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2020-21 ATO SEASON: WEEK 3

By USA Hockey, 09/18/20, 6:00AM MDT


QUESTION: Player A is on his knees and the puck pops up near his head. The opposing Player B hits him in the head with his stick while trying to play the puck in the air. The stick is not above the normal height of Player A's shoulders, so it should not be a High Stick. What is the proper call?

ANSWERWhen a player makes stick contact with an opponent’s helmet while the opponent is kneeling or laying on the ice, they should be penalized under the Slashing rule.


QUESTION: The Kicking rules are clear. But, it seems that they were written as if to cover only blatant attempts at kicking. What happens when a player who is trying to kick the puck ends up kicking an opponent? According to the rules, this is a match penalty. That seems rather harsh when the kick was certainly not an intentional attempt to injure the opponent.

ANSWERA match penalty for Kicking should always be assessed when a player kicks an opponent, regardless if it was intentional or accidental. An accidental kick is no less dangerous than a deliberate “attempt to injure” kick.


QUESTION: In a game I was reffing, the puck was shot and deflected straight up into the air right next to the net. As the puck came back down, a player on the defending team caught the puck and put it on the top of the netting of the goal to get a whistle. Is this a penalty?

ANSWERA Delay of Game penalty should be assessed to any player who deliberately makes the puck unplayable in order to gain a stoppage of play.


QUESTION: During a midget game, a power-play goal is scored on a 5 on 3 situation. The first penalty was a major penalty(5 min), the second a minor (2 min). Scoring on the power play means the first penalty comes off but in this case it is a major that can not come off. Do no penalties come off and it remains a 5 on 3 or does the second penalty (the minor) come off and it continues as a 5 on 4?

ANSWERIn the situation where a team is short-handed by two players (one minor and one major penalty) and the opposing team scores a power-play goal, the minor penalty is terminated and play resumes 5 v. 4.


QUESTION: What would some experienced refs do differently or focus more on, if they could go back to their Level 1 days?

ANSWERThis question is very difficult to answer since there are so many fundamentals of officiating, and every official has strengths and weaknesses. However, when we reflect upon the many development program applications that we review there seems to be a few common themes with fundamentals that officials want to improve,
Skating: Skating is a fundamental component of positioning and sight-lines. While it’s not difficult to improve skating by practicing various drills that improve edge-control, balance, and efficiency of the stride, it does take time and focus. You do not improve your skating by working games (if anything, bad habits can creep in during that time). Improving your skating comes from practice sessions at rinks where you can focus on the fundamentals (and not on the game).

Rule Knowledge: There’s a common philosophy that the Rule Book is a "tool box". The better your knowledge of your tools and how to use them, the better you are at managing a game situation. If a plumbing issue occurs in your house, what tools do you need to fix the problem? What tools fit the nuts and bolts? What tool cuts the material you need to cut? A Rule Book is no different. All officials need to master their rule knowledge so they make correct calls (use the wrong tool and the problem might get worse) and manage a problem in a game quickly and effectively.

Judgment: Getting back to the "tool box" analogy, it’s one thing to know every tool in your tool box but you must also master how it works. Rules are simple black and white words, but each rule has “spirit and intent” behind it. What is the “spirit and intent” of the Icing rule? Why do the playing rules call for a penalty shot for a deliberate illegal substitution with less than two minutes to go in a game? If a player makes stick contact to the head of an opponent who is laying on the ice, what penalty applies (High Sticking, Head Contact, Slashing, etc.)? The USA Hockey Playing Rule Case Book is one of your best resources for learning playing rule judgment. The ATO Feature is another.

Communication: A lot of experienced officials (the good ones anyway) will tell you that “Officiating equals managing people”. You have two teams, each with a common goal. As the official, you must objectively maintain a fair and safe playing environment as each team attempts to win the game. A big part of this involves explaining game situations and rules to players and coaches. Sometimes a well-communicated warning to player after a marginal infraction might prevent a bigger infraction where a penalty must be called. Other times, explaining “borderline” infractions to a coach allows him to adjust his team's tactics and again a penalty might be saved. Lastly, all officials must make tough calls and how we explain them to participants can determine how well that call is sold.