Monday, August 20, 2018 - Submitted by Kent Unwin, Ice Hockey Australia Referee in Chief
The pace of the game continues to get faster and faster every season, and officials have had to change their mindset and work just as hard as players to ensure they can keep up with the game. This has led to a total obsession with fitness and a regimented routine that starts two months prior to the first game of the AIHL season.
Officials train up to five times a week and focus on resistance training to build muscle strength; high intensity interval training to help with burst speed for when the play quickly changes from end to end; endurance training to ensure officials have the stamina to complete an entire game; and core muscle training to tie it all together. Regular review of the IIHF Rule Book and IIHF Officiating Procedures Manual is conducted to refresh and re-focus the mind on game operations. As the start of the season nears, the training program will expand as officials stretch their legs on the ice in local competition games and incorporate inline skating.
Players are built for an all-out 45 second assault on the ice before having a well-earned rest, whereas officials are on the ice the entire game. To be able to step on the ice with the best hockey players in the country you need to be conditioned accordingly and the pre-season training program ensures we are ready on opening night. Once the season starts, recovery is the critical item that ensures officials maintain peak physical and mental performance throughout the season. This includes a diet focus on sports nutrition, thorough hydration between games, post-game protein boost to aid recovery, and remedial massage to keep the body in tip top shape.
During a game, communication is the most important factor for a referee to keep the game under control. There is a fine balance between letting players play the game and keeping them in check. Communication with players during game action and coaches during stoppages can help ease tensions and keep the game moving. We aim to not put ourselves in the game if we don’t have to, however we prefer to set the standard early and then let players showcase their skills. It takes discipline and trust to not over-react when the game is flowing and no penalties are called. For the linesmen, keeping face-offs fair and getting icings and offsides correct are key to keeping the game in check. Linesmen are also called upon to anticipate issues that may be bubbling to the surface between players and get in there quickly to prevent the referee from getting involved. We want fans to see players in their element and not sitting in a penalty box just as much as the players don’t want to be sitting penalties.
Being selected to work the AIHL Finals is a tremendous honour for an official. It means you are regarded as one of the top officials in the league. It’s extremely competitive for officials to make the AIHL Finals and we work just as hard as the teams to earn our spot. Officials are on show throughout the entire season and regular discussions are held with all stakeholders including the AIHL commission, teams, and officiating administration to ensure the right officials are selected. Having the opportunity to officiate the top four teams in the league playing for the Goodall Cup, with the spectators packed into the arena, makes for exciting experience, and we get the best seat in the house to watch the best players in Australia.
As an official, there are no shifts and no time outs. We do this because we love the game, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
2018 AIHL Finals
The 2018 AIHL Finals presented by Air Canada take place September 1st and 2nd in Melbourne at O'Brien Group Arena.