Monday, October 23, 2006


Even Refs Don't Support Crackdown at the Lower Levels

A few weeks back, TJ at made a good post about how the NHL crackdown has filtered down into the lower levels of hockey and now little kids have to face the same tough standards.

Among all the complaints about the new standard of officiating in the NHL when it was first implemented last season, there was one unfortunate side-effect which was never brought up: the trickle down effect.

This season, negative commentaries on the standard are beginning to rise again across Canada because the standard has trickled down and is now being applied at all levels of hockey governed by the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) and even some leagues that aren't. In the summer of 2006, the CHA board of governors voted to adopt the NHL standard of officiating and now tots, tykes, atoms, peewees and all other kids playing hockey are being called for incidental and accidental infractions of the rules. The result, say some, is an emerging generation of Canadian hockey players who are afraid to check, engage, or skate in the vicinity of opposing players for fear of being sent to the sin bin.
I read a post from a hockey parent I know at the Face Off Circle, and he described the insanity of the 'crackdown' during a tournament his son was playing in.

The fact is, NHL refs, while we pound on them, are highly trained, experienced, and usually know what they are doing. The refs at lower levels of the game don't have nearly the same acumen, so you just know they can't quite handle the new standards properly. (I'm referring mostly to the refs who handle midget and younger)

Well, made this announcement regarding their lack of support for the crackdown on little kids. Yes, even the refs think the whole thing is getting out of hand.

The Wall Street Journal was right when it implied USA Hockey overstepped its abilities in mandating strict standards of enforcement in amateur hockey in a story last week. has always supported the new standards, which were pioneered by the NCAA during the 2004-2005 season and copied by the NHL last season, but we don't support implementing these strict guidelines at the sport's lowest levels.

While it's practical and much-needed at the collegiate, high school, professional and IIHF levels, we cannot expect the roughly 60,000 amateur officials in Canada and the United States - mostly calling games involving children - to enforce a standard designed to enhance hockey's entertainment value at levels with paying fans.

Coaches, officials, players and even parents - the only fans at these games - are generally not competent enough to understand complicated new interpretations of previously tolerated infractions of the rulebook.

Even officials at the highest levels of hockey have struggled with interpreting guidelines and rules handed down by governing bodies like USA Hockey. If they can't understand the intentions of rule makers, how will the 15-year-old kid doing a youth-level game know what actions to penalize and which ones to let go?

While Tom Benjamin, Gary Bettman's golfing buddy, also agrees against the silliness.

Gary Bettman is in the business of selling hockey entertainment. The CHA and USA Hockey administer the sport of hockey which is not the same thing as hockey entertainment. Therefore they have to learn to ignore the NHL when deciding what is good for hockey. There is no way the 14 year old referee in training who is - by himself - officiating 8 year old players can apply these standards without ruining it for everyone.
I can see why the CHL adopts these standards, as one of their primary missions is to produce players for the higher levels. Anything below that and any beer leagues should just forget the madness and call the game in a 'modest' manner. Just as scouts aren't watching beer league games for the next Pavol Demitra, they aren't watching these games to find the next Kerry Fraser, either.

We dont need to be following the NHL off the cliff; we should be carful taking marketing advice from the guys who choose OLN over ESPN.
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