THE REF'S PERSPECTIVE
by Eric Boghen, menís division head referee
January 21 2000
Now that I am well into my second season as the head referee of the CASC men's
division, I figure it's about time that I answer some of the questions that I am asked
most often. It is my hope that these answers will help give some of the players in the
league better insight into the thinking behind some of the calls that I make during the
More importantly, I hope that this information will allow all the participants in the
league to spend more time playing hockey and less time questioning calls (or non-
Question #1: Why do you do it?
While I've never actually been asked this during a game, it is a question that I feel
should be answered, and it seems like an excellent place to start. There are several
reasons why I choose to accept the role of head referee for CASC:
I enjoy the challenge. I actually like refereeing, and always have. It's quite difficult,
much more so than I suspect most players realize. This league in particular has a
clear mandate to create an enjoyable environment for skilled play without overt
physical aggression. I feel it is my responsibility to try to ensure that the league
mandate is upheld, and I relish this responsibility.
I love the sport. I've played and officiated ball hockey for years because I enjoy
being around the game. In fact, the only reason I don't play it any more is that I gave
up after years of being unable to find a league just like CASC, where the threat of
violence is minimal. It just so happens that I found this league as an official, not as a
It's nice to have a couple of bucks heading into the weekend. As much as I enjoy
reffing, I wouldn't do it as a volunteer. If I choose to give up my Friday evenings
every week, it's partly because it provides me with a bit of cash for Saturday
Question #2: Didn't you see that slash/trip/hold/hit?
Answer #1: Yes, I did see what you considered to be a slash/trip/hold/hit, but I
disagree that it was an infraction of the rules. Remember that some of these
situations are up for interpretation.
For example, an opposing player may have been nudged off balance by one of your
teammates, causing him to fall against you and knock you down. This is not a
penalty, whether you saw the whole situation or not. More commonly, an opposing
player may be making a legitimate play on the ball, possibly even knocking it away,
when you step on the blade of his stick and fall down. This is not tripping.
Answer #2: No, I didn't. This answer is pretty obvious, since you would have seen
my hand go up to signal a penalty had I seen it. Unlike NHL officials, I do not get
paid $100 000 (or whatever) to referee this league, and I do not have their training
either. Nevertheless, I have refereed ball hockey at 3 different levels over the last 9
years, and I think I've reached a pretty decent level of proficiency
However, I do occasionally miss things. This is particularly true of infractions that
may have occurred away from the ball. This is an element of my job that I have
worked hard to improve, and I think I have. I will never call a penalty for something
I didn't see, so while it is conceivable that you will be the victim of an infraction that
isn't called, it is pointless to tell me about it. Quite frankly, I can't take your word for
Question #3: Yeah, I hit him, but didn't you see him hit me first?
Answer #1: Yes, I saw him. There is a common misconception about this situation.
Many players think that referees prefer to focus on calling retaliation penalties, while
sometimes ignoring the original infraction, and that this is done to make a point that
you should not take revenge into your own hands. This is very rarely the case. In
fact, the reason retaliation penalties seem so common is that the response is usually
much more severe than the original occurrence. For example, you feel that an
opposing player intentionally slashed you, so you slash him back, and find yourself in
the penalty box while the other team enjoys a power play. You may find this unfair,
but the likelihood is that the other player didn't commit an infraction in the first
place, but that you did. This is a very frequent occurrence.
Answer #2: No, I missed his action. While this is rare, it can occur. In this case, you
really have nobody but yourself to blame for getting a penalty. By striking back at
your opponent, you not only indicate that you support his original action (since you
are doing it yourself), but you risk getting caught, giving your team a penalty to kill
off, and one which you incurred somewhat intentionally. I actually enjoy being asked
this question, since it includes a guilty plea, the ultimate indication to a referee that
he has made a correct call.
Question #4: Wasn't one of their players in the crease when they scored?
Probably no other elements of the league rules changed more greatly between last
year and this year than those involving the crease. Interestingly, this very closely
mirrors the situation in the NHL. In my opinion, these changes have improved the
overall flow of the games in both leagues. Last year, the CASC goal creases were
very large, and offensive players were forbidden from entering the crease at any
This rule was implemented to protect the goalies from being interfered with and
potentially roughed up, but it created a great deal of controversy, and like in the
NHL, many goals were disallowed despite the fact that the offensive team was not
interfering with the goaltender.
Prior to the start of the current season, the crease rule was changed. Under the new
rule, only one crease infraction exists: Any goal scored while an offensive player is in
the crease shall be disallowed;
If, however, the ball is already in the crease, an offensive player may enter the crease
to make a play on it, provided he does not interfere with the goalie. That's it.
Furthermore, the crease itself was drastically reduced in size when the league moved
into its current location. As a result of these changes, there have been very few
crease violations this season, and very few disallowed goals.
Furthermore, there has not been a noticeable increase in the number of hits on
One more note about goaltender interference, while I'm on the subject. There exists
one situation in which a goal may be disallowed, even though the goalie is interfered
with after the ball enters the net. This occurs if the momentum of an offensive player,
while scoring, carries him into the goalie in such a way as to create aggressive
contact. In such a case, the goal will be disallowed, and the offensive player will be
penalized. The reason for this is simple: any forward will trade a penalty for a goal, if
given the opportunity. This creates a dangerous situation for goalies, in which
forwards can and will recklessly "crash" the net. Therefore, the offensive player is
held responsible for his own body, and must be able to control what happens to it at
all times, even while scoring.
Question #5: Wasn't that a high stick?
In response to this question, let me first quote from rule 7.6, since this is one of the
least understood rules in the league:
" Any player raising the blade of his stick above his shoulder, at any point during the
game, will be assessed a minor penalty for Highsticking. However, any player
playing the ball above his waist will be assessed a minor penalty for Highsticking."
Question #4 usually is shouted out when a player apparently attempts to play the ball
above the waist, but fails to make contact with it. It is only a penalty if the ball is
contacted above the waist. However, the moment a player's stick blade is raised
above his shoulder, he will find himself being called for highsticking. These rules
exist for an obvious reason: Unlike some other ball hockey leagues, CASC does not
require any type of protection for the face or head. As such, the league seeks to
reduce the possibility of having players suffer head or eye injuries by eliminating high
sticks. Since no player can ever be sure that he is not close to another when he raises
his stick, the rule is strict.
Again, this rule has one exception. As the league allows all manner of slapshots,
there is no limitation on the extent to which a stick may be drawn back prior to the
shot, nor any limitation on the follow-through. A high stick resulting from a shooting
motion is thus generally allowed, even if it results in another player being struck.
Reckless abuse of this right can and will still be penalized, if the referee judges it
appropriate, and players should be careful when winding up for a shot.
Question #6: You do know we have families and jobs, right?
Yes, I do. This question is usually asked to remind me that ball hockey is just a
pastime for the players, and that they have to wake up the next day and get on with
their lives. It is also a way of trying to make me feel responsible for the behavior of
other members of the league, especially violent behavior. It doesn't work. I figure the
players are responsible for their own behavior, just as I am responsible for mine.
If I get the opportunity to hand out a penalty for inappropriate or dangerous acts, I
do it. That's the extent of my responsibility.
Question #7: Don't you even know the rules?
This one is pretty funny, considering I'm probably the person who best knows the
CASC league rules, having read them many times. What people usually mean when
they ask me this question is "Don't you know the rules of ice hockey?", and it is
usually asked when I make a ruling that differs from what the players learned
watching Hockey Night in Canada while growing up. I've got news for these players:
this is not the NHL.
In the NHL, power plays do not start behind the attacking team's goal. In the NHL,
players are allowed to body† check each other.
Yeah, I know the CASC rules. Do you?
Question #8: How could you make a penalty call in the last two minutes of that close
Obviously, this question is often asked by a player on a team that loses having had a
penalty called on his team late in a close game. Here's an area where the officiating is
better in CASC than in the NHL, where attempted murder is ignored in the last
couple of minutes of some close games. I don't watch the clock when I call a game. I
don't care how much time is left, or which team is leading, and by how much. I like
to think that if I've called 5 penalties on Team A and none on Team B, Team A is
still eligible for the next penalty. I won't allow play to become rough just because
players think the officials will ignore infractions in certain situations. Players are
responsible for following the rules at all times. If you're upset at a penalty called on a
teammate late in a close game, don't talk to the officials about it...talk to the player
who took a bad penalty. A penalty is a penalty, regardless of the game situation. I
hope that's clear.