By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at


As OS readers know, referees loathe the USA Hockey open book and closed book exams. For years, there have been rumblings in the ranks concerning the phraseology, language, grammar and relevancy of the questions asked of us veteran officials. Often, there is no single correct answer. Even seasoned professionals have trouble deciphering what the scope of the questioner’s inquiry is supposed to be.


That’s where OS comes in. As the veteran Level 3 national mouthpiece appearing in the USA’s premier hockey publication, this column has been instrumental in bringing attention to the issue. And governing bodies have definitely taken note. You may recall that earlier in the 2015-16 season, OS commented on the improvement in the manner of questioning appearing on rules tests. Officials from Colorado Springs promised that the questioning experience was being enhanced. Changes were happening for the better.


Much better. Just this weekend, OS received an e-mail from a Central District veteran Level 3. The e-mail included a forward from the local referee-in-chief. In the forward, the RIC pretty much acknowledged the past questioning difficulties in the exams and as a result, a new program was being developed whereby the Central District officials themselves were being afforded an opportunity to submit test questions to the USA Hockey testing committee. Specifically, the RIC writes that the intent of the project was to make the tests more “user friendly.” Based on the number of complaints OS has received from disgruntled officials over the years, I applaud USA Hockey for attempting to incorporate its referees into the testing process. Now, it’s up to you agitated officials to seize the opportunity and submit some readable questions for your hockey brethren.


Speaking of seizing an opportunity, as expected, OS did not receive a single submission containing the correct answers to last week’s OS mid-term. It’s not that the questions were difficult. Rather, they emphasized scenarios which are not likely to happen, even though the answers were actually quite simple as applied to the situations. For that reason, OS will wait one additional week to provide the answers in the hope that a real, true veteran will take some Level 3 leadership and submit a correct scorecard to OS.  


See, that’s what this column’s all about. It bears repeating every other month or so that OS is not a “know the rules” or “meet the ref” piece in a hockey newspaper. Rather, it’s meant to be a gritty, in-your-face exposé about the trench realty experienced by veteran hockey officials, mainly the Level 3s. This column is a semi tell-all of what it means and feels to be a veteran Level 3. From fleeing through the rink’s back door, to being disrespected by the local governing body, to having your grandmother slandered by a disgruntled house league coach, OS is here to reveal these hardships, and in the process, to make life better for hockey referees everywhere.


And you’ve got to believe me that despite the many tales of gloom submitted to OS on a weekly basis, I nevertheless sense a slow, consistent improvement in the treatment of us zebras. I mean, even in our local Wednesday night higher-level beer league, I’ve never once found myself on the receiving end of an “NHL-style” cross-check to the back. Sure, I hate a few of those Wednesday night goons, but at least I don’t have to fear for my health.


Yup. Civilized men’s leagues. National bodies seeking input from the rank-and-file.


OS always gives credit when due.


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Officially Speaking is originally published at
The online home of the longest-running hockey newspaper in the United States.

Reprinted with permission.