By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at

OS hates to harp on the same issue, but once again, a headline necessitates a proper response: “NHL Adding Cameras to Help Challenges.” As many of you know, the NHL has announced that, commencing with this season’s playoffs, the league will be utilizing blue line cameras to aid officials with offside calls. According to the NHL’s executive vice president, this will lead to more consistency and give officials another angle to review an offside challenge.

Where will this end? Why continue removing the human element from the game? Guess that’s the NHL’s decision. But for OS purposes, we are talking about “amateur hockey.”

That encompasses “amateur hockey” parents, managers, coaches and players. You know who you are.

The point that this column continues to make is that every instance of the upper level hockey leagues utilizing technology to “assist” officials cries out for a taste of perspective in the amateur hockey community. In other words, if four professional zebras and a team of highly-paid seat-warmers in a Toronto studio are required to “get a call right,” then the community needs to zip their collective lips when a two-man crew in a Bantam “silver” game makes a questionable decision in 6-0 rout.

Get it?

I didn’t think so. You are probably saying to yourselves, “Gee Mr. OS, the NHL game is so quick that four professional officials can’t keep up so we need replay.”

I disagree. Ask any veteran Level 3 and you will surely be advised that the higher-level game is actually easier to officiate. See, successful officiating encompasses a great sense of anticipation. You anticipate the play at the blue line. You have a feel for a breakout pass from the defensive zone. Penalty-killers are less likely to make a blind clearing pass right into your unpadded gut. Yeah, the play at higher levels is clean, so a zebra can cheat a little.

Now, contrast this with a PeeWee house game when the left winger rushes the puck on a 2-on-1 toward the offensive blue line, then makes an ill-advised deke 16 inches from the blue paint, causing the center to go three-feet offside. Sure, the game is slower, but the blue line referee had no reason to expect the player’s poor decision right before hitting the zone. That official may have been concentrating instead on the right winger staying onside based upon the speed and rhythm of the puck carrier, never expecting the left winger to stickhandle an instant before crossing the blue line. You get the point.

Now, in a higher-level game, and certainly in a professional contest, a winger deking at the line would be most unlikely, thereby making it easier for the linesman to make an offside call.

Oh, and in those big games, you have two referees and a pair of linesmen standing right on the blue lines as opposed to two officials handling all aspects of the game. But don’t let facts get in the way, right?

And let’s not forget about those close plays at the goal line. Just yesterday, I was officiating what’s known in these parts as a PeeWee/Bantam house game, which simply means there aren’t enough players to fill enough teams at each division. Anyway, my partner was on the goal line in the second period when the puck hits the goaltender’s shoulders, flips in the air and then bounces right next to the line. I’m on the bench side at the blue line and the coach is screaming, “Goal!” Finally, the netminder covers the rubber and the faceoff occurs in the end zone.

The coach keeps insisting goal. I tell him I’m standing right next to his bench and I couldn’t tell so, “How you can you be sure?” And then, as his team changes players at the whistle, his winger says to the coach, “It never crossed the line.” The coach laughs it off and the situation was nicely diffused, but guess what?

Would have been nice to have had four professional officials plus replay suits in Toronto, no?


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Reprinted with permission.