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The Great Consistency Conundrum

May 2, 2016, 6:30 AM ET [15 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22

As the Stanley Cup playoffs proceed, we hear the same drumbeat every year regarding that age old perplexing question: where, oh where, can we find consistency?

It's like the fountain of youth, Atlantic or the world's best slice of pizza. It's like little Fievel Mousekewitz singing "Somewhere Out There." Maybe my brother and sister officials and I will find it... someday, somewhere.

Now I've a question: How do we define consistency in the first place? "Absolute consistency" is an unattainable target but one we consistently should try for.

Since the Rule Book in and of itself is a sloppy, inconsistent, self-contradicting and mercurial document, here's what we should be striving for: Officials allowing the game to be played without over-judging and oppressing the flow and spontaneity of the game.

I am so fatigued by the people who pontificate about needing rule enforcement with a blanket approach. I hear what they say and read what they write about officiating and their knowledge of it, and it leads me to believe that either I know nothing or they're full of it. Oh, and back to that word "consistency": Consistent with whom?

I was consistent with myself every day I pulled on those skates. I consistently officiating the same way: believing in flow, hustling to be in the right position, putting that night's game above all else going on in the league or elsewhere in my life at that moment. I had pride in myself and in my performance. I never wanted to let my Dad, Grandfather, John McCauley, or Scotty Morrison down... or a few others like Ashley, Udvari, Van Deelan, LeBlanc, who taught me how to ref.

Listen folks, no two games are the same even if the same two teams play them. The playoffs show that time and time again. Even when they play in the same city in back-to-back games or on back-to-back games, every game shapes itself differently.

Some will then mention "referee statistics." J H Christmas, the only thing I want consistent is that the games are played in 2 hours....with TV. Impossible, you say? I agree.

Some nights, guys are tired, their wife bitched at them, they had a blister, a hangover, a groin pull or the ever famous "upper-body injury" that wasn't there last game. So take your consistency thing and sell it to someone who has actually officiated this sport. But you won't sell it to me, because I ain't buyin'. Be consistent with yourself.

Earlier this year, I saw two collegiate women's games go to OT, one to double OT. One team had 120 shots in two games, the other had 20 shots, and yet the games were that close. Can you statistically figure a hot goalie or a fluke goal or fat goal posts, even a bad penalty. How can those happen every night?

We need to tweak the rules and get rid of stupid one that are "inconsistent". Let's recruit more officiating candidates and make the pool larger with more ex-players both on the men's and Women's side. More people give them a chance to make money and us to have more and better people to take on the challenge of the game.

Lastly, is there some company out there to sponsor me to go around the States and Canada to educate all the Hockey gurus, the fans and all the experts who just bought their first ticket about officiating. I'll shares the nuances and inside "secrets" that really go on in the game.

We listen to Mike Milbury and Jack Edwards, we listen to Don Cherry and Regis McGuire. We realized we either know nothing about the game or else these folks that never reffed a game but are experts in their own minds maybe aren't such authorities after all. It's disservice that we don't invite to the table people with experience in the least-understood aspect of the game. Hell, some even call the officials the "third team" on the ice.

It's time to open up the vaults, communicate and educate. After all, we are talking hockey here, not atomic secrets.


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 serves as director of hockey officiating for the 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.
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