The Future of the Hockey Referee

An NHL colour commentator recently said during the Leafs 5-2 win over the Habs on TSN, ?What do we need Goal Judges for? They never ask those guys in any decision, they go directly to the video re-play?.

After refereeing our hometown Midget tournament, I started thinking about our refereeing system and its future. Being a referee is a tough job. Despite the marketing campaign of recent years encouraging players, coaches, and spectators to respect the official?s calls, there are still those individuals involved in hockey that refuse to appreciate the referees? authority and position. It came to me in the last game I ref?ed with Larry White. The Quesnel coach was complaining that we were not calling enough infractions. So we decided, ?fine, we?ll call everything?. As a result, the game was slowed down with whistle after whistle bringing the play to a halt. Then I would let a debatable call go, then call the next one, then someone complains. So they earn themselves an additional penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. When they do not like that, they get a 10-minute misconduct penalty, and so on. So how can we create a more controlled environment with less human error?

This is it. The uniforms outer wear will be wired with lines from head to toe, connected to a centrally protected micro chip, that sends a message to a remote sensor in the referee control centre, which could be anywhere, maybe Don Koharski?s living room for arguments sake. Each uniform number exists as an icon on an animated computer screen. Whenever there is excessive contact with a stick for example, the icon will light up illustrating the point of contact and degree of force. If it is below the waist, depending on the severity of impact registered, the computer will decide on a minor, double minor, or major penalty for slashing. If it is above the waist, then it is a high sticking penalty. Any contact on any part of the body will register on the computer. Only at a certain level of severity will a penalty be declared. The electronic marquee located over the offending player?s team bench will identify the penalty.

The beauty of this system is that it is all fail safe computerized. When an infraction occurs, it registers on the CPU. The program dictates the severity of the offense, and it is immediately presented on the centre ice public video screen. As there are no officials on the ice, the offender has no one to complain to.

The puck will have a chip implanted in the rubber to detect goals scored, off sides, and icings. Netting around the tops of the glass will no longer be necessary as a magnetic field will prohibit the puck from passing over the plane of the perimeter glass. It will either bounce back to the ice surface and remain in play, or can be sucked up to the ceiling out of harm?s way.

What about fights? There will be no one on the ice to break up a fight. The GCO (Game Controlling Officer) will monitor the altercation. When she judges that the combatants are finished, or that one opponent is getting too much of the other and not stopping, she will simply push ?Control I? along with the participants jersey number and Immobilize the problem combatant(s). At that point, the player is locked in a rigor mortis state courtesy of the uniform, until he cools down. This system will also prevent fighting, as a player can no longer go in with the perspective of fighting, then just hanging on for 10 ? 30 seconds while someone comes in and grabs the assailant?s arms. There is no one coming, so if you are going to fight, it is going to the end, and there is a 50% chance that someone is getting a good beating, so you better be sure you can win.