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Officials Speaking Mailbag: Testing, checking and half-ice Mite games

11/17/2019, 9:45am CST
By Mark Lichtenfeld

From the Referee Inbox

Dear OS,

What’s with giving out the closed book test answers at the seminars? I know you’ve written about this in the past, but it continues. Who’s responsible? 

- Disgruntled Official


Dear Disgruntled,

Naturally, USA Hockey is responsible, legally implicated by its duly authorized seminar instructors. I’ve been complaining about this for years. Look, even if OS wasn’t penning a national officiating column, OS’s dedicated work ethic and overall sense of community service requires a full review of the rulebook and casebook, often two times over, prior to taking the closed book test. And what do you think happens? That’s right, just like in all aspects of 21st Century America, many USA Hockey instructors teach to the lowest common denominator, ensuring most everyone passes the test, either by affirmatively giving out the answers as was reported to OS again this September, or by allowing officials to gather around and caucus. Next season, come on over to OS’s local seminar and watch the guys fight to sit next to OS at test time. C’mon Colorado Springs, at least make the test booklets separate so guys can’t copy the answers. Rule study and preparation is paramount this time of year. And the hockey community wonders why a substantial percentage of zebras are rules-illiterate?


Dear OS,

I’m sure you are aware of the new emphasis on calling a new standard, and as an avid follower of your column, I’ve been waiting for you to pontificate on the pros and cons of this new paradigm. I must say that my standard has not changed, but there are plenty of refs out there that have used this, in my humble opinion, to over-call games and not let hockey be hockey. I’m a veteran guy and I believe I know when a check is roughing or intimidation and when a check is in the realm of separating the player from the puck in order to create a turnover. Thoughts? 


Dear Veteran Guy,

Look, hockey stopped being hockey back in the ’80s, ever since helmets and board advertising became mandatory. Now you’ve got four officials, fish netting over the glass, bird-caged players, 12U that can’t check, 14U that can’t ice, instant replay everywhere and you wonder why it’s still called hockey? Still, OS likes the “separating from the puck standard” because it’s basically an objective, bright-line that most coaches and insane managers can understand. Yet, the new prohibition concerning celebrating a big hit may be too much of a gray area, requiring subjective interpretations that are beyond the scope of legitimate officiating, however that is defined. Thing is, at my combined-levels seminar, the USA instructors expended way too much time on this, especially since 90 percent of the guys will never see a checking game this season. 


Dear OS,

Thoughts on officiating half-ice mite games? I hate it. No point.


Dear No Point,

Agree. I just did my first half-ice game ever, specifically to work with a new official. The half-ice is a good concept for the young player, providing great opportunity for puck possession. But for the zebra, there is little reason to be there. You know, no lines, no drops no regular-game flow. Then, the new ref does a full-ice house game with a partner and it’s another world entirely. Advice – avoid half-ice games and have your association use the money for important matters – like hiring a rink guy to move the nets.


Questions and comments can be sent to, via Twitter @OSpeaking or through the Let’s Play Hockey Facebook page.


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Tag(s): State Of Hockey  Columnists  Officially Speaking