OHL refs a work in progress

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

No one said it would be easy or quick.

And it hasn't been.

Refereeing in the Ontario Hockey League remains a work in progress.

It's a rare night you'll see a game called the same way as another.

Some nights, everything gets called. Other nights, referees are more lenient. Some nights there'll be two referees, the next, one. Some nights there's a fear the game and the way it's being called is sliding back into the dark ages, when hooking, holding and obstruction were the order of the day.

It's this type of inconsistency that drives, fans, players and coaches crazy.

"It's the goal of any league in any sport you work and strive to find consistency in their officiating," said OHL vice-president Ted Baker. "When we brought in the new standard in enforcement, we knew it was going to be a work in progress, and wasn't going to be something that we had for one year and people would grasp and move on."

Baker believes overall, league members are happy with the officiating.

"This year, the feedback from the teams has been certainly more positive than over the last number of years," said Baker.

He also believes there are nights when there is some inconsistency in certain games. Part of it has to do with new officials. Part of it has to do with many officials having to work different leagues and different systems.

"One night it's the one-man system in junior A to a two-man system in the OHL, back to a one-man system in the OHL to a one-man system in the OHA and that can be all in one week. That's just the way it is," said Baker.

So why not be more consistent? Why not assign two referee's to every OHL game?

Money and ability.

"We have the best amateur referees in our league in Ontario," said Baker. "There are thousands of referees who would love to referee in our league, but unfortunately they don't have the ability."

The OHL started with 10 per cent of its games having two referees. That moved to 50 per cent last year and this year 60 per cent of the games have two officials. In two years, the OHL has had to hire nine more referees.

Last Friday, with all 20 teams in action, the OHL would have needed to have 20 referees available. There are 26 officials who started the season; several have not been available for a variety of reasons.

"When you see the makeup of our staff, (which is) made up of firefighters, police officers, shift workers and other family commitments, we just can't put that many out there," said Baker. "We continue to work with the Ontario Hockey Association from a development standpoint. I would suggest that those referees who have the ability to work in our league are already working in our league."

And while the league is always scouting for referees who have potential to work in the OHL, there is a certain level of financial support needed to hire these officials once they have been trained. That money needs to come from the OHL owners.

"In order to staff all the games with two referees, we'd need, and this is a guess, around 30 referees," said Baker.

Here's the deal. The OHL should do whatever it can to find qualified referees and they should tell the league governors it's in the best interest of the teams and the league to staff all games with two referees. It's a question of consistency.

The speed of the game and the activity on the ice make it easier for two referees to handle the contest. There's less chance of a foul going undetected, less chance of both officials missing a call because of bad positioning or their view being blocked.

Players also get used to a two-referee system. They come to realize they can't get away with as much.

One other suggestion for the officials: Don't go back to the old ways. Call the stick fouls, the obstruction, the interference. The game is better for it.


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