By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at


Dear OS: I’m pretty sure you were on the two-man crew for my kid’s PeeWee game at the Presidents’ Day tournament. There was a blatant trip in our offensive zone in the third period. It was right in front of your partner on the goal line by the boards and neither of you called squat. Our team lost 4-3, and honestly, I expected better from a veteran like yourself. Guess our St. George referees perform differently.

OS: The only reason I still remember that play is because that was my only two-man game of the entire tournament (us vets are mainly on the three-official crews, you know). Anyway, it happened just 10 feet in front of my partner, so whether it was a trip or not wasn’t my call from the blue line.

See, there’s this publication that’s kept very secret from the hockey community. It’s called the “USA Hockey Basic Officiating Manual.” And therein lies the answer. Turn to page 10 and read the instructions on positioning in the two-official system. What it states is that the deep official is responsible for watching the entire play and the back official observes offside calls and watches players “away from the deep official.”

In other words, as long as the deep official has an unobstructed view of the play directly in front of him, the blue line guy should never substitute his judgment from 75 feet distant. In fact, in that scenario the back guy should not even be looking at the puck handler per the officiating manual. But guys like you don’t care about manuals anyway.


Dear OS: I’m in a “no-check” league and there’s more body contact than Australian rules football. Mostly non-penalized, of course. Guess referees don’t believe in rules.

OS: And I’m sure you don’t believe in preparation. As in, first perusing the rulebook prior to slandering the integrity of a veteran official. See, you are registered in a body contact level. Per the USA Hockey Rulebook Preface, hockey is either “body contact” or “body checking.” You don’t want body contact? Then sign up for volleyball.


Dear OS: I’ve been reffing for seven years and lately, I just can’t stand it. Especially men’s league. The yelling, controversies, late starts, etc. How do you do it after all these years?

OS: Haven’t you been reading this column? I don’t.


Dear OS: For the first time ever, my son’s team had a situation where an opponent in his defensive zone threw a stick at the puck carrier in the neutral zone. The official (a younger ref, it appeared) assessed a penalty shot to the puck carrier. It was not a breakaway situation, so I don’t understand this call. Please advise.

OS: Based on these facts, the official was incorrect. Per Rule 637, in a thrown stick situation, a penalty shot can only be awarded when the stick is thrown in the direction of the puck in the offending team’s DEFENSIVE ZONE. The proper call should have been interference.


Dear OS: I had the “privilege” of watching my men’s league team from the bleachers and I’ve got to say that you and your partner are the laziest refs ever. Seriously, you guys spent the entire third period standing on the blue lines except to drop the puck. Disgraceful.

OS: Consider yourself fortunate to have witnessed a special beer league officiating procedure otherwise known as the “Men’s League Safety System,” first developed in the late 1980s by one of the finest officials to ever man the lines in the southwest Chicago suburbs. Thanks to this system, hordes of us veteran level 3s have never been run over by a drunken lumberjack, nor taken a “clearing attempt” slap shot right to the chops.

Of course, there’s a time and place to utilize this system based upon the type of game, score, demeanor of the players and of course, the time of night. But you and all of your bird-caged brethren don’t care. And trust me, if more players like you were on the right side of the glass, there would be no need for the system anyway. But the real question is, what kind of guy stays up till midnight watching beer league mayhem?


Dear OS: Last month, I was holding my line and  took a shot to what I think is called a metatarsal. It actually broke my foot. Adult C league, of course. Missed three days of work and it’s still painful to stand. Wife says I can file a claim or something, but I hate to do that. Advice?

OS: See above.


Dear OS: What’s the deal with your faceoffs? I’m standing at the hash marks, and you drop the puck before my stick is down. You have to wait until I’m ready.

OS: No I don’t. See, guys like you think you’re putting on a show for ECHL scouts or something. You stand at the dot ready to go, but refuse to put your stick down as if you’re setting up some kind of scripted play, which of course, you’re not.

Check out the USA Hockey Intermediate Officiating Manual. Officials are expected to conduct a faceoff by dropping the puck within five seconds after the whistle signifying the completion of the line change procedure. So when I say “stick in the white,” don’t try to show me up by keeping your stick at your hips, especially when you are the attacking team and the defending center has his stick down.

Now I know some officials give a warning at every other faceoff, and then throw out the center, but it’s more effective to drop the puck because once the centers realize that the official is dropping the puck within the five-second rulebook window, those centers are suddenly ready to go for the rest of the game.  

And if that doesn’t win you over, let’s analyze this mathematically. Suppose there are 35 faceoffs in an average lumberjack game and on 30 of those draws, the official waits five seconds more than he should for the centers to get their sticks down after initial warning. That’s 2.5 extra minutes per game. Now, multiply that by 150 men’s games per year and you’re at 375 minutes. Divide by 60 and suddenly, those 2.5 minutes per game turns into an excess of six hours per year. That’s almost a government business day and us former state employees don’t work for free, you know.


Have a nice summer from OS.



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Officially Speaking is originally published at
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Reprinted with permission.