Answering to a Higher Authority: The Good of the Game


I was far from a great natural talent as a hockey player. When I first took up officiating, I may not have been the most naturally gifted referee, either. However, I dare say that there are few people in the game over the course of my career who have had the same degree of passion for the game and single-minded devotion to working at my craft as I had as an on-ice official.

Nowadays, the problem for me at times is that some of the people I hire or must assign do not always have that same deep passion for the game. There are some officials that I have seen who treat the games like an ATM machine. Put on their skates, go through the motions and grab the dough. Others are lacking basic skills, including feel for the game.

As a director of officiating or supervisor, it takes time to work with them or weed out the ones who either lack the tools or desire. It’s not a pleasant part of the job.

When I get good people in the amateur levels, I have to compete with every other League out there. Some Leagues are assigning games well into DEC now so they can load up people and thus make them unavailable.

Nice try, but I’m not worried.

My hope is that the quality of the ECAC, The ISL, The Chowder Cups in the NE Pro Am, the quality of Hockey in NEH and our other Leagues at Rodman plus the coaching, backing and support we give the Officials will keep them coming along and accepting assignments from us.

Furthermore — and contrary to what my naysayers claim — we do develop officials and support them in their quest to advance to the KHL, NHL, IIHF, AHL, USHL, CHL or ECHL.

This month at the NHL Prospects camp, we will have 3 ECAC Officials attending along with two former ECAC players from two of our member schools who will be getting their feet wet with a look from the NHL.

The other assignors — some of whom are longtime friends whom I hold in high esteem on a personal level — can do what they want and what they need to do. I understand and don’t have a problem with how they run their business. Their games are important, too. I get that. Competition is part of hockey. I don’t back off from that.

Amateur hockey officials are all independent contractors. They can do what they want, when they want with whom they want. But you can’t escape one fact: ECAC teams won the men’s Frozen Four Championships the last two years. The ECAC Women’s side won two years ago and consistently has teams in the Frozen Four.

We have assignments in the Beanpot, MSG games with Cornell/BU, Harvard/Yale, and Florida Tournaments plus NCAA assignments in Regionals and The Frozen Four. Can anyone seriously dispute that the ISL Prep Hockey takes no back seat to Jr. or High School including Super Eight games? Have you been to a Nobles/Belmont Hill game lately?

For those reasons and for the fact that we have taken Officiating off the front burner and let the players and teams be the focus, I think and feel, we are going about this the right way.

In the meantime, we stress that our people are the best conditioned, best coached and best supported with all that Officials and teams would expect in a top-shelf manner.

I once walked the walk and now stand behind the talk: Whatever I do is always for the good of the game, as I see it. I expect no less from the officials I work with, at least if they are continue working with me. If an Official works for me, much like that advertisement for Hebrew National kosher meats, they answer to a higher authority.

My people know what’s required and are proud to deliver what’s expected of them. There is a lot of pride in our group! That’s why my Officials are the BEST at what they do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

********* Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.This post originally appeared on and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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