By Mark Lichtenfeld. Originally published at


Everyone knows that OS is all about protecting the interests of veteran Level 3 referees.

But take a look at the OS Twitter page —  @OSpeaking. See the heading? “The gritty truth about amateur hockey officiating.” That’s the slogan. That’s why you’re reading OS right now.

More on this in a moment.

So, I’m going through some correspondence received by OS and it’s all the usual stuff. You know, parents out of control. Politics of assignments. Lumberjack mayhem. Total vanilla. But then, I get a letter from an official actually singing the merits of evaluations in low-level games. And right after, I get an emergency e-mail from a guy in the Central District infuriated with the lack of referee locker accommodations at a specific rink that this column has mentioned before.

Now in radio, they say each caller represents 1 million listeners, so by mathematical analysis, I estimate that each letter to OS represents 1,000 readers, give or take a few hundred.

Get to the point, OS.

OK, I know you’ve heard this a dozen times before, but it bears repeating that the registration prerequisites for a veteran Level 3 require a greater time commitment than the annual licensing requirements for a 30-year veteran lawyer in the state in which OS is located.

That’s right, a senior counsel representing death row inmates expends more time signing up with USA Hockey, including the seminar and modules, than he or she does with the bar association of his or her respective state.

Which leads us back to the locker room issue. It’s outrageous that between games (according to my witness), there were five USA Hockey officials ordered by the rink staff to change in the Zamboni room closet, which itself has an absolute maximum seating capacity of 2.5 persons on a good day. As a result, two of the referees were forced to undress outside the dressing room and to top it off, the rear door to the Zamboni room was open on a 20-degree day, making it insanely cold in the dressing “area,” according to my source.

Adding to the misery, the veteran Level 3 complainant tells me that the ultimate snow plow-to-the-face was the refusal of the rink staff to let the officials dress in either of the two empty college team locker rooms.

Look, no veteran official should have to endure such disrespect. But it happens at rinks all over the country. Which means it’s up to the associations to stick up for the officials and ensure that minimally-adequate locker facilities are available. As far as OS is concerned, in the above scenario, the refs would have been within their rights to dress two-at-a-time and make the teams wait, or even better, to have threatened to walk until proper changing facilities were provided.

See, if you’re going to make a veteran Level 3 expend more time and effort for annual sign-up than a member of the learned professions, then you better make darn sure that veteran Level 3 is treated like a professional, because, let me tell you, even the lowest-level government attorney is provided with minimally-adequate office space to do the job.

This changing room issue has been going on for years at the facility in question. Enough. What are you going to do about it, IHOA?

Yeah, veteran Level 3s are talked down to all the time about acting professional on the ice. They get evaluated in low-level JV games, and according to a recent report, a 33-year vet was evaluated in a PeeWee house game. Why would an association ever spend $20 to pay an evaluator for that? Answer, it’s all about putting the best product on the ice. Professionalism, you know.

Meanwhile, guys are changing in the hallway because the association can’t ensure that these veterans get the very same professional respect that they are supposed to give.

Professionals in a meat locker closet? Sounds like a total double-standard.

And that’s what this column is about. Exposing the gritty truth about amateur hockey officiating. See, it’s not all about those promotional videos showing high-level national championship games in a big-time arena with modern referee locker rooms. In fact, for many veterans, it’s never about that.

But it should be about respect. You make an official change in a freezing closet and that ref is going to have a chip on the shoulder before he or she steps on the ice. That’s what happens when you disrespect a veteran.

Know what else happens?

The nets don’t get moved between games.

Got that rink staff?


Follow Officially Speaking on Twitter (@OSpeaking).

Officially Speaking is originally published at
The online home of the longest-running hockey newspaper in the United States.

Reprinted with permission.