Make the Call

By Chris Ackroyd

You can watch the game, play the game and maybe even coach the game. But can you call the game?

Breakout connected with Steve Wallace, the GTHL’s technical director of officiating, to find out how new officials can get involved and how current on-ice staff can master their craft. 

Skate as much as possible
Practice makes perfect. The more time you spend on the ice, the more you’ll learn. There are countless game scenarios to adapt to, and the more exposure you get, the more confident you will become.

Learn from supervisors
Officiating supervisors are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in our game. Don’t only listen to the feedback they provide, but also ask questions about anything you may be unsure of. It will help expand your knowledge and understanding of game situations.

Discuss plays with fellow officials
Hockey officials love to talk about their craft, so ask questions and bring up scenarios that you may have seen in one of your games or even on TV. Impromptu brainstorming sessions and rule discussions are often the best ways to learn, even if you haven’t yet encountered the situations in a game.

Watch high-level officials
Make a point to watch your peers – whether it’s experienced local officials, those in the OHL, or the pros on TV. Try to pick up on how they present themselves, where they are positioned and how they interact with others. There are many reasons those officials progressed to high levels, so emulating them is a surefire way to improve.

Work on your communication skills
Though it often goes unnoticed, how you interact with game participants has a huge impact on a game’s outcome. Remember, hockey is an emotional sport and people are acting and communicating in an intense climate with a desire to win. There’s a huge difference between having a discussion to come to an understanding and entering into a conversation in hopes of “winning.” Pro tip: No one truly “wins” those heated debates.

Always work hard
Being involved as an official is a choice, and it’s expected that all participants in any game will give their best. Fellow officials, supervisors, coaches and players can tell if you want to be there, and your work ethic often dictates how others treat you at the rink. You can often build an opinion of an official in a couple minutes just based on how they present themselves and how hard they’re working, so think about how you’re being perceived.


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