By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at

“Bungling referees need adult supervision.”

The instant I saw that headline in last Tuesday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, I ripped my eyes off the Trump spread and flipped directly to Section 4 Sports. Yup, finally, us youth hockey refs hit the big time. You know, the local precinct captain/part-time house league coach finally garnered the RJ’s sports editor’s ear with some interesting column fill. I knew it had to be good, and special occasions like this called for the OS secret weapon. Reading glasses.

Too bad. Because in my optimistic stupor, I had somehow glossed over a pair of words that suddenly cut us Level 3 vets out of the scoop.

Bungling college basketball referees.

What’s that? I thought to myself. You mean hockey parents, coaches, managers and little BLTs (Beer League Trainees) don’t have a monopoly on zebra disrespect?

And just as incomprehensible – these college basketball refs, independent contractors according the article, can make as much as $3,000 a night in a Power 5 Conference with the most in-demand officials earning $120,000 to $150,000 over six months and these guys are getting the same brand of flak as us independent contractor Level 3s pocketing $45 for a low-level JV game.

That’s just wrong.

I don’t mean these college refs don’t deserve the rap. I just don’t know. That’s because I don’t watch basketball and could not even speculate whether these complaints are deserved or not.

But when house league zebras scoring $25 for Squirt game rake in the same abuse as professional college basketball refs earning six figures for a half-dozen months, something’s out of perspective.

That goes for beer league refs, too. Allow me to elucidate.

Last weekend was a CanAm tournament here in the desert. It’s a great tournament, well-organized with teams from all over North America. In fact, my first game pitted Team Alaska vs. Team Jacksonville Florida. Anyway, in that game, a guy took a wrist shot from the slot through traffic that deflected off something then hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced out. It’s the kind of shot that call for instant replay when four professional NHL zebras need to call Toronto for a five-camera review of where the puck landed.

The best I could do was look up toward the Brooksy’s patrons in the bar window over the North rink and translate some facial expressions.

Naturally, no one was paying attention, which was weird because I’ve been told there’s a table minimum to sit at the booths overlooking the rink.

Anyway, these guys coming from all over the continent (and not necessarily just to play hockey), didn’t seem to care. No complaining, no yelling, another testament to the type of teams I’ve seen in the CanAm tournaments. And after the period, the goaltender agreed with my split-second analysis that the puck caromed off the bottom of the crossbar. How he knew this while facing the shooter in the slot remains to be explained, but just the same, I think he was correct.

Now, had this same incident occurred in a PeeWee A travel game, I most likely would have been run out of the rink by Aunt Martha and Uncle Bernie from the visiting Scottsdale, Arizona side of the lobby.

And heaven forbid that Uncle Bernie publishes one the local Arizona papers. Next thing you know, I’m being confused with those college basketball refs.

Tell you what? You pay me six figures for a half-year of travel hockey games, you call me anything you want.

What’s that? You’re saying I’m not even worth five figures?


Then keep that in perspective before running your mouth.


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Officially Speaking is originally published at
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Reprinted with permission.