By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at


With the upcoming election season and the ascension of Donald Trump swamping the headlines, the use of “politically correct” is just about everywhere. From newspapers, television and social media, there’s more PC flying around than 10-minute misconducts in a beer league tripleheader. Yeah, PC, the scourge of modern society, affects everything from the college admission process to the on-ice calls from veteran Level 3s.


What do you mean Mr. OS?


OK, now I know most of you non-officials never considered the following scenarios, but in fact, these hockey sagas comprise actual instances that happen often. I call these situations “PC infractions” because many officials lose their better judgment and analyze these plays based upon PC leanings rather than simply scrutinizing the evidence. Trust me, these examples are going to be complicated, but what better way to start off the year than to concisely explain to you non-lawyers and overzealous zebras what are, in fact, infractions and what are clean plays.


Let’s start with the “head contact” violation. Under USA Hockey Rule 620(a), head contact is defined as contact in “the head, face or neck.” USA Hockey has justifiably made it a point to ensure that head contact is strictly enforced. There’s absolutely no reason for a player to be checking an opponent in the head. But here’s what happens. You get a mid-ice check in a Bantam house league game where the player initiating the contact uses his torso against the puck carrier’s shoulder in order to separate the opponent from the puck. Unfortunately, this being house league, the puck carrier stumbles awkward, while concurrently, his head snaps back like he just got a whiff of a senior C-leaguer’s 1970’s-era never-washed Butch Goring-style glove. Predictably, everyone in the rink starts screaming head-check and the poor zebra, suffering from 21st century PC indoctrination, makes what he feels is the safe, albeit wrong call. Suddenly, the clean hit shows up as a two-and-10. That’s PC officiating.


Here’s another common one. Two Squirt players are beelining for the biscuit near the end boards. Squirt A is 4-11, while his opponent, Squirt B, is really a 4-foot Mite skater playing up a level. Both kids are intent on playing the puck and they meet at the same time just outside the faceoff circle whereby the smaller guy bounces off the big kid’s oversized CCM hip-padded pants and goes down in a sprawl. Everyone in the building, including the minimum-wager at the concession stand, starts hollering “body check!” and the PC-inundated referee shoots his arm up like he’s on “Let’s Make a Deal,” all too eager to make the PC-safe call. It doesn’t matter to him (or more likely he’s never read the Standard of Play section of the USA Hockey rulebook which specifically states that this is a good play and should NOT be penalized. (See Standard of Play, Page 367, Situation 14.) No, this ref is all about PC, not wanting to infuriate the coaches, the scheduler and the Park District commissioner in charge of risk management. I mean, it’s non-checking, right?


The last scenario for purposes of this article is the difficult situation involving a hockey player who is hearing impaired. What happens here is that the skater does not identify the whistle on a close offside play and fires the puck at the net, barely missing the unsuspecting goaltender’s head. A minor unsportsmanlike penalty is immediately assessed whereby the offender’s coach ostriches his head over the boards and loudly reminds the official that the offender is legally deaf and did not hear the whistle, thus, no intent and no penalty. Naturally, this kind of play cries out for sympathy and the PC zebra will just let it go, often without even a warning. Problem is, this is a very dangerous situation for opposing players who may not be expecting a slap shot after a whistle or a clean body check following a delayed-call stoppage. So with safety as USA Hockey’s overriding concern, the best call is not PC, even though there was no intent to violate the rule. It’s like us lawyers love to argue in the courtroom, Rules 601 and 640 do not state anything about state of mind, so until the legislature (USA Hockey) provides further guidance in these cases, the penalty stands.


Obviously the number of PC scenarios is infinite, but you get the picture. Referees must base their judgment on the facts and circumstances of the play, subject to the guidance of the rulebook and case manual.


Likewise, coaches, players and particularly spectators, must understand that the PC zebra is detrimental to both the game, as well as a young player’s development into a productive member of society. Therefore, when the correct, non-PC call is assessed, the hockey community must respect and support the result.


I know, unlikely, of course. But something to strive for, right?


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Officially Speaking is originally published at
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Reprinted with permission.