NHL Referees and Linesmen reported for duty earlier this week, with 20 officials arriving at each of the hub cities on Tuesday.
Though there’s no formal training camp for officials, the league is taking advantage of the dual-centralization to pull together the stripes in each city.
“Normally they don’t get together in the playoffs other than with the people they work with,” said NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom, during a league update on Friday afternoon. “It’s a bit of a luxury that we have 20 officials in each hub city. From a team perspective, that’s a little different for them.”
Referees and linesmen in each location will have a mini-camp over the next few days, with time both in the classroom and on the ice. The officials have been doing plenty of study and refreshers from home during the stoppage leading up to the resumption of hockey.
“[We’ve had] lots of Zoom calls and rules quizzes and such leading up to this,” said Walkom.
“There’s an expectation … that our team of officials calls the game the same way we’ve called the game all year,” said Walkom. “We’re going to be going from 0-60 real quick. We’ve been doing everything we can to refresh our officials mentally about situations that arise on the ice and the challenges that come with that, so they’re up to speed. We’ve also been working with them physically. They need to be prepared to skate at a high speed to keep up with the pace of the game.”
“We will be ready for these exhibition games. We all know what the [penalty] standard is and our guys will be working to it every single night.”
The officials – and players – may also have to get used to a new whistle. While the NHL is not moving to electronic whistles, they are going pea-less.
“We will be trying the Fox40 pea-less whistle,” Walkom advised, adding that the officials will be using them during today’s on-ice skate. “It has the right trill for the players and takes a lot less force to use.”
The whistle in question is the Fox40 Caul, which has been used previously by the league for their outdoor games. The whistle is named for former NHL Director of Officiating John McCauley. The two-chambered pea-less structure is easier to clean and less likely to retain bacteria, unlike the traditional cork pea.
“Officials didn’t want to use the electronic whistle,” Walkom advised. “It hasn’t been tested enough for us.”
While e-whistles may not have been tested enough, the officials certainly have been. The playoff officials were tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival, as well as subsequently, per the NHL’s Return to Play guidelines. All have tested negative, clearing their way to get back on the ice.
“I know the guys are excited to get to work in each one of the hubs for the games ahead.”
The referees and linesmen will be dropping the pucks for exhibition games starting July 28, with qualifiers getting underway August 1.