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Officially Speaking Mailbag

11/12/2020, 4:00pm CST
By Mark Lichtenfeld

This is not the monthly mailbag. Rather, these are general questions proffered to OS over the past six months regarding hockey, officiating and current events.

Sir: Not sure if hockey is starting where you are but with the NHL and NCAA starting much later, how does this affect kids and adult league

OS: Are you kidding? This is the best news to hit the hockey community in years. As a veteran zebra, I can assure you that the biggest factor in rule misapplication and overall ignorance is television. These kids, managers and coaches still don’t get that USA Hockey rules are often completely different than what they watch on the idiot box. Less tube equates to greater brain.

Dear OS: I read about the officials getting closed book test answers at the seminars. Is this why I have seen so many bad calls in my kid’s high school games over the past few seasons?

OS: It’s one of them. And trust me, I have exposed this travesty continuously over the past decade. Makes no difference. The truth is that without giving out the answers, I would estimate 30 percent of the officials would fail the closed book. And as you know, USA Hockey needs that 30 percent of membership more than your kid needs competent referees.

Dear OS: I am expecting more civility this year due to the COVID thing. Do you forecast a similar result?

OS: Maybe at the start of the season. But trust me, beefing with officials is built into the blood of every player, parent, lumberjack and low-level JV coach. It can’t be helped and if you want to succeed in the officiating business, you have to brush it off or even enjoy it, which OS does.

Dear Mr. OS: I often find your rules of life guidance to be superior than your officiating discussions. So what do you make of this hockey shutdown?

OS: It’s brutal. It’s a disgrace. It hurts kids and older participants. It’s all political. There should be more lawsuits pushed by USA Hockey and the association of rink managements. But you won’t see that. Practically speaking, hockey has actually been a silent barometer in what’s happening throughout the country. What I mean is that for years the game of hockey has been diluted in the name of safety. Everything from blue pucks, automatic icings, Safe Sport, mandatory bird cages and rink-surround fish netting to name but a few, have ruined the game. Same with this virus response to shut down athletics and the lack of any perceivable pushback by local affiliates. When safety is paramount, life becomes diluted. Ask your kids if you don’t believe it. Think I’m wrong? We’ll talk after I see you transporting your kids to their next game three hours earlier than normal so you can travel at 15 MPH. Guess what? If you want to be totally safe lock yourself in a bunker.

Dear OS: Do you foresee any benefits in officiating and hockey coming out of this pandemic?

OS: Yes. This is going to stop the disgusting practice of spitting on the ice. It should have been banned years ago. Likewise, any adult league player with 3/4 of a brain will stop sharing water bottles and bring his or her own bottle, something I always did in my playing days during the 80s and 90s. Finally, as discussed in an earlier column, hockey should soon start mandating electronic whistles.

Dear OS: I am studying for my LSAT to try and get into law school. What’s your legal take on this shutdown stuff?

OS: Completely unconstitutional. Governors’ emergency orders violate the separation of powers. Limits on gathering run afoul of the First Amendment. All of these directives are arbitrary and capricious. Yet, hardly the amount of lawsuits I would have expected. Still, a good decision just came down in Michigan. Same with Pennsylvania. Soon, you will see some of these matters make their way up through the federal circuits until the Supreme Court accepts one for review. Then it will all be outlawed. Unfortunately, that’s going to come too late for thousands of young hockey players.

Dear Mr. Ref: Why are you so against canceling or delaying youth hockey?

OS: Is this a joke? I’m going to assume it is, but will answer anyway in order to provide insight to the public. Look, I know of teams in Illinois and Nevada, to name a few, that have been traveling out-of-state just to play games. So you do-gooders who think it’s safer for kids not to play are erroneous. There is no statistical dispute that driving great distances on highways and local roads, and at nighttime to boot, is substantially and statistically more dangerous and deadly for the kids, coaches and parents than the chances of getting the virus at your local rink. In fact, all it does is keep constant the possibilities of catching the thing since games are still being played, while simultaneously increasing the odds of a deadly traffic accident on the way to and from the game. And since there are no home games for locked-down teams, not only are these kids less safe but in fact, they are increasingly at risk for death on the highway. But tell that to your politician or light-thinking electorate. You know who you are.


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  Officially Speaking