By Mark Lichtenfeld. Originally published at State of Hockey.
Few things in the officiating ranks are as disheartening as an emotional letter of resignation tendered by a veteran Level 3.
Especially when the letter of resignation is submitted to Officially Speaking.
Yup, USA Hockey just lost another extremely-qualified veteran zebra to the vicissitudes of garden-variety abuse of officials.
You’ve heard all about it in this column. Coaches dressing-down a teenage girl ref, players copping an attitude toward veteran officials three times their ages, team managers seeking to blackball the steadiest Level 3s in the county.
Oh sure, OS pleaded with the letter-writer to stay. But nothing doing. This official had enough.
Still, the long-time ref had a great suggestion. In fact, it’s an idea that OS has floated over the years. Simple: Make all players complete an open book rules test with a required passing score of 75% as part of their annual registration requirements.
Let me provide an example to elucidate. Last week, OS was handling a reasonably high-level butcher league game. One-goal differential in the middle of the third. Only one penalty called the entire game.
Fifty seconds remaining. The losing team pulls its goalkeeper. They’ve got a sixth guy standing at the top of the defensive circle. The winning team dumps the puck along the boards about 17 feet from where the sixth player is standing. That same sixth player, the guy who played junior hockey, turns his back to the puck and makes no attempt to secure the rubber.
Icing waved. Team goes on to lose. Goaltender on bench busts into the referees’ crease, belligerent, swearing and refusing to leave after several minutes. 601 progression handed out, resulting in a game misconduct.
Now, it’s not for certain that requiring these beer leaguers to attain a 75% open book rules score would have prevented this verbal onslaught, but it sure couldn’t have hurt. I mean, there’s a chance this guy would have summarily reviewed USA Hockey Rule 624(b) icing the puck:
Icing shall be nullified, if, in the opinion of the Linesman, an opposing player – except the goalkeeper – has an opportunity to play the puck, and has not done so, prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
And, yeah, I know it’s improbable that the tender would have known this one, but maybe, possibly, the guy would have come across USA Hockey Rule 203(d) and its accompanying casebook if he had to pour through the rulebook as part of his registration requirements:
A team may opt to play the game with six players and no goalkeeper. However, the Referee and the Coach must be aware that no player is allowed to have the privileges of the goalkeeper.
Oh sure, OS tried explaining to the goaltender that the sixth skater hanging at the top of the defensive circle was required to play the puck since he had no goalkeeper privileges, but honestly, OS may have just as well been speaking ancient Aramaic.
So look what we have here. One ignorant beer leaguer. One forfeited game fee. Team now has to scramble for a replacement keeper for the next game.
And all because these know-it-alls are not required to show minimal rule proficiency as a registration requirement.
Please, USA Hockey. In honor of my veteran Level 3 brother. Acknowledge his pain.
Require all players to pass an open-book rules test.
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