Holding rule-breakers accountable

Q&A with Matt Leaf on the importance of game reporting

Published in Stripes – 1/11/2019

Everyone in hockey wants the game to be played within the rules. More importantly, they want those who fail to do so to be held accountable for their actions. 

As a result, USA Hockey has spent the past several seasons making appropriate consequences for the rule-breakers, including more severe penalties for dangerous actions and progressive suspensions for repeat offenders.

And while officials can’t prevent the dangerous action from occurring, they do play a significant role in holding accountable those responsible for these actions with proper rule enforcement. Not only that, but officials must fulfill their responsibility of submitting an accurate and timely game report through the USA Hockey Online Game Reporting System. 

STRIPES recently sat down with Matt Leaf, director of the officiating education program, to learn more about the game reporting process and to address some of the concerns he hears from affiliate disciplinary personnel on the reporting process and what officials can do better.

STRIPES: The Online Game Reporting System is in its fifth season, what are some of the areas where the system has helped the game?
Matt Leaf:
 When properly used, the system has definitely helped affiliates and local leagues manage suspensions and the disciplinary process. It allows for a consistent game-reporting format where the required information immediately gets into the hands of the proper authorities once submitted by the official. The system also provides a more user-friendly mechanism for the officials to file the report on their mobile devices.

One other benefit is, with better compliance in filing reports each season, USA Hockey can track certain infractions and identify any trends both geographically and by types of infractions.

STRIPES: How is USA Hockey looking to continue to improve the system and make it even easier for the officials?
Leaf:
 We are constantly receiving feedback from affiliate administrators and officials with suggestions, and all of that is taken seriously. In some cases, there are good ideas that we try to incorporate as soon as possible. In other situations, a bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration.

One main area that we are working on is the player search component and tying that into team rosters so officials can simply pull down the team roster to identify the player versus trying to narrow down an entire database. Doing so will greatly improve the accuracy of identifying the guilty player/coach and simplify the process for officials. 

The second area that is being worked on is the reporting side of things for administrators and making penalty data more readily available – basically simplifying their ability to manage hundreds of reports.

STRIPES: What is the official’s responsibility when it comes to submitting game reports?
Leaf:
 First and foremost, with the new progressive suspension rules, the official has to be timely in submitting reports so the system can identify any players/coaches who have reached a suspension threshold. Timely should be well within 24 hours of the game, but certainly no longer than 48 hours (the sooner part of this option being preferred).

Next, it is imperative that the official pays attention to details and provides accurate information in regards to the player(s)/coaches involved (e.g., the type of penalty assessed and the proper rule reference). There really is no excuse for an official to submit a report for clicking on a minor plus misconduct for head contact when in fact they assessed a major plus game misconduct. The correct rule reference is also important as it does play a role in the system’s ability to track repeat offenders.

STRIPES: That seems to be pretty critical information.  What are some other things officials need to know when submitting a game report?
Leaf:
 The most common mistake made is when an official submits a duplicate report (or maybe both officials submit a report) for the same incident. This creates problems because the system does not know it is a duplicate, so it counts it as two different strikes against the same player, even though it was only one infraction. Only one report (the officials can work on it together, if needed) needs to submitted for each incident.

Another common error is submitting multiple reports from the same game when, in fact, the system is designed to handle multiple incidents involving multiple players from the same game. Instead of starting over with a new report for each penalty assessed, the officials can simply do one report for the game and identify each incident separately in the one report.

Finally, officials have to know the rules and the consequences for the rules. Under Rule 411 (Progressive Suspensions), there is a full listing of infractions involving major penalties that require a report to be submitted. Each penalty also has to be listed separately. For example, a player gets a major penalty for slashing, and then later on, gets a major plus game misconduct for head contact. It’s not enough to simply submit a report assessing a game misconduct for the second major penalty in the same game. The report needs to have each penalty (slashing, head contact, game misconduct for second major) listed separately so the system can properly track the aggressive fouls and send out the automatic alert when a threshold is reached.

STRIPES: Any other final words of wisdom?
Leaf:
 USA Hockey wants players and coaches held accountable for their actions, whether it is for unsportsmanlike behavior or dangerous play outside the boundaries established the rules. This can’t be accomplished without the help of the officials properly enforcing the rules and submitting the appropriate game report when needed. 

Officials have a responsibility (in fact it is part of their duties) to properly submit accurate game reports when required.

Detailed instructions on filing game reports are available on USAHockey.com, and if unsure on something, ask your local supervisor or assignor. Paying attention to details in submitting a timely and accurate report will not only minimize confusion and having to answer questions later, but also will eliminate having suspensions overturned on technical issues and will, ultimately, hold those who tarnish the game with their behavior accountable for their actions.

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