By Mark Lichtenfeld.  Originally published at


Got it! The rarest of published species. A Priority Mail delivery in ultra-safe bubble wrap, testifying to the importance of the unique written contents. Of course I’m referring to the USA Hockey gold-covered rulebook, a gainfully-earned benefit to those few of us veteran referees who have served the hockey community for 25 fully-paid, consecutive years. It’s cool. Polished. Chic.

But with it comes responsibility. You know, the dissemination of complex information, perfectly broken down to catch the attention, and retention, of the hockey community at large. The kind of thing you always expected from OS.

So what better way to exercise this public service than to open up the gold rulebook and choose the following most misunderstood concepts in hockey, sure to become great summer reading at the distant, National Forest campground.


  1. Composition of team (Rule 201). A team is defined as having six players. Therefore, when it’s 10:45 p.m., and your beer league team asks for a time out to start the game because they only have four dressed players, respectfully deny this request as four players do not constitute a team, and there has to be a team before there can be a request for a time out.


  1. Face-off location (Rule 612). A faceoff is about to be conducted in Team X’s attacking zone. One of Team X’s players is assessed a misconduct before the puck drop. The player is replaced, and the faceoff goes to the neutral zone. It does not matter that Team X is still at full strength, or that the penalty assessed was not a minor or major. Got it?


  1. Batting puck with hands (Rule 618). Attacking player bats puck with hand. Puck deflects off goalkeeper and right back to the attacking player who shoots the puck into the net. This is not a hand pass as the player is considered to have batted the puck to himself because the goalkeeper did not obtain possession and control of the rubber.


  1. Body checking (Standard of Play, casebook, p. 371). A player who delivers a check to an opponent by initiating the contact with his hands extended into the chest of the opponent must receive a roughing penalty. Got that all you JV guys and JV assistant coaches?


  1. Intentional offside (Rule 630). OS devoted a column to this last spring, but it always bears repeating. Intentional offside is determined at the instant the puck crosses the blue line and it makes no difference if the shot is on goal. The only decision is whether the attacking player deliberately shot the biscuit to secure an immediate stoppage of play.


  1. Possession and control of puck (Glossary, p. 367). Oh how us lawyers and decision-makers love to analyze glossaries and legislative definitions. To be sure, a Supreme Court decision used to be won or lost by citing a simple statement of definitions, until one particular Justice decided to write his own definition of Congress’ definition in the ACA case, but OS digresses. For purposes of possession and control, touching the puck is not enough. Rather, a player must make contact with the puck and propel the puck in a desired direction. So quit bellyaching that “he touched the puck!”


  1. Officials. (Rule 501). Yes, a game can be officiated with one referee. This rule is often misunderstood by administrators, referees and the general public. All that is necessary is for both coaches to agree. Recommendation: Have both coaches sign off on the scoresheet that they agree to continue the game under these circumstances per Rule 501 and p. 155 of the casebook. That will stymie all those pesky PI lawyers in the event someone gets injured.


Rules specifically tailored for referees and for the hockey community in general to identify inexperienced zebras:


  1. Time outs (Rule 636). When both teams are lined up for a faceoff, the line-change procedure has thereby been completed and as a result, the referee may not allow any request by either team for a time out. Officials, DO NOT grant a request for time out in this scenario and if you get any lip from coaches, officials, assignors, tournament directors or local precinct captains, please direct them to this column and to OS or Let’s Play Hockey.


  1. Officials’ faceoff procedures. (USAH Intermediate Officiating Manual). Fellow referees, do not line up both centers, wait for them to place stick blades in the white and then blow the whistle. Per the Intermediate 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. Got that? The whistle is a condition precedent to the players getting in faceoff position. Once that faceoff position has been attained, there is no justification for the whistle. In fact, if this were an administrative hearing, I would argue that a good referee gets the players lined up quickly and efficiently, and as a result may not even find it necessary to blow the whistle. Radical, I know, but something to strive for:


  1. Multiple choice, and summer ACT primer for those college-bound zebras:


The primary responsibility of an official is:

  1. Act as a supervisory authority
  2. Make a call
  3. Enforce the rules
  4. All of the above


Here is where we really separate the ice from the shavings. See, the referee has one purpose – to enforce the rules. Oh how us officials loathe the zebra that’s just out there to toot his whistle. He thinks he’s the show – the more whistles, the more calls, the better job he’s doing. Wrong! We are here to enforce the rules, and if that means the officials never make a single call because there were no infractions of the rules, then so be it. Great job!

Regarding college-testing primers, don’t cry foul that there were two right answers, A and C because, the options do not allow for such a choice and accordingly, D cannot be correct. Besides, “supervisory authority” is quite vague, and in that event, coaches and even the scorekeeper (as an off-ice official) could be classified as supervisory authorities. Based upon analytical processes of elimination, that leaves C as the only correct choice since B is clearly wrong and could never be incorporated in a correct answer selection. Remember this exercise and you’re good for a couple extra points on your entrance exams.

And that’s the public service offered by OS as a gold-colored rulebook recipient.




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Reprinted with permission.