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Retention of Officials A Priority for USA Hockey

By Dane Mizutani 03/14/2019, 9:00pm MDT

Many sports across the board have begun to see a decline in their number of officials. USA Hockey is no different, with numbers lagging slightly behind player growth.

With that in mind, USA Hockey has made a particularly concerted effort over the last couple of years to incentivize officials to stick around.

Not surprisingly that was the main topic discussed at the annual USA Hockey's Winter Meetings, according to National Referee-in-Chief Dave LaBuda. 

“I'd say the overriding tone of the meeting was us talking about retention and trying to come up with ways in which to address that particular issue,” LaBuda said. “It's a very complex situation. There are a number of different factors that go into why an official decides not to stay registered. We can only address a certain number of those factors and the rest we have to hope fix themselves in some way.”

In an effort to be proactive, USA Hockey has implemented sweeping change in the registration process for existing officials.

It started by revamping the registration fees, and while some of the other minutiae is rather hard to digest, the most notable change is the reduction of registration requirements for officials that reach the Level 3 or Level 4 status. 

As soon as an official has obtained Level 3 or Level 4 status for three consecutive years, they will become eligible to apply for tenured status. In order to attain that tenured status, officials must also attend what USA Hockey is calling an advanced officiating symposium. 

“It's designed to encourage people to continue their level of registration and to advance to a higher level of registration,” LaBuda said. “Just getting them to climb that ladder and try to attain the highest level of registration will make them better officials, and in turn, improve the game.”

Essentially, USA Hockey wants to send a message to its officials, making it clear that their time is important to the organization. 

“We understand that people's time nowadays is becoming tighter and tighter,” LaBuda said. “We wanted to make sure that we made the entire process as efficient as possible from a time standpoint.”

It seems to be working so far as USA Hockey has been able to stabilize its registration numbers over the last few years, according to LaBuda.

“We are starting to see some movement in that retention area,” LaBuda said. “It seems like every sport is experiencing a critical loss of officials to work their sport. We are hoping that these changes in the registration process will help us retain more officials down the road. It’s been a positive step in the right direction so far.”

Have you verified the score sheet?

By USA Hockey 02/13/2019, 8:15am MST

Remember when score sheets simply consisted of three or four carbon copies at the scorer’s table?

While we’re still likely to see that classic technique at some facilities, most have abandoned the handwritten score sheets in favor of electronic scoring systems and advanced score sheets – or minimally combined the process of both.

But whether it’s handwritten or electronic, the score sheet is not deemed “good to go” until an official signs off on it at the conclusion of the game. Rule 502(e) is clear in saying, “At the conclusion of the game, the referee shall check the official score sheet, including team rosters and players in uniform, for accuracy prior to signing.”

The game score sheet is considered an official record that documents the participants and the actions that take place during a game. Teams need them to document participation for eligibility in state or national tournaments, or to provide verification of a suspension served. They may also be keeping stats on players for their continued development and promotion to higher levels of play.  Plus, the score sheet provides a means to track progressive penalties or to identify trends within a local area or league. 

Regardless as to what system is used (hard copy or electronic scoring), the game score sheet is considered an official document and officials must adhere to their responsibility to treat it as such. Whereas the vast majority of officials have been good at reviewing and signing off on hard copy score sheets, there appears to be some confusion as to the need to verify the electronic version.

The electronic score sheet is an official document. Teams print these from the web-based system to verify their eligibility as mentioned above. Because it is an official record of the game, the officials have the responsibility to make sure all data is entered correctly, including the officials’ names, and must sign-off on the information prior to having the game sheet closed and finalized. This is no different than crossing off blank areas, making sure penalties are recorded properly and signing the actual hard copy score sheet. 

As a refresher, here are some tips on what to look for, and the officials’ responsibility to verify game sheets at the conclusion of every game.

1) Make sure that players who are not present to participate in the game are crossed off (hard copy) or removed from the game sheet (electronic). Only those players/coaches who are eligible and present to participate should be listed on the score sheet.

2) Confirm all penalties are recorded properly and to the proper player. Many times a game misconduct penalty will be recorded as a ten-minute misconduct or vice versa. If a player is assessed a minor plus misconduct, each of those must be recorded as a separate penalty. If you find there is a clerical error where a penalty was assessed properly, but not recorded correctly, fix the mistake prior to signing or closing off the game sheet.

However, an official is not allowed to simply change their call that was made during the game. For example, if an official assesses a major penalty for slashing during the game and the player serves the five minute major, but after the game, the officials talk and determine that the player deserved a major plus game misconduct penalty, or match penalty instead, the score sheet cannot be changed at this time. The officials may submit an incident report requesting the incident be reviewed under Rule 410 Supplementary Discipline.

3) Make sure all of the on-ice officials who worked the game are listed properly on the game sheet.

4) Once you have determined that all of the recorded information is accurate, the officials must sign (legibly) the hard copy of the score sheet or sign off and approve the electronic version so it can be finalized.

The one exception is when the scorekeeper manually keeps track of all of the game actions, but will then later enter the data into an electronic system. In this instance, it is important for the referee to make sure the document the scorekeeper used to record actions is accurate and they understand the penalties assessed so they can be entered properly.  It may be a good idea to go back at a later time and check the electronic version for accuracy, as well.

The bottom line is that the game sheet for each game you work is a reflection of your performance on the ice. If you do not pay attention to details and there are inaccuracies on the game sheet, the perception will be your performance on the ice was also lacking effort and attention to detail. Not to mention, it may also effect any potential imposed suspensions and/or eligibility of players/coaches. 

Please take score sheet (hard copy or electronic versions) management seriously as it is a major part of the official’s responsibility.  Doing so will make life easier for volunteers who are charged with tracking such things and will make the game better.  And if the game is better, your job as an official probably becomes more enjoyable, too.

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