Fundamentals Will Take You Far

Matt Nilles

The start of a new hockey season brings with it numerous hopes and dreams. Many of our younger, promising officials dream of working higher levels of play in front of larger crowds, and working more important games.
These thoughts represent noble goals. But to attain them there needs to be a concrete plan that is followed every day of the season. When formulating your strategy, keep in mind these important tips from people “in the know.”

1) Always Hustle. “Working every game with 100 percent effort” sounds like advice that is so obvious as to be unnecessary. Instead, consider it so important that it bears repeating.

“You must work every game to the best of your ability, no matter the age or skill level,” says Mike McDevitt, Atlantic District Evaluation Program director. “You never know who is watching your game.”

2) Listen More, Talk Less. The guess is that history probably proves you can enhance your standing in the referee ranks by listening more than talking.

“The first time you make an off-the-cuff comment, the wrong person will either hear it or find out about it,” says Ray Tucker, supervisor of officials in east-central Illinois. “When you’re in a hockey environment, be prepared to learn at all times. You can learn a lot by simply hearing people out.”

3) Be in Shape, and Know How to Skate. There is no substitute for being able to hack it on the ice physically.

“Practice often to become, and remain, a good skater,” says McDevitt. “Good skating communicates to others athletic ability. A good skating official is generally viewed as a good official.

“An official who is in good shape shows that he or she cares,” he continues. “Physical conditioning is something that everyone can control on their own.”

4) Rule Knowledge. It goes without saying that if an official does not have a grasp of the rule book he or she cannot hope to advance far.

“Do not over-interpret the rule book or make up rules,” says Tucker. “The rule book, or whatever guidelines your supervisor lay down, are the law.”

5) Have Fun. Refereeing is maddening enough already. If it is joyless, it is not worth pursuing, pure and simple.

“You must really enjoy it,” says McDevitt. “If the only reason you do it is because you think there is a career there for you, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment and, ultimately, failure.”
So go ahead and dream big. Look at the 2008-09 season with all the optimism you can muster. But if your goals include “climbing the officiating ladder,” chase them with grounded and practical pointers like the ones above.

USA Hockey Playing Rules

Checking From Behind
When a player body checks or pushes an opponent from behind, checking from behind is called. If the play happens in open ice, the call is a minor penalty plus a misconduct penalty. When the play occurs near the boards or goal post and causes the opponent to go head first into the boards or goal post, the call is a major penalty plus a game misconduct.


Brian Murphy, NHL OfficialBrian Murphy, NHL OfficialWhistle Blower  |  Q&A

The fact that, after five Stanley Cup Finals and 20 NHL seasons, the third most memorable game in Brian Murphy’s career is one of his daughters’ house league games tells you a little about the Dover, N.H., native.
The 43-year-old was kind enough to take a few minutes from the NHL’s preseason officials’ camp to talk to USA Hockey Magazine.

USA Hockey Magazine: How many years have you been officiating?
Brian Murphy: I have been officiating for 25 years. I started in the fall of 1983 while I was going to college at the University of New Hampshire. I was working at my local rink driving the Zamboni. I was a business major and saw the refs coming in to do men’s league games making more money than I was so I gave it a try. My first USA hockey referee clinic I almost didn’t go. I had been up early in the morning to drive the Zamboni and came home to lie on the couch for a few minutes. I almost didn’t get up and go to the clinic. The NHL hired me in September of 1988.
Who was your mentor?
BM: Dan Raposa was my high school hockey coach in Dover, N.H. He was a USA hockey and Hockey East referee. Dan got me started and helped me get involved with the USA Hockey development programs. I never would have made the NHL without his guidance.
USAHM: Do you have a game from your career that you consider the most memorable, for whatever reason?
BM: I was privileged to work the seventh game of both the 2003 and 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. When you think of working your whole life for one moment that would be it for me. If you don’t get goose bumps when they’re polishing up the Stanley Cup in your dressing room between the second and third periods then you don’t love hockey. After that, it would be working my daughters’ house league hockey game one Sunday morning when the refs didn’t show up.
USAHM: What advice would you give to a  young, up-and-coming official?
BM: Have fun. That is the most important thing. Positioning is important to have the proper sightlines to judge the play. Trust what you see because your first reaction is usually correct. Finally, work as hard as you can. You never know who is watching. And that Peewee game on Sunday is as important as a Stanley Cup game to those kids playing.



Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
Matthew Knies
Brock Faber
Logan Stankoven
Logan Cooley
Total votes: 3