Communicating with Referees

While some may think the ability to communicate with referees is unimportant it says a lot about a player. A scout will being to ask questions if they see that a player has an inability to communicate with referees. Referees are some of the hardest people to communicate with due to the nature of their job, however, it is possible and will lead to a more enjoyable game. Any referee worth their weight should be willing to communicate, and anyone that doesn’t shouldn’t be refereeing, provided you are calm and not abusive. Here are some timps and tricks on how to communicate with a referee, many of these tips apply in everyday life:

The Approach
When approaching a referee, do not charge towards them, skating fast puts the referee’s mind into a defensive state, he may (and probably interpret this subconsciously as aggression or an aggressive move). Proceed calmly, not yelling, or making drastic/offensive movements. Next when talking to a referee keep your hands down. Again bringing your hands up is another sign of aggression. Flailing arms isn’t going to do anything for your case, nor is it going to leave a good impression with the referee.

The Introduction
Much of the introduction is going to be appearance, the referee is going to judge whether he is going to talk to you based on how he perceives you. You appear to be angry or enraged he is not going to engage in conversation, which is probably better for both parties because it is going to end up in penalties or animosity. If you want to talk to the referee, and your coach or some of you players are acting like idiots tell the referee that you see that what your coach/players are doing is wrong. Acknowledge that there is a problem with these players, and inform the referee that all you want to do is talk. If a referee knows that you are reasonable and can see that your players/coach are not acting reasonably he will talk to you.  Remember that in any disagreement cooler and calmer heads will always prevail.

The Talk
If the referees decides he is willing to talk to you, he will usually give you the floor. Now that he has decided to talk to you this means he believes that you are a reasonable person, and feels that you’re acting in the best intentions. Don’t ruin it by making a comment like “you know there are two teams out here”, “you suck”, “open your eyes”, and so on. As your question, try and keep the question short and non-confrontational. Remember the referee has the right to terminate this discussion at anytime. Remain non-confrontational.

Tips for The Talk

  • Remain calm, even if the referee doesn’t they are human and get get angry.
  • Use humor, make sure it isn’t going to offend anyone, but every referee doesn’t mind a good laugh
  • Listen, don’t interject, if the referee interjects let him, then continue.
  • Be logical
  • Be empathetic to the referee’s position. He may miss calls, and he certainly isn’t perfect, but don’t tell him that.
  • Do not curse, swearing can give the referee the impression that you are becoming aggressive.
  • Do not raise your voice, although you may want to make yourself heard the rest of the rink doesn’t need to hear, and frankly you are going to be making the referee look bad and he isn’t going to take kindly to that.
  • If dealing with a younger official, DO NOT talk down to them, some of them get incredibly offended as they are qualified, many of them do higher level hockey and don’t like hearing from some minor hockey coach how they don’t know what they are doing.
  • Look into the referees eyes, and step down from a top the bench so that you can speak to him face-to-face.
  • Do not try and make a circus of the conversation drawing parents standing behind the bench in. It will not help your case with the referee.

The Conclusion
Always end the conversation with “thanks ref”, or “OK I understand”. It may have been the most useless conversation and the referee may have been the biggest dick going but make him think it was productive.

Do’s and Don’t’s

  • Be mindful of delay of game penalties, as a player coming off the bench isn’t permitted to talk to the referee.
  • Don’t ask to talk to the referee after every whistle, they are goign to end up saying no.
  • Don’t think you are right, because most times coaches are wrong, referees spend a lot of time studying the rulebook, you certainly don’t want to burn a bridge with a referee on account of argueing a rule book situation when he is right.
  • Remember the referee is always right, even when the rulebook said he is wrong. Telling him he is wrong or being condesending about it isn’t going to do anything.
  • If the referee is unapproachable, talk to a linesman or his partner and see if you can tell him all you want to do is talk. If the referee is being unreasonable his linesman will tell him. Plus a linesman is the referees peers, and if the linesman agrees that the referee is being unreasonable he will help you.
  • If the referee says there is not going to be any discussion don’t try and make one, if he says next whistle he will talk next whistle, if he says end of the period he will talk at the end of the period. Don’t force yourself on the referee, he isn’t going to be receptive.
  • Don’t burn a bridge when you don’t have to, if you can build rapport with a linesman do it. A linesman holds a lot more power than most believe. The referees usually listens to a linesman who says the team has a problem and this team is usually pretty good.

I hope that this helps, remember referees aren’t robots, they are human, put yourself in their shoes and think how you would react.