Hey Ref – Officiating for the right reason

By Duncan Ryhorchuk


Everybody does things for reasons; how the reasons are categorized is each person’s choice or opinion. But sometimes it is nice to see or be part of a group of people who just do things for the right reasons. Let me give you an example of a group of officials who work for the love of the game.

From Sept. 15-18, the North American Prospects Hockey League’s (NAPHL) first event of the season was played in conjunction with the North American Hockey League Showcase Tournament at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. In its third season, the NAPHL is made up of 16 Midget Major, 16 Midget Minor and 10 Bantam Major teams from 17 programs across the United States. The teams compete at the Tier I AAA level. The teams come together five times a year to play a four- or five-game showcase.

The officials chosen by USA Hockey to work these games also come from different parts of the country. After an official applies to work the four-day showcase, they are then notified approximately 10 days prior to the event if they are selected.  

Here is where the “do things for the right reasons” part comes in. The selected officials, half of which are from outside of the tournament area, then need to secure flights or other transportation to the event site. At the Blaine showcase there were officials from numerous cities, including Los Angles, Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago.

Have you tried to get an airline ticket last minute recently? Newsflash: The tickets are not inexpensive! Yes, each official is compensated a specific amount from USA Hockey. However, it is not always enough to pay the full amount of the airline tickets. (USA Hockey needs to set some amount of compensation to keep within budget and be able to accommodate everyone’s travel. Rooms are also budgeted for two officials to a hotel room).

When the officials arrive, they still need to secure rides to the hotel from the airport and from the hotel to the arenas that the games are going to be played. After the officials have secured time off from work, travel, room and ridesharing, they are yet to get a game schedule or what the compensation for the games will be.

Game schedules usually are released four or five days in advance, and game fees are posted after the game is completed. Scheduling does take time, as the scheduler needs to put together the best crew available for each game, all the while assessing what teams are playing among other factors.

One thing the officials know for sure is, their work on the ice will be evaluated. In every game, a USA Hockey Supervisor evaluates the on-ice officials. These evaluations are outstanding. The supervisors have “been there, done that” and they do not miss anything that will help each official improve their on-ice performances. The on-ice officials are usually nervous about getting evaluated, but the feedback they get is priceless. 

The on-ice official’s main reason for doing these games is the evaluations and to be seen by the supervisors. How else can the official move up the ladder to officiate at higher levels of games if they are not seen.

Yes, the on-ice officials for this showcase are compensated. But the compensation in this case is not in the monetary value. It is the bond between the officials working together as a team, to get a great evaluation, at a game they love to be part of. Overall in my opinion, the officials are doing this to get better. And that is doing something for the right reasons!

As I mentioned, half of the officials at this NAPHL Showcase were from outside of Minnesota. Here is a list of some of the Minnesota officials who were selected to work the Prospect League games and the North American Hockey League games: Cameron Voss, Nick Bradshaw, Neil Missling, Darren Glur, Eric Arndt, Neil Missling, Glendon Seal, Brendan Cohen, Tim Ferrel, Mike Diebold, Clayton Smith, Joe Millette, Jake Brenk, Ryan Szymanski, Tyler Landman, Steve Murphy, Joseph Oberg, Mike Trumble and Nathen Birno.

I apologize if I missed anyone.


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