Tomorrow’s column

October 22, 2006

It’s a good thing I had a late deadline because I just finished
typing in all the penalties from Saturday night’s Komets game. I got my first
blister Saturday night during the game writing them all down, and then added
two more typing them in after Fort Wayne’s 8-3 win over Quad City.

Referee Jim Hawthorne called 30 penalties in the game, giving
each team 12 power plays. That seems to be typical of all the games around the
United Hockey League. There may not be any pickle juice left in the world by
the all-star break at this rate.

There also might not be that many UHL fans left. It was obvious
at least 3,000 of the opening-night crowd of 10,058 left Memorial Coliseum very
early Saturday night.

The game really wasn’t that entertaining, which is a huge problem
for the league administration, owners, officials and — yes, even them — the

The league is trying to emulate what the National Hockey League
did last year by calling everything in hopes of cleaning up the game and
opening up the offense. Basically any player who gets impeded illegally,
whether they are carrying the puck or not, means a penalty will be called.

It worked marvelously in the NHL, but there are several problems
with the theory in the UHL.

I’ve always advocated making all the calls in the rule book,
figuring the players would adjust or be out of a job. After all, that’s how
they learned the game as kids, right? And, if the referees are not strict, the
players will cheat in whatever way they can.

The NHL players have the talent to make something like that work,
but UHL haven’t shown they are disciplined enough mentally and physically to
allow the system to work.

Most of the penalties Saturday night were the result of players
not moving their feet and making lazy plays with their sticks or hands. The
players either aren’t getting the message, they don’t understand it or they are
ignoring it and expect the officials to let up soon. It’s usually clear by the
end of the first period what kind of game an official is going to call, but the
players are not adjusting.

Part of that is because most UHL officials aren’t disciplined
enough, either. There’s no consistency night to night or period to period. The
Komets have played three games, and they’ve seen three distinct refereeing
styles, six if you count the three exhibition games.

Imagine how bad Major League Baseball would be if you had six
games with six different strike zones? Oh, right, that was the 1980s.

One night the first player who uses his stick doesn’t get called,
but the second one does. There’s obvious confusion involved, and the
inconsistency is giving the players excuses.

UHL President Richard Brosal and Vice President of Hockey
Operations Brad Jones have met with each team to tell them they want UHL games
to be called like NHL games. One problem is there isn’t anyone at every game
making sure those things are actually being called
that way.

It’s critical this season for the UHL to improve its image, and
the easiest way to do that is on the ice. Officials dictate that image in many
ways with how they call a game.

For at least the first month and a half, each game should have a
supervisor of officials present to guide the referees during games and talk to
the coaches, and maybe even talk to the players before games. Sure, that costs
a lot of money, but what’s the excuse against it? Do you want the best product
on the ice or not? It’s that simple.

The owners better step up and spend money to protect their
product. Either hire supervisors or hire better officials. If the games are to
be called like NHL games, then provide those resources, especially with a
system that is already flawed with only one referee.

It’s part of hockey that players get mad about officiating and
fans get angry, but the UHL has to be careful the fans don’t get too frustrated
with the games themselves. With the way the sports fan’s money is being
stretched, the UHL can’t afford to offer poor entertainment, especially at the
start of the season when so many new fans are attracted to the games.


33 Responses to “Tomorrow’s column”

  1. kaptainkomet Says:

    amen blake

  2. Hit Somebody!!! Says:

    Double Amen!!!!

  3. Hit Somebody!!! Says:

    Brosal is an idiot though…do you actually think he will catch on to what is best for this league before it is too late?

  4. Blake Says:

    Again, this is probably out of his control. If the owners don’t want to pay the money to help the officials, there’s nothing he can do. Everybody always wants officiating fixed as cheaply as possible, or there would be two referees for each game.

  5. Burgee Says:

    ok, if Brosal and Jones want UHL games to be called like NHL games, simple, then add the second ref or fill the whistles with epoxy!

    Hold it, stop the press, just checked the u-ticker, Mondalek must have a hangover, only called 16 for 32 minutes while Berkebile kept pace with 38 for 138 minutes, there were a lot of fighting type minutes, but does that mean the game was out of control and the players needed to drop the gloves.

  6. Greg Says:

    Everyone wants things done as cheaply as possible or they wouldn’t make money.

    That being said the players are just going to have to learn to skate harder to stay with their guys, either that or work on that penalty kill.

  7. Komet Fan Says:

    Blake, that is exactly the same thing I have been saying so far this year… Sadly, I don’t see it changing though. With what we had Saturday night, you may as well give each team alternating power plays every 2 minutes and decide tha game that way. There wasn’t 5 minutes of 5 on 5 hockey the entire game…. Very disturbing…

  8. Hit Somebody!!! Says:

    It was awful. How can you get any flow to a game if every 20 seconds you have a midget with orange stripes on his sleeves holding up his silly little hand. It was awful. I say, call the game like George Harrison used to in this league. Call the penalties that have obviously changed the possible outcome of the game. Let the little ticky-tack crap go. We don’t pay to watch these morons take over the game. If the NFL called every possible holding penalty, there would never be a real play. It would be a continuous marching of the ball backwards. At some point you have to use some common sense and call penalties according to how severe they are. Or you will have this joke called the UHL every dog-on game.

  9. David Says:

    This is not the NHL so they can not expect it to be called like the NHL. This a not a minor league feeder system for the NHL. If this league added another official u think things are bad now, it would get worst. Most of these guys do not have a chance to move up to the AHL let alone the NHL so trying to run it like an NHL atmosphere is totally ridiculous. I agree call the penalties that are obvious and could put a player in danger but let them play. If they want open ice hockey full of excitement then play 4 on 4 hockey and limit roster size to 14, 12 players and 2 goalies.

  10. Tony E Says:

    This is a low level minor league. Speaking from my experience doing baseball you get 3-4 years as an umpire to make it out of A ball. If not you are normally cycled out and your professional umpiring career is over. There is no reason that guys should be working in the UHL for years on end. There are plenty of young officials looking for a chance that are qualified to call these games. I would doubt you will be seeing Adam Fish in this league for long. Other than that I see very little potential for advancement in the current crop of referees. That being said as I believe I have posted before, I would not want to be doing these games with only one official. There is too much off puck cheap crap going on and that often results in stuff getting out of hand. That is not the officials fault because the number one responsibility in a one man system is knowing where the puck is at all times. If you lose sight of the puck the play must be blown dead. So how can he turn his head to look at the junk going on behind him?

  11. jim Says:

    TONY E.what is your answer to this?you always seem tobe the (man?) with all the answers. PLEASE HELP THE RICHARD FIX THIS.

  12. jim Says:

    boy do i have egg on my have were just to fast.

  13. Greg Says:

    Tony, I wanted to say hello but I forgot where you were sitting, how was your trip home?

  14. Courtney Says:

    but thousands of fans always leave early….that didnt strike me as odd last night. it was late…the game started later…and it was a big lead….was pretty much like most games…i have noticed.

  15. joseph Says:

    Absolutely 100% agreed on the point that this is the UHL – not the NHL. To call a game like they do in the NHL results in the crap we see in the boxscores every night. It’s really not the refs fault. The players do commit penalties according to the letter of the law. But, These players are not NHL talent. They will never learn to keep moving their feet, to not clutch and grab. That’s why they’re here. They are career minor leaguers. They can call it like this every game and things won’t change. The UHL players aren’t fast enough to keep up at times so they have to resort to hooking or holding. To call every one of those penalties in this league is the wrong call. This is not the NHL or even a direct link to it. Call the obvious ones that stop a scoring chance or stop or breakaway, etc. But all those calls of holding while 3 or 4 guys are pinned along the boards is ridiculous. And, PS. The UHL fans are not NHL fans. They don’t want to see the constant calls.

  16. Tony E Says:

    Hey Greg. Trip was wet but fun. We took the long way stopped at the Limberlost site in Geneva and hit the buffet at Back 40.
    Jim I really do not have the answer. I have to question why the UHL is content to keep the same guys year after year. Part of the foundation of this league is development and it should be for officials as well as players.
    I am sure Jim Hawthorne and others are doing the best they can. None of them are out to get the Komets or any other team. All have worked very hard to even get to the UHL level. I have alot of respect for these guys who make about as much as I get doing D-3 college stuff and take 10 times the abuse. But at some point as a league you have to do what you are supposed to do and that is to bring in new officials whose ratings are good enough to warrant advancement.

  17. Tony E Says:

    BTW I am over in 208 row 15

  18. Tony E Says:

    Jim I talked to an English major close to me and we cannot figure out what this means “boy do i have egg on my have were just to fast.”
    Something seems to be lost in the translation or it could be that my secret decoder ring is buried in the broom closet somewhere.
    Better though, instead of asking me what I think, what do you think? Did you enjoy the game? How do you like the new coaching style and new players? What about the music? I know how much you like my opinions and ideas but I do not recall you ever posting any of yours. Please, do not be afraid to make a positive contribution to the discussion.

  19. Hit Somebody!!! Says:

    Puke-a-pile is usually out to get the Komets…remember last year? I think we lost every game he called and there were games where “Nothing At All” even came un-glued behind the bench.

  20. Tony E Says:

    Hit, I will ask you what I always ask people who think that about officials. Why do you think he is out to get the Komets? What good what it do him? Why is he angry with the Komets?
    Look as an official I am human and sure there are some teams and coaches that I do not enjoy dealing with as much as others. But I have never gotten gone into a game thinking I was going to look for ways to screw a team. People can question my judgement, eyesight, capability etc. But the minute as an official my ethics get questioned, my career would be over.

  21. Tony E Says:

    Great, now look where my english is going!!!

  22. blake Says:

    But Tony that would be admitting that officials are human and can make mistakes. What fun is that? There HAS to be some hidden agenda. After all, officials are evil, right? Not having an agenda would make thing complicated.

  23. Eddie Says:

    Look, Don’t complain about the officiating when your in a league this low. This is single A hockey not AAA.

    Everything evens out and the level of the league matches the level of the officials, its just the way it works. This is the UHL not the AHL.

    If we were in the AHL we would have much better officials and playes and the flow of the game would be much better. If you ever go see a game in the AHL you will see what I’m talking about.

  24. Tony E Says:

    I think even the OHL has better flow at times. Looking at what was seen from the Komets last night I think this team will play an up tempo and aggressive game. They have to stop taking the penalties themselves because their aggression is going to cause the opposition to take their share of them. If you look at the game last night, even short handed the Komets spent more time ACTING than REACTING. That can lead to mistakes but personally I can put up with mistakes of hustle and aggression. Mistakes of stupidity and lazyness are the ones that drive me nuts.

  25. Greg Says:

    Actually, the UHL likes to consider itself “elite AA professional hockey”, But I think we all agree they can’t try and do things like the NHL and expect it to work.

  26. Courtney Says:

    Dont complain about officiating because its a lower league?
    Ok…I am not one to usually complain about things…because I tend to mostly cheer and support (in writing). But I thought that was a strange thing to say…because regardless of league level, teams, players and fans have the right to expect the best officiating possible. Do people go overboard in complaining…of course…but when do they not?

  27. blake Says:

    My point is, and I guess I didn’t do that good a job of explaining it, is that the league needs to do all it can to work on improving the officiating situation, and to me that includes supervisors at the games to back the officials up and guide them as well. Help them improve as much as possible. It’s the one way the owners can best improve their product, but they have to spend the money to do it.

  28. Hit Somebody!!! Says:

    I never said your name was Puke-a-pile, Tony. I am sure you do your best as an official and don’t try to screw teams on purpose. Blake and Cohn both remember the game at Muskegon last year where that idiot controlled the game against the Komets. It was well documented on these blogs.

  29. Tony E Says:

    Hit I knew your weren’t talking about me. I also can’t be 100% sure what is going on in the head of another official. All I can tell you is that I have never met or worked with an official who took joy in screwing a team on purpose.

  30. Eddie Says:

    All the good minor league referees are in the AHL and the ECHL where they should be. Those are leagues slightly higher than the U.

    We have to be patient with the refs in the U because they are still wet behind the ears for the most part. It is also a more difficult job than it looks. 🙂

  31. chuckitt Says:

    all it takes is a little money and training and experience. i dont expect a uhl ref to be perfect but he shouldnt also be wet behind the ears. we should have guys with plenty of college and junior experience. guys are there but they probably make more money in college or in juniors. what about it tony, do you have any idea to the different pay levels?

  32. Tony E Says:

    I have an idea of the pay scale but I am not sure it is public information so I am not able to disclose. I can tell you that all of these guys have to have some sort of second job. The pay scale is on par with what D1 college officials make.

  33. Tony E Says:

    As far as training, these guys have all been to camps. Many of them are former players at some competitive level. The fact is, they had to beat out a huge amount of competition to make it to the UHL. My problem is that you don’t see “career” minor league umpires. After a number of years you are either in the show or you are weeded out. I believe Hawthorne, Christopher et all are capable officials. I am just a big proponent of turnover at this level so other qualified officials get their chance.

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