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Officiating Q-and-A with Dave LaBuda

By Ryan Williamson, 02/26/20, 9:30AM MST


USA Hockey’s National Referee-in-Chief speaks on the biggest things to come out of this year’s USA Hockey Winter Meetings

As is annual tradition, USA Hockey stakeholders headed to Florida this past January for USA Hockey’s Winter Meetings. Various sections had a chance to meet and discuss various pressing issues.

This was the case in the officiating section. Dave LaBuda, USA Hockey’s national referee-in-chief, was part of those meetings, but he also had another big moment. He was one of the honorees of this year’s President’s Award for outstanding contribution.

With weeks gone by since the meeting, we recently sat down with LaBuda to discuss what happened this year in Orlando, Florida.

STRIPES: What were some of the goals for the officiating section heading into this year’s Winter Meetings?

DAVE LABUDA: The officiating section went into the winter meetings with the priority being the retention and abuse of officials issue. Our approach to that was to give an address to the general members in attendance, explaining the problem and the effects of the problem along with a crisis in the number of officials registering and working the youth hockey games we have going on across the country.

STRIPES: What were some of the biggest issues the officiating section talked about at this year’s meetings?

DL: During our address to the general membership we had, the things that really seemed to take people by surprise was that on an annual basis, we lose about 7,000 officials every year. That basically emphasized the crisis situation we’re in. If we were able to reduce the turnover number, it would give us the ability to catch up on things on the officiating side as the growth on the player side continues.

STRIPES: What were some of the biggest accomplishments or discussions during this year’s meetings?

DL: The Winter Meetings traditionally serve a couple of regular goals. It’s our regular time to start our preparation for national tournaments. Also, since we’ve started the tenure program with officials, it also establishes the date and location for our annual officiating symposium, which is a requirement for those officials looking to qualify for tenure. We also get updates down the line for registration requirements. This coming season, there are going to be new requirements mandated by federal legislation. We are now going to have a national screening program, which will be part of the entire screening program. Before, it was handled at the regional level. Now, it will be handled at the national level. We will mandate now that all of our officials do SafeSport training on an annual basis instead of two-year basis. We have no choice over that. That is legally mandated.

STRIPES: What was it like for you to receive the President’s Award at this year’s annual meetings?

DL: It was completely unexpected. It’s nice to know that my time has served constructively to make the game better. It’s the reason why I became involved and stay involved.

STRIPES: What were the biggest takeaways from the winter meetings, especially from an officiating standpoint?

DL: The biggest takeaway was that we really need to get the general membership better informed much more as partners in the retention and abuse issue. Over the last several years in particular, the abuse issue is the number one reason why they don’t want to continue or start officiating. While the abuse used to be verbal from the stands, the intensity and dehumanizing character of the language coming from the stands is increasing exponentially. It’s now also starting to become more physical abuse. That’s a line we cannot allow to be crossed.

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