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Officially Speaking: Always room for improvement

06/30/2020, 10:15am CDT
By Mark Lichtenfeld

Look, OS’s goal is not to invent devious new ways to attack USA Hockey.

Truth is, Colorado Springs does great work for amateur hockey.

But there’s always room for improvement.

And that’s where OS comes in. See, through this column, OS points out various problems with the governing organization. And one must identify a problem in order to remedy that problem.

Take the March, 2020 issue of USA Hockey Magazine. On page 9, there’s an interesting column concerning officials’ flight from the game. Specifically, USA Hockey identifies an annual thirty percent turnover of officials and a whopping fifty percent attrition rate for first year refs.

Tell us something we don’t know.

USA Hockey goes on to acknowledge two primary reasons for this alarming trend. First, the old “abuse of officials” excuse. Next comes lack of opportunities to obtain decent assignments, otherwise known as the “good old boys network.”

The above reasons are absolutely correct. No dispute there. It’s just that the Colorado poo-bahs quickly overlook the other reason for attrition which has always resulted in more aggravation than anything else.

The annual USA Hockey registration shakedown.

Here’s how it goes. Joe Smith and Joe Smith, Jr. are Level 3 and Level 1 refs respectively. It’s late July and their email inboxes start welcoming them to another USA Hockey season. Reading on, both Joes flinch at the open book, closed book, safe sport, in-person seminar and additional fingerprinting prerequisites simply to fight through the old boys’ network for the privilege of being abused on the ice by house league coaches and team managers.

“Dad,” rants Junior. “Remember that column in Let’s Play Hockey last year. You know, the piece about the criminal lawyer representing death row inmates.”

“What up, son?”

“Remember, how it said that a lawyer appearing before the Supreme Court had less hourly annual bar registration requirements than we did just to become a USA Hockey official last season?”

“Yup,” snorts the elder.

“That’s insane, Pop. I don’t have twelve free hours next month. Not with football, debate club and LSAT prep classes. Just to get a game or two on the weekend. Not worth it dad. I’m out.”

“Been thinking the same, son. Who needs this? Those schedulers pulling in nearly six figures assigning their buddies to the top games and your old man can’t even get a band slot in a low level JV contest. Not to mention the whining, complaining and unprofessionalism from coaches and beer league hacks.”

“Yeah Dad. Rather save those twelve hours of registration requirements and take a couple fishing trips to the U.P. with Uncle Hank this fall.”

Dad smiles. “That’s my boy.”

Read that again USA Hockey. Then add it to the list of reasons for departing officials.

See, OS just identified the problem.

Now do something about it.

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

Tag(s): News  Officially Speaking