Officials Are an Endangered Species

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Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22

We have a crisis on our hands: We need serious people to keep working at the job of officiating but we just don’t have enough people who want to take up the job.

I blame some of the assigning bosses who discourage new people by not giving them assignments. They allow substandard aspects in the individual officials and we get poor officiating as a result.

I blame some of the fans, coaches and players who make the disrespect so overwhelming, young refs quit before they learn to cope. I blame the system, which like the weather, everyone talks about but no one seems to have the stones to step up and make radical moves to better the situation. I blame those in charge of the league. They treat officiating as an afterthought, accept mediocrity and the PC as the way to go and fail to offer proper coaching and developmental support.

You know something, though? It doesn’t even matter who or what is to blame. We have a practical problem on our hands, not a theoretical one. The pool is dwindling for recruitment and we are retaining people who shouldn’t be out there.

Seniority alone does NOT make one a superior official.

The other day, I was a game my son was playing. The R1 made a goal call from 15 feet away on a puck that was deflected off into the net legally an offensive players skate. The official was a younger man; probably somewhere between 23 to 25 years old.

The senior referee, much older, was positioned at the red line, nearly 100 feet away from the play. He skated in and, wielding his seniority and an aggressive posture, influenced the R1 to disallow the goal — the incorrect call.

To make matters worse, the game ended up being decided by one goal and the incorrectly disallowed goal was the difference.

I was annoyed. As I often say, positioning sells calls. The senior guy did nothing to make his case convincing and left the younger referee to go to the bench and explain a call that wasn’t his in the first place.

These sorts of sequences happen far too frequently — at ALL levels of our game. We wonder why we can’t recruit more quality officials and why we turn over so many of the ones who try try to learn the trade?

After the game, I passed one of my ECAC business cards through the glass to the younger referee and mimed him to send me an email. He did contact me and I am going to bring him on to my amateur Officiating by Stewart group. I am going to get him under my wing and make him a referee. I think the kid has potential. I think he is young and keen enough from other things I observed in him to elevate his game to higher levels.

This could end up being a success story down the line. I certainly hope so. But there needs to a LOT more interest taken in recruitment, nurturing and development.

************ 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 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.

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