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Everyone in hockey wants the game to be played within the rules. More importantly, they want those who fail to do so to be held accountable for their actions.
As a result, USA Hockey has spent the past several seasons making appropriate consequences for the rule-breakers, including more severe penalties for dangerous actions and progressive suspensions for repeat offenders.
And while officials can’t prevent the dangerous action from occurring, they do play a significant role in holding accountable those responsible for these actions with proper rule enforcement. Not only that, but officials must fulfill their responsibility of submitting an accurate and timely game report through the USA Hockey Online Game Reporting System.
STRIPES recently sat down with Matt Leaf, director of the officiating education program, to learn more about the game reporting process and to address some of the concerns he hears from affiliate disciplinary personnel on the reporting process and what officials can do better.
STRIPES: The Online Game Reporting System is in its fifth season, what are some of the areas where the system has helped the game?
Matt Leaf: When properly used, the system has definitely helped affiliates and local leagues manage suspensions and the disciplinary process. It allows for a consistent game-reporting format where the required information immediately gets into the hands of the proper authorities once submitted by the official. The system also provides a more user-friendly mechanism for the officials to file the report on their mobile devices.
One other benefit is, with better compliance in filing reports each season, USA Hockey can track certain infractions and identify any trends both geographically and by types of infractions.
STRIPES: How is USA Hockey looking to continue to improve the system and make it even easier for the officials?
Leaf: We are constantly receiving feedback from affiliate administrators and officials with suggestions, and all of that is taken seriously. In some cases, there are good ideas that we try to incorporate as soon as possible. In other situations, a bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration.
One main area that we are working on is the player search component and tying that into team rosters so officials can simply pull down the team roster to identify the player versus trying to narrow down an entire database. Doing so will greatly improve the accuracy of identifying the guilty player/coach and simplify the process for officials.
The second area that is being worked on is the reporting side of things for administrators and making penalty data more readily available – basically simplifying their ability to manage hundreds of reports.
STRIPES: What is the official’s responsibility when it comes to submitting game reports?
Leaf: First and foremost, with the new progressive suspension rules, the official has to be timely in submitting reports so the system can identify any players/coaches who have reached a suspension threshold. Timely should be well within 24 hours of the game, but certainly no longer than 48 hours (the sooner part of this option being preferred).
Next, it is imperative that the official pays attention to details and provides accurate information in regards to the player(s)/coaches involved (e.g., the type of penalty assessed and the proper rule reference). There really is no excuse for an official to submit a report for clicking on a minor plus misconduct for head contact when in fact they assessed a major plus game misconduct. The correct rule reference is also important as it does play a role in the system’s ability to track repeat offenders.
STRIPES: That seems to be pretty critical information. What are some other things officials need to know when submitting a game report?
Leaf: The most common mistake made is when an official submits a duplicate report (or maybe both officials submit a report) for the same incident. This creates problems because the system does not know it is a duplicate, so it counts it as two different strikes against the same player, even though it was only one infraction. Only one report (the officials can work on it together, if needed) needs to submitted for each incident.
Another common error is submitting multiple reports from the same game when, in fact, the system is designed to handle multiple incidents involving multiple players from the same game. Instead of starting over with a new report for each penalty assessed, the officials can simply do one report for the game and identify each incident separately in the one report.
Finally, officials have to know the rules and the consequences for the rules. Under Rule 411 (Progressive Suspensions), there is a full listing of infractions involving major penalties that require a report to be submitted. Each penalty also has to be listed separately. For example, a player gets a major penalty for slashing, and then later on, gets a major plus game misconduct for head contact. It’s not enough to simply submit a report assessing a game misconduct for the second major penalty in the same game. The report needs to have each penalty (slashing, head contact, game misconduct for second major) listed separately so the system can properly track the aggressive fouls and send out the automatic alert when a threshold is reached.
STRIPES: Any other final words of wisdom?
Leaf: USA Hockey wants players and coaches held accountable for their actions, whether it is for unsportsmanlike behavior or dangerous play outside the boundaries established the rules. This can’t be accomplished without the help of the officials properly enforcing the rules and submitting the appropriate game report when needed.
Officials have a responsibility (in fact it is part of their duties) to properly submit accurate game reports when required.
Detailed instructions on filing game reports are available on USAHockey.com, and if unsure on something, ask your local supervisor or assignor. Paying attention to details in submitting a timely and accurate report will not only minimize confusion and having to answer questions later, but also will eliminate having suspensions overturned on technical issues and will, ultimately, hold those who tarnish the game with their behavior accountable for their actions.
Long before Johnathan Morrison was the officiating advisory group leader for the International Paralympic Committee, he was a 30-something-year-old trying to find his way on the international circuit.
Little did Morrison know, a random phone call in October 2005 would change his life. He remembers it like it was yesterday. He had taken a puck to the face a month earlier and was still recovering from a broken cheekbone when Scott Brinkman gave him a ring.
As the officiating advisory group leader for the International Paralympic Committee at the time, Brinkman was inquiring to see if Morrison had any interest in officiating a three-team sled hockey tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“He called and asked me if I wanted to get involved with the sport,” Morrison recalled. “Honestly, at that time I had never seen a game played. We were having this conversation about getting involved with the sport and he mentioned that there was an event in February 2006 that he wanted to send me to. It was kind of a chance for me to learn the ins and outs of the sport.”
Wait. There was more.
“He told me if I did good he would send me to the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino,” Morrison said. “I had just moved to the Twin Cities and had just started working the WCHA and that would’ve been right in the middle of playoff time. I remember saying to Scott, ‘When exactly will I know if I’m going to go to Torino?’ I asked because I needed to tell my college supervisor that I was going to be gone for the playoffs. He goes, ‘Well, let me rephrase that. Congratulations. You’ve been selected to go to the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino.’ I was like, ‘Oh crap. Here we go.’”
All of a sudden Morrison was on a crash course, trying to learn the ropes of sled hockey as fast as possible. He watched a bunch of DVDs to study the game as well as any YouTube clips he could get his hands on.
Then it was off to Colorado Springs without any sort of in-game experience.
“I got very lucky because the other individual that they sent to that event in Colorado Springs was a gentleman by the name of Scott McDonald,” Morrison said. “He had been around the sport for a long time and he basically taught me the game.”
While the differences were vast, especially considering Morrison had only ever worked with traditional hockey prior to that event, the biggest difference came down to positioning on the ice.
“Everything I knew about positioning basically got thrown out the window,” Morrison said. “You have to be on top of the play at all times because the penalties are much more subtle and much more difficult to see. You have a stick that’s only 100 centimeters long, so that hook is really hard to see.”
Besides that, Morrison also learned the hard way that certain plays look a heckuva lot different.
“A guy using his stick underneath his sled to try to shoot a puck in a motion for someone that hasn’t been around sled hockey looks a lot like he basically threw it with his hand,” Morrison said. “I remember I actually waved off a goal that I thought was put in with his hand and everybody else knew he put it in with his stick.”
That three-team sled hockey tournament, featuring the United States, Canada, and Germany, gave Morrison the confidence he needed heading into the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino.
“I had just worked a bunch of games at a really high level,” Morrison said. “I was seeing the best players, so I felt good. When I actually got to the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino it was one of those things where I had to step up and get better every game. There was no choice.”
For Morrison, the first game of the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino was life-changing.
“When I was younger I was hoping to make the NHL (as an official),” Morrison said. “Once I was about 30 years old, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, so I kind of switched mental gears and said, ‘OK. Let’s go the international route.’ Obviously the brass ring for the international route is the Olympics. That’s what I was pushing for. That’s what I thought I had my best shot at. Then all of a sudden I get this call that I am going to the Paralympics. It took my breath away. I had been working for something like that, and once it happened, all I wanted to do was get ready for it.”
Since then, Morrison has worked three more Paralympic Games (Vancouver, Sochi, and Pyeongchang) on top of handling his current role with the International Paralympic Committee.
In that position, Morrison works with the technical side of the sport, which basically focuses on our rulebooks, as well as the officiating development side of the sport, which essentially is a pathway that finds a way to get the most out of our officials. He also oversees the assigning of certain officials to certain tournaments
“I am looking for officials that have succeeded at some of the highest levels that show a passion for the sport,” Morrison said. “I’d say the passion for the sport is as important, if not more important, than what they have accomplished elsewhere. I don’t want the guy that calls me and is like, ‘Hey. I’m a good linesman. Can I go to the World Championships?’ Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. I want guys that actually love the sport.”
That became a focus based on his experiences with the sport over the better part of the last two decades. He has grown extremely passionate about it, and as the leader of the bunch, he wants every member of his officiating crews to feel the same way.
“I’ve been in this sport long enough and I know guys that have worked the Calder Cup and worked the Frozen Four that I could introduce them to sport the same way I was introduced and they’d do a good job,” Morrison said. “That said, I want that individual who is so passionate about the sport that they have taken a week out of their summer to come and train with us. I’m looking for someone who is passionate about the sport and I think we’ve done a good job with that so far.”