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UPDATED: 6 Tips For Better and More Effective Ice Sessions

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Over the years, I’ve participated in dozens of ice sessions, both as an official and as an instructor. The primary purpose of ice sessions is to give officials the opportunity to practice their skills outside of a game situation. While there is certainly no substitute for game experience, on-ice sessions are a great environment to develop officials’ technical skills. They also allow instructors to draw attention to details that might be overlooked in a formal supervision or shadow game. Having said that, ice sessions are difficult to run well, regardless of your experience as an official. Unless you’re part of a very strong organization, training for instructors is ver rare. Moreover, most supervisors are very good officials who have no idea how they got to be so good. This makes it difficult to go back and teach and mentor younger officials. With that in mind, here are five six tips (learned the hard way) that will make any ice session easier to run and more meaningful for the participants…

6. UPDATED: Don’t be afraid to try something new! 

This past August, for the third year in a row, I took part in Vancouver Female Hockey Association’s pre-season training sessions. Dairobi, their Referee-in-Chief, and Sarah, their lead mentor, wanted to try something new as part of their on-ice curriculum. This year, Dairobi wanted to utilize ice time to have his officials to practice bench communication. I was initially skeptical about the exercise. I wasn’t sure if it would be the best use of ice time but I was willing to give it a try and assumed the role of the coachContinued… 

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Resource: Rule 7.3 (b)

 

Last year, Hockey Canada re-worded this rule to make the intent clearer regarding attacking players standing in the goal crease. The idea is that Rule 7.3 (b) is not a “foot in the crease”, á la the 1998-99 NHL season. Under Hockey Canada rules, an attacking player could be in the crease and his team could still score a legal goal. Within BC Hockey, we assumed that this official re-wording was no cause for concern because we had been interpreting the rule in this way for years. Instead, the updated rule made it clear to our instructional and supervisory team that our officials have always been unclear on how they should be interpreting this rule. Moreover, you need an English degree to dissect the intent from the 500-word explanation in the Hockey Canada Rulebook. To that end, I have created this chart to help illustrate the various scenarios covered by Rule 7.3 (b). event.

See the chart here…


Measuring Success in Officiating Development

 

For years, discussions have been ongoing about how to measure success in youth sports. These conversations have centred mostly on the relevance of trophies. Do trophies won at eight, eleven, or fourteen years of age represent the long-term success of an individual athlete, coach, or program?

There are no such trophies for officials. The nearest comparison is an official being selected for a local, provincial, or national championship event. Should that be the primary benchmark for a program’s success? Or should our officiating developers follow the lead of coaches and attempt to identify alternate criteria for measuring the success of our programs?” Continued… 

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Written Feedback is Key to Development

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BC Hockey Officiating Coordinator Larry Krause supervising the 2017 Juvenile Provincial Championship.

A supervisor has two methods through which they deliver feedback to their officials: verbal feedback delivered in the room and written feedback delivered in the days following the game. The written feedback is essential for effective supervision for a number of reasons. First of all, an officials’ ability to process feedback in the moments following a game is limited. Their adrenaline is still flowing, emotions may be high, and they are both physically and mentally fatigued. Secondly, a supervisor’s perception of a particular incident may change after having time to reflect. Finally, the written supervision preserves a record of the feedback delivered for that official and also for other supervisors. There can be no question that written feedback is an important tool in developing officials. Continued… 

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Officiating in the 21st Century: Video Supervision in Minor Officiating

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BC Hockey Referee-in-Chief Sean Raphael using Coach’s Eye at the 2014 RBC Cup in Vernon, BC.

Over the last several decades, video technology has fundamentally altered the way that we experience the game of hockey. In the modern era, a game isn’t broadcast on television without every play available for replay from six different angles in super-slow motion. The use of video in hockey has become ubiquitous to the point that there isn’t a PeeWee team that doesn’t utilize regular video sessions as part of their player development. However, video has yet to penetrate the officiating side of the sport to the same degree. Unfortunately, both in the professional and minor spheres, the most frequent use of video has been to catch officials making mistakes. However, from the perspective of developing officials, feedback is only useful if it’s constructive. Simply pointing out every instance where an official missed a trip, slash, or check from behind doesn’t meet the criteria. Continued… 

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Dear Coaches, What You’re Doing Isn’t Working: The Dynamics of Official-Coach Interactions

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Referee and coach confer in a BCHL game. Copyright Garrett James Photography.

As I come to the end of my eleventh season as an official, I realize that I’ve been devoting more and more attention to how officials and coaches interact. One of the biggest lessons I try to teach my young officials is that the relationship between a coach and an official does not have to be adversarial; it is unfortunate and unnecessary that it often turns out to be the case. At the minor hockey level, the issue has garnered increased media attention as young referees are continually driven away from the sport by abusive coaches. By contrast, at the junior and professional levels, verbal abuse of referees is often considered a semi-legitimate gamesmanship tactic. Whether we’re referring to an outburst of emotion or a continuous barrage of verbal abuse, yelling at the referees is considered to be ubiquitous in hockey. My meditation on the subject have been centred around trying to understand precisely what coaches are trying to achieve when they verbally abuse official. This is not pathos designed to persuade coaches to reform their behaviour on moral grounds. Instead, this is an explanation of the practical ways in which referees respond to verbal abuse and why smart hockey coaches should keep their mouths shut, because what they’re doing isn’t working. Continued… 

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What’s wrong with NHL playoff officiating? (HINT: It’s not the officials)

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Anybody who has been paying attention to the NHL over the past few years can identify the most common source of complaints: the officiating. With the playoffs in full swing, abuse is raining down upon NHL referees from all corners. Last week, Andy Dudones wrote an excellent piece for thehockeywriters.com decrying the unrelenting “ref-bashing” that is dominating conversation in the hockey community. If you aren’t familiar with the path to becoming an NHL official, the article is an informative introduction to the team of sixty-six physical specimens who have spent decades toiling away in the minor leagues, honing their skills, before being given the opportunity to join the NHL’s officiating corps. Dudones’ conclusion is that the NHL’s officials are only human, that they will make mistakes, and they’re doing their best. While he’s not incorrect, the reality is that the quality of officiating in the NHL is not acceptable. However, the problem is not with the officials; they are the best people available for the job and they are doing their best. The problem stems from the fact that the NHL has accepted the convention that a referee’s penalty standard should change based on the circumstances of the game; that a game in overtime or during the playoffs should be officiated differently than a game in regulation time or during the regular season. Continued… 

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The Role of Supervisors at Championships: Evaluators or Teachers?

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Earlier this month, I was privileged enough to be asked to supervise the BC PeeWee Tier 4 Championship in Richmond that took place between 16-20 March. This was my second provincial championship in a supervisory role, so while I’m no veteran, I do have some experience in this area. However, I was confronted with a dilemma that I had not satisfactorily resolved the first time around: what is my feedback balance for these officials during this championship? (For those of you who don’t know what I mean by “feedback balance”, check out my previous article “Supervisors as Coaches” for a detailed explanation.) Do I supervise them as I would normally supervise officials of their skill and experience, or do I withhold feedback and objectively evaluate their skills? I watch every minute of every game over the course of the week, and I am required to submit formal evaluations of each official to BC Hockey at the conclusion of the tournament. So I am in a position to provide every official with a comprehensive supervision for every game, but is that the correct way to do it? Continued… 

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Supervisors as Coaches (Developing officials and what we sometimes overlook with the best of intentions)

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2016-17 Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association Pre-Season Clinic. Pictured (L-R): Dan Hanoomansingh, Female Development Coordinator Al White, and VGIHA RIC Dairobi Paul.

Supervisors don’t usually identify themselves this way, but they are essentially coaches of officials. The role of a supervisor is to support their officials on an ongoing basis, identify the individual strengths and weaknesses of officials, track their progress over time, see how they interact with the team as a whole, and eventually, objectively rank them against their peers. A coach (in any sport) performs these exact same duties; the only difference is that they work with players. If you had to choose, which is the most important of these five aspects? Or more precisely, to which should you devote the most of your time and energy? Continued… 

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Fighting in the NHL and the discussion we aren’t having

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Some people, and I include myself in that category, think that the NHL’s hardline stance on hits to the head comes far too late. Nevertheless, the past is the past and it makes no sense to look back and judge the NHL on its decisions; they introduced severe penalties for dangerous hits designed to protect players, and they should be commended for it. In the week between 19 and 26 September, four players were suspended a total of 15 games for dangerous hits that had the potential for head injuries. I would expect nothing less.

What confuses me is that fighting isn’t punished the same way. Rule 44 states that “contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.” It seems to me that a player striking another player in the face with his fists constitutes an “illegal check to the head”. But the contrast in consequences between fighting and other forms of contact to the head are massive: penalties for illegal checks to the head include multi-game suspensions; but a player isn’t even assessed a Game Misconduct for fighting unless its his third fight of the gameContinued… 

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No more body-checking in PeeWee… So what?

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Today the Hockey Canada board of directors voted to eliminate body-checking from all PeeWee hockey (both “A” and “C”). This ban has been championed by many intelligent hockey minds nationwide over the past several years. Despite a large amount of popular opposition to the ban, the combination of statistics on concussions and almost a decade of personal experience watching and officiating PeeWee “A” hockey makes it difficult to argue the wisdom of this decision. PeeWee players are, by and large, lousy hitters. They hit with their hands, their elbows, their sticks, they leave their feet, and its amazing that there aren’t more injuries.

However, passing this resolution is not enough; the resolution itself is meaningless unless Hockey Canada understands the responsibility they have to ensure that Bantam “A” does not become PeeWee “A” plus testosterone. If this is allowed to happen, injuries among Bantam-aged players will spike dramatically and it will be far worse than it ever was with PeeWee-aged players. So what will make the difference between success and failure for this measure? Continued…

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Ricardo Portillo

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He may have refereed soccer, but he was one of us; one of the fraternity of men and women who shouldered the task of enforcing the rules of the game we love, whatever that game may be. Ricardo Portillo died Saturday from a brain injury sustained after being punched by a teenaged goalkeeper after Ricardo showed him a yellow card. According to Ricardo’s daughter, she and her siblings begged him to stop officiating because she feared this type of violence; but he refused. He couldn’t give up what he loved to do. Continued…

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