Monday, March 14, 2011

Let's Talk Zebras

There are some parts of hockey that I probably will never have an appreciation for, such as why anybody would subject themselves to being a referee. I know a lot of people feel that way about goaltending, but at least as a goalie, you have the satisfaction of playing the actual game.

I'm not sure where referees derive their satisfaction other than staying out of the way and not getting yelled at. And I don't think I've seen many games where that actually happens.

That said, I like refs and have a lot of respect for them, precisely because they are willing to do such a thankless job, take criticism and yelling and disagreement with such grace (usually), and at least where I play, don't have the benefit of linesmen to help "see" the whole game. Just one guy to control an unruly mass of hockey players.

But even I occasionally bark at them for a slow whistle or missed infraction on my teammate. Or like the ref in Saturday's tourney game who didn't call the goal against me until the player who scored it challenged him on it. What?

Anyway, a couple of things I've been wondering about our friends and, I like to think, ultimate protectors of goalies, the men in stripes:

First, I wonder if it annoys them when players compliment them on a call when it goes in their favor. I think I would find it condescending. Compliment me on a tough call that I make right, but not just because I called the play offside to prevent an odd man rush in your zone.

I did that yesterday when the ref waved off a goal that was put in with a high stick. I, of course, didn't see it. I somehow deflected a shot from beside the net into the air and the guy on the back door batted it in before I even knew where the puck was. "Good eye, ref."

I don't actually know if he had a good eye or not but I sure appreciated the no-goal. But I felt a little slimy only praising him because it saved my bacon a little bit.

Second, now that I've played with a lot more different refs around the area, I'm curious about calling Icing. It's important to me because I want to throw my arm up and save my defense the effort of charging hard up the ice to retrieve the puck if they don't need to.

I guess you could argue that I should know if it's icing myself, but I'm focused on the puck and players positions and my position and all that when they're that far away from me, so I don't necessarily notice a) who shot the puck up the ice, b) if they were necessarily above center ice and c) if someone got a stick or shin or whatever on it on its way up the ice that would negate icing.

I think you can tell pretty quickly though if it's going to be icing, assuming you saw it was shot from above the center ice line. Pucks have a pretty predictable speed. And my favorite referees will make that call as soon as they think it's going to be icing.

Arm goes up. "ICE!" And then my arm goes up.

But I keep running across refs who might say ice, but not loud enough for me to hear it, don't raise their arm until it hits the goal line, and don't blow the whistle until it hits the wall. By this time, my teammate is charging up the ice and I'm not sure what the call is because I'm not sure what the ref is thinking.

I guess I'm just wishing for a clear, distinct call (audible and visual) either way as soon as possible so I can communicate it. I think 95% of icings, you know whether or not they're icing based on speed and trajectory by the time they hit the top of the face off circles.

And if you're wrong and the puck takes a hop that either slows it down or puts it on goal, then you change the call and we'll deal with it.

But I'm not a ref and I don't know how they teach this stuff at ref school. And with touch icing in the pros, I don't get to see how the pro refs would handle it.

Goalies? What's your experience with this (or do you even care)? Any refs out there want to chime in, I'd love to hear the decision making process involved, what the "best practice" supposedly is, etc.

Like I said, I really do like refs as I trust them to keep me safe with timely whistles and stuff like that, and they always have. But the more different refs I play with, the more I see differences in how icing in particular is called and the more curious I get about whether my occasional annoyance is justified.


Stephen M.  March 14, 2011 at 4:33 PM  

In Austin, we actually have two guys for every game and occasionally three. Sometimes the two can't agree on whether it is or isn't icing and such but it makes the whole situation better in general having two.

Anonymous  March 14, 2011 at 4:34 PM  

we usually have 2 refs, so when the puck is launched, and i have time, i look for the far ref and if he/she has her arm up, then mine goes up as well. Sometimes they dont do it, or i cant find them in time to mirror the call, then i raise my arm anyway as long as the opposing player is no where near. But it seems as if my team knows better then i do when its gonna be icing. LOL. course, half the time it seems the defensemen aint lookin at me anyway, so it doesnt seem to help much anyway.

Nick  March 14, 2011 at 9:14 PM  

I don't have to deal with icing, since I play roller. :P

I did want to comment that I most appreciate when a questionable call occurs and the referees waves it off and yells NO! I may not agree with whether a penalty should've been called or not, but in the very least I get the feedback that he's paying attention to the play. Play a game where questionable crap happens and the ref stands there stone-faced and you'll see what I mean. ;-)

maalivahti  March 20, 2011 at 7:50 PM  

Ooo great post. I'm actually pretty fascinated with refs. Like you said, they do a thankless job, and have the odd distinction of doing a job that you know you're doing well if no one remembers you. They also have some of the best hockey stories around.

As for icing, I do the same as Moose. We usually have 2 officials, so I'll look to the far one to see what the call is going to be. Sometimes the close one will wave it off after I've already got my arm up and that drives me nuts, but hey we're not all perfect. One thing I know is, if it's after 11pm, icing is pretty much optional. So is calling penalties. It's not a joke- I've actually heard refs say it. Nice, considering they're getting paid to be there, and we're PAYING to be there.

klemmer  March 22, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

I have a pretty good relationship with most of the zebras, even though I've been told I'll NEVER get the benefit of a GTI call because "You probably started it".

My beef is with the lead guy who decides to wave off icing at the last second when an attacker is approaching the biscuit and keeps it to himself....

Ms. Conduct  March 22, 2011 at 2:15 PM  

Man, all you people with 2 refs. I don't play anywhere anymore with 2 refs. WL used to have 2 much of the time, but now the rink wants to pay refs in rink credit (so they basically ref to pay for their own playing league fees, and not all refs play there so it ran our other guy off).

Ah well.

maalivahti  March 25, 2011 at 7:29 AM  

@klemmer That GTI comment made me bust out laughing. What, they don't see your goalie halo???

@MsC paying them in rink credit?! Wow, that's a raw deal if you don't actually play. Even if you do it kind of sucks.

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