By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at

The vicissitudes of senior summer hockey. Yup, we refs know it as the Veteran Level 3 Full Employment Act because the organized mayhem never ends. Playoffs late spring, summer season the week after. No break. No time for ice melting and rink rehabilitation. That two-inch depression along the north dasher is suddenly three inches by the Fourth of July.

Yeah, to get the full experience of beer league officiating, you’ve got to take games in late-May. Let me amplify this point by presenting you readers with a real-time, real-life scenario encompassing the finer aspects of senior-league competition.

Sunday, 6 p.m. Men’s league tripleheader. One hundred degrees outside, but no fear, the south rink is ridiculously cold and the ice is extraordinarily bad. Ever hear of Lake Forest Academy in the 1990s? You Illinois guys know what I mean.

6:02. Warm-up clock halfway over. Team 777 has no players on the ice. Can you say forfeit? Then again, we still have to sit around for two more.

6:05. Team 777 has three skaters and a goalie. Scorekeeper cool. Best one in town actually. He says, “Clock starting at 6:05. I don’t care who complains.” Did I just say best scorekeeper in the desert?

6:08. Team 777 now has four skaters. “Why’s the clock running, ref?” hollers the 777 captain.

“Puck drop at 6:05,” I counter. “Take all the time you want. We’re not going to forfeit you. But the clock runs and we pick up from there once you field five skaters.”

“That’s B.S.,” he snaps back. “I’m telling the league director.”

I return to the scorer’s box. “Guy’s gonna complain,” I say. “Maybe we should stop …”

“Nothing doing!” interrupts the scorekeeper. “Puck-drop at 6:05. They can kiss my ***.”

Yup, best scorekeeper east of Pahrump.

6:17. Team 777’s fifth skater finally arrives. 8:00 left in the first period. Beautiful. Or maybe not. “That sucks that you took time away from us,” scowls the last guy out of the locker room. “There was a line at sign-in since it’s the first game of the summer season.”

OK, that and 50 cents still wouldn’t buy a refrigerator magnet at the World’s Largest Gift Shop on Las Vegas Boulevard. But I don’t tell him that.

Now there’s two minutes remaining in what’s left of the first period. Team Purple rips a hard clearing pass from its defensive zone. Puck deflects off a stick, caroms off the back of a Team Purple glove and shoots directly into the neutral zone where it’s corralled by a Team Purple forward who breaks across the red line and fires a blister over the 777 goalie’s shoulder and into the net.

“Hand pass!” cries the 777 team’s self-appointed captain. “What the ****?”

“Not directed,” I counter. Check out the rules.

“You blind? It deflected off his hand!”

Naturally, I didn’t have my rulebook handy, though I do keep my phone in the scorer’s bench. That’s because I trust the best scorekeeper south of Reno. I’ll set out the rule for you:

Rule 618 • Handling Puck with Hands

(b) A player or goalkeeper shall not be allowed to “bat” the puck in the air, or “push” it along the ice with his hand, “directly” to a teammate unless the “hand pass” has been initiated and completed in his defending zone, in which case play shall be allowed to continue.

Bat, push or direct. Buzzwords. And what is the defining characteristic of each verb? That’s right, INTENT. Which is exactly what I explained to the agitated player. Deflection off the glove from behind the back? Cleaner than the inside of those flashy beer mugs awarded to the league champions.

Back to our game. First intermission. Captain of 777 slithers to the scorer’s box. “That was pretty bogus to start the game early,” he grunts. “We were all signing in.”

“You knew it was the first game. Get here early,” jabs the scorekeeper. “And why wasn’t the other team late?”

Real sharp scorekeeper.

End of game. League director approaches us. “You know why the guy was late?” he says to my partner and me as we leave the ice. “He was reading the USAH liability waiver. He said he’s not signing. So I says you’re not playing. And I told him, there were no changes and it’s the same form he’s signed the past three seasons. Yeah, he was the guy holding up the line.”

“Guy’s stupid,” says the best scorekeeper east of Needles, Calif. “Always a problem. All he needed to do was get here a couple minutes earlier than usual. He knew he had to sign.”

Summer league. Just goes to prove that officiating isn’t the glamour and high life most of you assumed it was.

But if you’re thinking about joining the law school moot court team or considering running for judicial office, beer league experience is serious, first-class training.


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Officially Speaking is originally published at
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Reprinted with permission.