Yes, I can hear you.
I hear you questioning my authority.
I hear you wondering if I’m fit to be an official of your 10U or Bantam B game.
I hear you slinging derogatory words my way through the glass partisans.
I hear, and feel you getting mad from the bench.
Sure, I’ve learned to brush it off. In my 12 years of officiating it’s become unfairly common to have insults hurled my way from time to time. And I truly think that’s too bad.
Sometimes I sit back and shake my head with a laugh, wondering why I do this. If you think about it, in what other line of work do folks voluntarily sign up to be yelled at for doing their job? When is it ever OK, especially in what is supposed to be a kid and family-friendly environment, to get as offensive as some parents do in their chastising of hockey officials. It’s really something.
That’s not to say I’m perfect. In those 12 years I have made my fair share of mistakes—we all do. The game itself isn’t perfect and sometimes I miss a call or mistake a high stick. But know I am trying my best to do right by the game and to make sure everyone is playing safe and having fun.
Those are our top two priorities as officials: keep the kids safe, and keep them having fun. We don’t have a stake in the game. No, the home team coach didn’t bribe me to make sure calls went his way, and no my wife isn’t the team manager on the other team. And if I’m really honest, I’m not making my full living off these officiating wages. I’m doing it for the love of the game and for the kids.
Earlier this year, Minnesota Hockey hosted an Honor the Game Tournament. Officials addressed the crowd ahead of each game, giving the audience a bit of personal and work background on themselves. Why? Because it’s in hopes that folks will start to understand us as more than just the guys in stripes. We are humans, too.
Despite what you may think, officials hear and see a lot. Think about the impact on them, and on your own players, before you yell.
Yelling and getting angry isn’t helping anyone. It won’t help the puck go in the net, it won’t help your team make it to state, and it’s not going to raise your kid’s NHL draft stock. In fact, I would venture to guess 9 out of 10 times it hurts your team/kids more than it helps them.
To that note, you also need to remember that your kids are watching and hearing you, too. You set the example. If mom, dad, grandpa and coach are complaining and bad mouthing the officials, the kids are going to tend to think that’s OK and do the same. It's up to us as adults to set a positive example and treat officials with respect, especially when we have an issue with a call.
Now that’s not to say I want rinks to become silent. Not in the least. No, I still want to hear you, but…
I want to hear the ‘good job, Sally’ and ‘way to go, Brian’.
I want to hear the ‘let’s go Wildcats’ and ‘go get’em Tigers’
I want to hear celebrating your team AND the opposing team’s success.
I want to hear laughter and happy on the ice and in the stands.
So come on, let’s hear it.
Oh, and one more thing, I welcome and invite any and all parents who constantly talk about how the poor officiating is, to sign up to become refs. We have a shortage, and we need all the help we can get. You’ll likely find it’s not easy, but it is rewarding.