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Emotions run high during and immediately after hockey games. No one is immune. Players sometimes say and do things they regret later. Coaches do. Not even officials and their supervisors are always immune from letting emotion overtake rationality when there is a dispute in the heat of battle on the ice.
The late Frank Udvari understood this, and had a way of dealing with it. As a director of officiating, he could sometimes get very worked up at things he saw on the ice. When there was a serious issue to discuss, he usually preferred to wait 12 hours in order to give himself a chance to cool off and collect his thoughts.
When Udvari would talk to me about managing the emotion of the game, he'd often harken back to my own playing days. He'd tell me, "You've been there yourself. You know what it's like and what happens out on the ice."
In my career as an officiating director for the ECAC and KHL, I have adopted a 12-hour rule between the end of a game and a discussion on any issues that may have arisen during that game, especially between a coach and an official.
Recently, I sent out a league-wide reminder to ECAC coaches and officials about my expectations related to this rule. I expect the rule to be honored and for complainants to have more than raw emotion to back up their complaint about an officials.
I told the coaches this: Prior to making a call to the Officiating Director, be aware that whatever comment you have, specifically on an issue that is negative, must be preceded by both a written statement and video support.
If there are supervisors or if I am in the building during a game, we still
maintain the 12-hour rule. There will be no confrontations or conversations that night.
Texting and emails are not subject to the 12-hour rule. However, I expect people to act professionally in their written comments. Statements such as " He sucks" or "That was a brutal call" are opinion and have little merit regarding why a particular call or a rules error was or was not made.
On the flip side, even judgment calls supported by an official's proper positioning are subject to be scrutinized and discussed the next day. Our goal is to achieve positive results and the betterment of officiating to affect the game in which we are all involved.
Bottom line: We hold our officials accountable. We also take pride in our teams of officials. I am every bit as interested in their progress as the League is in its accomplishments of its players and coaches.
In Thursday's blog, I will discuss the handling of disciplinary issues involving officials. Even though disciplinary actions are not made public, it is something we take seriously and undertake when necessary. What we do NOT do is hang the official in the village square or punish for the sake of appeasing others after a controversy.
Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.
In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.