Let’s talk about Zebras

I don’t know about you but I’ve been a fan of hockey now for a few years. I started watching because a friend introduced me to it after I’d been watching NHL for a little while and I was looking for something closer to home to watch. It’s always been pretty casual up until recently, but more and more as I’m learning the rules and learning to watch for those infractions it’s becoming clear that there are a few problems… I wonder – do other people see them too?

1. Rules – What rules do the EIHL actually play using?

I’d love to be able to actually look through them – to learn them but I can’t actually find them. I’ve scoured for a while to try and find a definitive list but it appears not to exist. You go to the Elite League’s official website and try search for rules and it brings up a whole lot about the Department Of Player Safety (DOPS) but no actual rules. This I find deeply frustrating. How can the officiating staff all sing the same song if no one has a copy of the lyrics??

2. Consistency throughout British Ice Hockey – not just the Elite League, but across the board.

Players move through the ranks quite often, moving from the Steeldogs to the Steelers, the NIHL Blaze to the EIHL Blaze or from various other lower league teams to their EIHL counterparts. Should these players be expected to learn two different sets of rules – or at least the rules that are different between the two leagues. What happens if a player causes a penalty by doing something that would have been allowed under their previous team just because they weren’t aware of the differences?

Talk recently has been about cleaning up mainly the Elite League in the UK, but what about the rest. Personally I think that rules need to be the same across all of the adult leagues in the country. The minute you are playing for an adult team, you follow the same set of rules, regardless of the league. Isn’t that just straight-up common sense?

3. Accountability – Should the league be holding  referees accountable for poor decision making?

Now this one, this is quite tricky really due to the above mentioned lack of an actual rule book and the fact that I’ve come to believe the refs are volunteers? Not actually employees of the league. [please correct me if I’m wrong about that] In refereeing there is also the element of human error, no person is a robot. No one will catch every single infraction that happens in the fast paced game. However, of a referee makes a decision that the league or teams believe to be unfair or unjust, they should be called out on it and dealt with accordingly. After all DOPS is there to check on the calls that teams feel are unfair or incorrect but it is the player who is punished after the fact, rather than the referee who gave the wrong call at the time.

I know this one is a bit of a long shot though because as volunteers they don’t really have the same kind of code of conduct or rules as someone who would actually be employed. They give up their time to do this but it does not excuse the, at times, sloppy calls of the referees. Referees need to be held to a higher standard, they can’t be seen to be more biased towards one team or another. How can it be right for a referee to travel on a team bus for example to save money on travel and then not have their possible bias called into question by the other team? Who’s to know what goes on behind closed doors when everyone’s back is turned? To me, it just does not seem right.

Officiating staff need to be above reproach, so that accusations like that cannot be thrown at them because there is simply no evidence to suggest they are anything but unbiased and impartial.
4. The ban on being able to say anything against referees 

This one? This one really grinds my gears. Why can’t coaches and players be able to air their grievances against referees without the risk of a fine? Because it’s unprofessional?

If there is evidence to back up their claims why not let them air it? Let coaches grumble, perhaps there’s a reason for their complaints that needs to be dealt with rather than having them swept under the carpet and the speaker be fined for saying what’s on their mind. That is not good business. Don’t turn a blind eye to bad calls and expect no one to notice. Fines to those who speak out is simply not the answer. Sure it lines the pockets of the league top bosses, but it doesn’t solve the problem of dubious refereeing.

Referees need to be accountable. They are not Gods who’s decision is final, they make mistakes just like all us meer mortals and should be called out on it. Just like anyone else. If they make a stupid decision they should have to justify it. Not just have it brushed off and under the carpet simply because of the colour of their shirts.

These are basically a few things I have been mulling over for a while. Is there anything else you think should be discussed?


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