Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Referees

NHL Official Rules 2013-14 (PDF)

Rule 30 - Appointment of Officials

30.1 Appointment of Officials by Commissioner:

The Commissioner shall appoint the Referees, the Linesmen, Video Goal Judge and all Off-ice Officials for each game.

I have to think this is a patently false statement. What else does Stephen Walkom do all day? Does Gary Bettman really dictate that Brad Watson and Dave Jackson are going to ref the Red Wings game on x day of the season? It's entirely possible, but I have a hard time believing the Commissioner's office actually sets the schedule for referees, linesmen, and off-ice officials; moreover, I have an even more difficult time believing that he decides which officials "advance" to work playoff games.

The second paragraph is much more believable that the Commissioner sends a list of all NHL officials--referees, linesmen, and off-ice officials (these three elements henceforth will be implied by the phrase "all NHL officials")--to all clubs, and that these officials all "must be treated with proper respect at all times during the season by all players and officials of Clubs."

Rule 31 - Referees

31.1 Attire and Equipment: Black pants, "official" sweaters, and a black helmet make up the refereeing uniform. Their equipment includes whistles, tape measure, and an "official" stick-measuring gauge. Pretty standard.

31.2 Disputes: Referees have full control of the game, its officials, and players. All their decisions are final, and these decisions include any time disputes and expiration of penalties issues, with help from the Video Goal Judge if needed. This section is also the home of the "intent to blow the whistle rule" which we covered last time.

31.3 Face-offs: Referees conduct the faceoffs at the start of each period and after the scoring of a goal. Linesmen take care of the rest. If you notice, the referees never have a problem JUST DROPPING THE PUCK.

31.4 General Duties: Referees are in charge of calling penalties and making final decisions on disputed goals. The next sentence, I have trouble interpreting:

The Referees may consult with the Linesmen, Goal Judge, or Video Goal Judge before making their decision.

Based on the fact that this sentence references the Goal Judge and Video Goal Judge, I'm inclined to think this stipulation means the referee will only consult with the linesmen on disputed goals. On the other hand, considering the four officials always gather after scrums to try and figure out penalties, the referees will also consult the linesmen when wanted to help figure out penalties. I say "when wanted" because I don't think a linesman can just go up to the referee and say "That guy tripped this guy" and expect the referee to impose a penalty.

Referees are explicitly not allowed to stop the game for offsides or icing violations. Only the linesmen may enforce these rules, and only in situations where one of the linesmen is somehow prevented from executing their duties--"by virtue of some accident"--can a referee assume the role of a linesman.

31.5 Goals: The referee essentially has to have everything related to a goal announced over public address. If the goal light goes on and there's no goal scored, there has to be an explanation. (Remember that the rulebook stated earlier in Rule 4.1 Signal Devices that the goal light coming on signifies a good goal.) If the puck crosses the line but there's no goal, an announcement must be made with the explanation. If a play went to review, the referees "shall have announced over the public address system information regarding the legality of an apparent goal." Referees generally don't explain why good goals are allowed--and really, why should they if it was a legal goal--but if you remember this painful goal, an explanation of an awarded goal certainly was necessary.

It's the referee's job to give the name or number of a player who scores a goal, but NOT the players who assisted on it. The Official Scorer will confirm the goal scorer and whoever else deserves an assist.

31.6 Off-ice Officials: It's the referees' job to make sure everyone is in place and all their equipment is in working order in preparation for a game.

31.7 Penalties: Penalties will be announced over public address. It doesn't specify the level detail the announcement has to go to, just "as reported by the Referee." For coincidental penalties, visiting team penalties are announced first. There aren't any penalties prescribed for violating these rules, so I wonder if the referee or the League would impose some kind of penalty if Red WIngs' PA announced Red Wings penalties before the visitors for one game.

If a penalty carries an automatic fine, PA WON'T announce the fine. I kind of want them to though: "Detroit penalty, a 10 minute misconduct and a $100 fine."

31.8 Players' Uniforms: It's the referees' job to enforce the dress code. They also make sure equipment being used is legal as far as they can enforce it.

31.9 Reports: The referees report to the Commissioner about abuse of officials penalties, game misconduct penalties, match penalties, instigator penalties, goalie-leaving-crease penalties, instances of sticks or objects thrown away from the playing area, instances of players or Club personnel getting in an altercation with a spectator, and "any unusual occurrence that takes place on or off the ice, before, during or after the game."

31.10 Start and End of Game and Periods: Referees order both teams to the ice for the appointed start time at the beginning of each period. If there's a delay longer than 15 minutes to start a period, the referees will report it to the Commissioner.

The referees must remain on the ice until all the players have gone to the locker room.

The referees will check club rosters and the players in uniform to determine the eligible players.

31.11 Unable to Continue: If something happens to a referee "which incapacitates him from discharging his duties while play is in progress," the game is stopped immediately . If he's unable to continue, the game will continue under one referee and two linesmen. In situations where NHL Hockey Operations or Officiating department officials are present at the game, they have authority to substitute the referee with a spare official when a spare official is present. Of course, reading this section makes me wonder how applicable Rule 30.1 up above is if the Commissioner is supposedly in charge of appointing the referees, linesmen, and other officials for each game.

I'm going to end by leaving this here (emphasis mine):

If, through misadventure or sickness, the Referees and Linesmen appointed are prevented from appearing, the League will make every attempt to find suitable replacement officials, otherwise, the Managers or Coaches of the two Clubs shall agree on Referee(s) and Linesman(men). If they are unable to agree, they shall appoint a player from each side who shall act as Referee and Linesman; the player of the home Club acting as Referee and the player of the visiting Club as Linesman.--

We finally found a use for Dan Cleary.