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Each and every year, we hear the same plaintiff cry about hockey officiating, especially in the NHL: Why is it so inconsistent?
It's like the fountain of youth, Atlantic or the world's best slice of pizza. It's like little Fievel Mousekewitz singing "Somewhere Out There." Maybe my brother and sister officials and I will find it... someday, somewhere.
Once again, the NHL is planning to tweak -- and expand -- its broken coaches' challenge system. Once again, the proposed changes have not been fully considered for the potential drawbacks. It's reactionary rather than progressive.
Now I've a question: How do we define consistency in the first place? "Absolute consistency" is an unattainable target but one we consistently should try for.
What is attainable is this: consistency of commitment to the flow of the game, consistency of positioning, consistency of hustle and consistency of coaching standards.
We can help the process by a cover-to-cover edit of the Rule Book. We need to tweak the rules and get rid of the ones that are "inconsistent," counter-intuitive and/or contradictory. Let's recruit more officiating candidates and make the pool larger with more ex-players both on the men's and Women's side. More people give them a chance to make money and us to have more and better people to take on the challenge of the game.
However, these steps do not appear to be imminent. In the meantime, here's what we should be striving for: Officials allowing the game to be played without over-judging and oppressing the flow and spontaneity of the game.
I am so fatigued by the people who pontificate about needing rule enforcement with a blanket approach. I hear what they say and read what they write about officiating and their knowledge of it, and it leads me to believe that either I know nothing or they're full of it. Oh, and back to that word "consistency": Consistent with whom?
I was consistent with myself every day I pulled on those skates. I consistently officiating the same way: believing in flow, hustling to be in the right position, putting that night's game above all else going on in the league or elsewhere in my life at that moment. I had pride in myself and in my performance. I never wanted to let my Dad, Grandfather, John McCauley, or Scotty Morrison down... or a few others like Ashley, Udvari, Van Deelan, LeBlanc, who taught me how to ref.
Listen folks, no two games are the same even if the same two teams play them. The playoffs show that time and time again. Even when they play in the same city in back-to-back games or on back-to-back games, every game shapes itself differently.
Some will then mention "referee statistics." J H Christmas, the only thing I want consistent is that the games are played in 2 hours....with TV. Impossible, you say? I agree.
Some nights, guys are tired, their wife bitched at them, they had a blister, a hangover, a groin pull or the ever famous "upper-body injury" that wasn't there last game. So take your consistency thing and sell it to someone who has actually officiated this sport. But you won't sell it to me, because I ain't buyin'. Be consistent with yourself.
Hockey, by its very nature, is inconsistent. There are many X factors in every game.
You can have two different games that finish with a 3-2 score, but one had a combined 38 shots and the other a combined 68. One game could be chippy and staccato, the other cleanly played and free-flowing. The ice conditions could be patchy or soft in one building and just fine in another. On a macro basis, can one statistically figure a hot goalie or a fluke goal or fat goal posts, even a bad penalty. How can those happen every night?
Lastly, is there some company out there to sponsor me to go around the States and Canada to educate all the Hockey gurus, the fans and all the experts who just bought their first ticket about officiating? I'll shares the nuances and inside "secrets" that really go on in the game.
It's time to open up the vaults, communicate and educate. After all, we are talking hockey here, not atomic secrets.
A Class of 2018 inductee to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the only 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.
Visit Paul's official website, YaWannaGo.com