For high school hockey refs, hot seat just got hotter

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2012 - 7:23 AM

New rules in high school hockey put more pressure on officials to make the correct call.

view larger photos

  

When veteran referee Jerry McLaughlin skated onto the ice Tuesday night at Thaler Sports Center in Mound, he knew the game would be unlike any he had ever experienced.

McLaughlin and his two officiating partners met before the game with Hutchinson and Mound-Westonka team captains for longer than usual, reminding them they would draw five-minute major penalties for checking from behind, boarding and head contact.

During the game, McLaughlin analyzed open-ice hits more thoroughly, in fractions of a second. He called one penalty for checking from behind, although not exactly the type of headfirst crash into the boards that hurt Jack Jablonski. Hutchinson scored two goals to tie the score, drawing gripes from a Mound-Westonka assistant coach that continued to the postgame handshake between the teams.

Elsewhere, there was uncertainty. Between periods Tuesday night, a referee phoned Jim Kirshbaum, assignment secretary for the Suburban Referees Association, for clarification on a boarding call.

Kirshbaum said several referees have questioned their responsibility to enforce the Minnesota State High School League's tougher stance on violent hits. He said one referee called "four or five" major penalties Tuesday because he "felt like he had to call everything close."

Enforcing tougher penalties in the wake of Jablonski's life-changing injuries has put the spotlight on the state's nearly 700 referees. Frequently criticized by high school coaches, players and fans for how they call games, they're now learning to wield new power that has dramatic implications on the outcomes.

It comes as many hockey players are already taking a more measured approach to contact near the boards since Jablonski, a Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore, was checked from behind into the boards on Dec. 30 and suffered a severed spinal cord.

McLaughlin, a 16-year veteran of officiating, is accustomed to making unpopular calls. He said he will keep doing so even as more severe penalties potentially impact games.

"I feel if we don't call the game the way it was intended, we're not doing anyone a service,'' said McLaughlin, who earned $105 for his work Tuesday night.

'Baby steps' ahead

Tuesday was the first night many of the state's teams played under the tougher penalties. Players called for a check from behind, boarding or head contact will get at least a five-minute major penalty. The calls, which are designed to make the game safer, can change the score and ultimately the game's outcome because the penalized team must play shorthanded for the duration of the penalty.

McLaughlin told the Hutchinson and Mound-Westonka captains: "I'm sure you worked on your penalty kill and power play. Your coaches would be making a mistake not to."

Major penalties brought special teams to the forefront in other games. No. 7 Eden Prairie led No. 9 Hill-Murray 4-1 until a checking-from-behind penalty against Eden Prairie eventually resulted in two Pioneers goals.

Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith spent time in Monday's practice giving players advice on playing hard yet smart.

"I told them, 'We're not going to play soft because hockey is still a physical game, but stay away from the big hit that gets the crowd standing up. We don't need that,'" Smith said.

Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said the change will require "baby steps" and a broader patience.

"We'll keep educating and talking about it," Lechner said. "Sensitive kids might back off and get burned from it. As coaches we have to bite our lip and allow mistakes."

Said Kirshbaum: "Some referees think because the high school league is cracking down they need to call more major penalties. We've stressed it to our membership that this doesn't change what's called, and that's how it should be approached."

Joint effort needed

The MSHSL said its goal to change the culture of hockey is a joint effort involving players, coaches, officials and fans. But officials butt heads on calls with coaches most of all. Veteran referee Joel Lombard said he's seen a welcomed change.

Lombard, who worked the Maple Grove-Edina game last week at Braemar Arena, got called over by Edina coach Curt Giles for an explanation on a crosschecking penalty that sent a Maple Grove player awkwardly into the boards.

Lombard did most of the talking, explaining to Giles, "The kid got put into a vulnerable position, he got hurt a little bit and when it's all said and done that's why I called this penalty."

"Curt totally understood it when I explained it to him that way," Lombard said.

Said McLaughlin: "As officials, we've always been the other guys. I'm hoping that moving forward here the coaches and refs are a team."

  • related content

  • Hockey referee Joel Lombard

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 98 FINAL
Cleveland 107
New Orleans 88 FINAL
Washington 84
Milwaukee 120 FINAL
New York 107
Philadelphia 88 FINAL
Brooklyn 99
Charlotte 114 FINAL
Atlanta 117
Sacramento 99 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Memphis 103 FINAL
Dallas 108
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Are you happy to see the Royals in the World Series?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close