Anytime the puck goes outside the playing area, strikes any obstacles above the playing surface [in this case, the glove] other than boards, glass or wire, or becomes unplayable due to a defect in the playing rink, play shall be stopped and a last play faceoff conducted.
In this case, the location of pass where initiated by the defensive player would constitute the location of the last play faceoff. However, since we cannot determine if the defensive player is part of Team A or Team B, a correct answer cannot be given from the three choices available.
This veteran’s analysis is certainly logical and it does not appear that a correct answer was offered to the question. So let’s review the applicable portions of the rule:
Rule 631 • Puck Out of Bounds or Unplayable: (a) Anytime the puck goes outside the playing area, strikes any obstacles above the playing surface other than boards, glass or wire, or becomes unplayable due to a defect in the playing rink, play shall be stopped and a last play faceoff conducted.
Pretty confusing, right? Puck strikes obstacle (glove) above the playing surface and not the boards, then last play faceoff is required. And the test did not say the glove was sticking out over the boards and above the ice surface. Therefore, the question did not provide enough information as to which team shot the puck over the boards and into the glove. Accordingly, the correct answer is unclear.
But look at Rule 612, Casebook, p.224, Situation 8:
During the second period, a player in his defending zone attempts to pass the puck to a teammate in the neutral zone. The puck strikes the glove of an opponent who, while seated on his players’ bench, has a glove resting on top of the boards inside the blue line. Where is the ensuing faceoff?
At the nearest Neutral Zone faceoff spot. Rule Reference 612(c) : The stoppage was caused by an attacking player on the bench. If the Referee had deemed the action to be deliberate, he may assess a minor penalty for interference.
And there’s the key to USAH testing. Always read the casebook and not simply the rulebook because OS has found that most of the questions come right out of the casebook. So even though the disgruntled veteran official was correct that the aforementioned question offered contradictory answers, the studious official who masters the casebook should quickly recall the wording of the question and proffer the USAH intended answer even if that answer may not necessarily be correct based upon principles of reason and analysis.
Which is easier said than done. See, even OS got a few answers wrong this year. And though those answers may have prevailed on a motion for summary judgment, it’s easy to forget that the test isn’t graded by circuit court judges, which probably makes sense since most jurists’ hourly annual certification time commitments are less than or equal to your veteran Level 3’s yearly registration time commitment. Got that?
To recap, OS did not find the registration process to be as emotionally taxing as in prior years. In fact, OS enjoyed the optional online modules and found the time commitment to be slightly quicker than last season. That doesn’t mean the process is not onerous. And for those veteran Level 3s that work mainly beer league and house, the online modules featuring high-level competition can easily constitute a hockey fantasy world bearing little relationship to reality.
But the test questioning – I don’t know what the remedy is. Would probably be best to submit all questions to a review committee, preferably chaired by OS. I mean, when you’ve got a veteran USAH seminar instructor and veteran Level 3s admitting to failing the open book, there’s a problem. Still, I’ve calmed a bit about the whole registration process. I expect some difficult questions defying standard rationale, but speaking for myself, I’m not going to fail the open book regardless.
Now, how about administering that same test to coaches, parents and players?
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Officially Speaking is originally published at LetsPlayHockey.com –
The online home of the longest-running hockey newspaper in the United States.
Reprinted with permission.