College Hockey Officiating Takes Center Stage

This season, the officiating in college hockey has taken center stage, and not all of the attention has been positive.   On any game night, my twitter feed lights up with college hockey fans that are upset with the on-ice officiating.

None of the six college hockey conferences are immune to it. With social media, almost instantaneously, examples of blown calls are put into Vines, GIFS and YouTube videos.

UND Head Coach Dave Hakstol (UND Athletics)
UND Head Coach Dave Hakstol (UND Athletics)

This facilitates a post-event analysis of the call(s) in question. I caution those that are quick to dismiss these folks. I think they have a legitimate beef.

Here are a few things that college hockey can do to improve the on-ice product.

Players embellish calls

The first problem that I see nightly in college  hockey is players embellishing to draw penalties. Again, no single team or conference is immune to this. It’s happening in every arena across the board. It’s becoming problematic.

Last season, UND head coach Dave Hakstol was asked about embellishment and this is what he had to say about the subject.

“It’s a huge problem,” he said. “But nobody wants to address it. Teams are being rewarded for embellishing and diving. That’s been the case over the last several years. It’s getting worse. Until we want to address it as a body of coaches on a consolidated basis as leagues, it will get worse.”

I think that college hockey need to mimic some of the NHL diving policies. This offseason, the NHL introduced its new changes for the 2014-15 season. One of the new rules changes that caught my eye was Rule 64.1 Diving/Embellishment.

Under the new rule, players that dive and embellish to draw penalties will be punished more severely.  This was the right call for the NHL.

I believe that it’s time for the NCAA to start punishing players that are embellishing calls. Obviously, you can’t levy fines against a division I college hockey players, but you can start suspending the repeat offenders. I also think that you could punish coaches’ for their player’s on-ice behavior.

Some will think that this is excessive if not extreme, but this move would probably cut down on the diving and embellishment.

The College hockey conferences could post a weekly divers list and announce their suspensions. Opposing fans could have a lot of fun with the weekly announcements.

Video Review of Major Penalties

On-ice officials are asked to make split second decisions that can affect the outcome of the game. Why not take a little extra time and get the call right? Over the past few seasons, we have seen players erroneously assessed a major penalty and thrown out of a game for making a legal shoulder-to-shoulder hit.

A simple video review of the play would’ve confirmed that the hit in question was legal and not a major penalty. In this scenario, it makes sense to allow the on-ice officials to review the play in question, to ensure that they’re making the correct call. This seems logical, right?

I would like to see the on-ice officials have the ability to review the video of major penalties to make sure that they’re getting the call correct before they kick a player out of a game.

Refs are human, and sometimes on-ice officials get the initial call wrong. There are instances where players that didn’t deserve to be kicked out are given a game misconduct.

On-ice officials have to be better

Finally, the on-ice officials have to be better. This past weekend, UND and DU played in an important two-game conference series. The officiating in this series was questionable if not downright awful.

If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is watch the embedded video below and you can what I am talking about. With about 4:12 remaining in the game, UND thought senior forward Brendan O’Donnell had scored the go-ahead goal. Video in the press box confirmed that the puck was clearly in the net. For some reason, the on-ice officials couldn’t find any video to confirm that the puck was in the net.

Also, from the video above, the overtime ending shot hit a water bottle and ended up out of play. The on-ice official Nick Krebsbach signaled goal. One look at the replay in the press box confirmed that the puck never made it into the back of the net.

The officials reviewed the play in question and after a period of time, the on-ice officials ruled no goal.

Last weekend, in Colorado Spring, Colorado, the Tigers experienced some of their own officiating problems. Joe Paisley from Colorado Springs Gazette breaks it down for us.

The longer the video review lasted, the more restless The Broadmoor World Arena crowd became. Then the call waved off a Colorado College goal. The boos followed.

A tying score by Tigers junior Cody Bradley with 9:05 left in the third was waved off and No. 7 Miami held on for a road National Collegiate Hockey Conference sweep with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

The score was waved off following a five-minute video review that ruled there was goalie interference when junior Hunter Fejes came in contact with Miami netminder Jay Williams after Fejes’ initial shot left a rebound in front for Bradley (Joe Paisley, The Gazette)


There’s a simple way to fix this problem. The NHL has a Situation Room that reviews questionable goals. College hockey needs to have a conference Situation Room, too. Take the decision out of the on-ice official’s hands. The decision would be left to a few people and you would end up with consistency, like the NHL.

Maybe, just maybe, you could cut down on the many five-minute goal reviews.

The NHL’s Situation Room reviews the goals and puts the findings on the NHL’s home page. College hockey needs to be more transparent. The fans have the right to know why all of the goals counted or were waved off.

Finally, college hockey fans realized that the officials are human and are going to make mistakes from time to time. That being said, college hockey is one of the top developmental paths to the NHL and the players on the ice deserve top quality on-ice officials. The officials need to get a majority of their calls right.

Moreover, like I mentioned earlier, college hockey needs to be more transparent in their rulings. Fans should know why a goal was waved off and if an on-ice official made a mistake.

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