After hours of presentations and countless discussions, Bob McCaig summed up the 2012 National Hockey Coaches Symposium in the simplest and most sincere terms.
"Wow. That's the only word I can use to describe how I feel being here this week," McCaig said as he sat in the lobby of the Renaissance Downtown Washington, D.C. Hotel watching coaches file past on their way from one presentation to another breakout session.
"I'm so happy that I'm here to see it."
As the coach in chief in the Southeastern District for more than 20 years, McCaig has had as much to do with the growth of hockey in the south as anyone. So for him to see more than 520 coaches from 41 states here in his home District is a crowning achievement in a lifetime of dedication to the game.
"We've gone from one coaching clinic in the District when I started in 1987 to more than 100 today," said McCaig, who moved to Acworth, Ga., from Sarnia, Ontario. "Today we have coaches attending clinics from Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee. We've not only grown the number of coaches but the number of talented coaches is really something to see."
The National Hockey Coaches Symposium is held every two years for coaches looking to attain their Level 5 coaching card, the highest level of USA Hockey certification. This is the first time since the program's inception in 1984 that the symposium has been held in a non-traditional hockey market, something that organizers are proud to point out.
"We've worked hard for two years to bring this event here (to Washington, D.C.), said Ty Newberry, who succeeded McCaig as the District coach in chief in 2009.
"This is the first time it's been in a non traditional hockey area. We believe that the growth of hockey in the District warrants it. We've been fortunate to have players drafted from the area. A lot of that is attributed to coaches."
The great things being done throughout the South is a microcosm for what's happening elsewhere in the USA Hockey ranks, as was evident from the impressive list of American speakers who presented at this year's event, including NHL head coaches Dan Bylsma and Joe Sacco, who was part of Sunday's program.
"The thing I'm most impressed by is that we can put together such an impressive lineup of speakers, who are all American," Newberry said. "I read somewhere that in 1969 we put more Americans on the moon than we had playing in the NHL. Today, not only are we putting more players in the NHL but we have more coaches working at the top levels of the game. It's really great to see."
One of the offshoots of hosting a symposium like this is that more local coaches can attend and gain knowledge and experience that they can pass on to others in their association and Affiliates.
"We have 106 coaches from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., who registered for this symposium," said John Coleman, president of Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association.
"This is a great experience for them to learn from professional coaches and go back to their programs and talk about what is happening. There's a real ripple effect through the Affiliate and the District. That's what we want."
Coleman hopes that area coaches will take what they have learned about the American Development Model and bring it back to their clubs to run more cross-ice practices and games, which will help get the best use out of the limited amount of ice in the area.
"One of our biggest challenges with growth is that we limit the number of athletes we can welcome into our game because of the cost and the availability of ice in the area. We struggle to find enough ice to accommodate our growth initiatives," Coleman said.
"I'm hoping that part of the coaching education program helps coaches learn about more efficient and effective means of ice utilization that some speakers have addressed this week."
Despite the challenges Coleman is proud of the strides the District and it's Affiliates have made over the years.
"When you see kids you knew as a player who are now coaching you know you're doing the right thing because we are creating a culture where they want to get involved and give back," he said.
And as the program wound down on Sunday afternoon and the coaches hustled to catch flights back home and the small army of volunteers looked to catch their breath before heading back to their full-time jobs on Monday, McCaig could only smile with pride that so many people came to his home District to talk hockey and continue to move the game forward.
"You're never done learning," McCaig said. "I've been involved in hockey most of my life and I've picked up a few things by listening to the speakers this week."
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.
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.