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Chemistry & Communication

By USAH Officiating Program, 12/20/13, 1:30PM MST


In hockey, teamwork is just as important as ice and skates. If players, coaches and parents all work together, the result is a fun game and positive experience.

It’s no different for officials.

Pacific District Coach-in-Chief Steve Stevens has a few tips to make sure you develop a positive working relationship with associations, districts and your officiating partners, on and off the ice.

USA Hockey: How has the relationship between officials and associations evolved over time?

Steve Stevens: I have more than three decades in USA Hockey officiating experience and the changes have been dramatic. The training and the opportunities have increased tenfold for our youngsters. Camps, online data and educational products, district and local encouragement and recognition of accomplishments go a long way to bringing a first-class product to the hockey world. Much of this is due to the cooperation we have enjoyed in the recent past with the coaches and administrators both at local and district levels. This teamwork has brought our product to a safe and healthy level. Not one of these areas can be productive without the other.

USAH: How should an official work with an association?

Stevens: Officials working with an association should work with one designated person. When more than one person is involved, the communication breaks down and miscommunication and mistakes take place. Check the association’s guidelines pertaining to the timeline for checking their website or schedules for assignments. Find out how they assign and find a contact person for evaluations and other pertinent business.

USA Hockey: Why is developing this relationship important? Can’t officials just show up and go about their business?

Stevens: There are numerous reasons: advancements, tournaments, requirements for assignments and other areas. These will all lead to a total experience while producing the highest-quality product. The smoother the relationship, the better the product will be for the players, coaches and fans. Behind the scenes is as important as the on-ice performance.

USA Hockey: What about working with your officiating partner? How important is on-ice chemistry amongst the officials?

Stevens: Hockey is a team sport. Officiating is also a team effort. If all three or two or four officials worked separately, the total product would suffer. We need to show the players, fans and coaches that we are also a team and are working on the same wavelength. We need to show them that we have equal knowledge of the rules, the game and the training we have been afforded.

USA Hockey: What benefits will fans, players and coaches see from officials working together?

Stevens: The largest benefit is consistency and the even flow of the game. We strive, through our training both on and off the ice, to have all officials understand the rules and regulations of the game and when to apply them.

USA Hockey: What if you are working with a new partner you are not familiar with?

Stevens: It’s important to be proactive in getting to know your partner and build a relationship. In pre-game meetings, you might discuss where you have worked; who you have worked with; what levels you have worked; and what methods that you like better than others. These are just a few examples. Nothing is better for development and character building than working with new people. At post-game meetings, you are no longer strangers and many officials become friends for life – one of the unlisted benefits of officiating.

USA Hockey: What if your partner is new to officiating?

Stevens: For those of us that have been around for a while, this is the best part of the game. We take pride in developing new officials and see to it that it is a good experience for them. We never upstage or embarrass them. That would defeat our complete mission. I like to take the new person over and introduce them to the coaches, giving them a bit of confidence in their partner(s) and the role they will play. Letting them get used to how the game progresses is important and be sure they are involved and understand what is and has happened.