PHOTO BY NICK WOSIKA A lot can happen in the course of a game and sometimes, according to OS, it’s okay to toss the rulebook to the side in order to properly manage a game.

Game management keeps the game flowing

With the current season already underway, this is a great time to concentrate on fundamentals and ditch the rulebook.

I’m referring to game management. 

Look, with an abundance of new officials coming into the ranks, especially in my neck of the cactus, there’s still nothing like doing a game with the two-ref system – where the other guy is equally savvy and experienced in the delicate fundamentals of game management.

You know what I’m talking about. Right? Like washing out a questionable icing with five minutes left in a tie game because an equally questionable icing was similarly waved off three minutes earlier.

Or no-calling a marginal penalty against Team A because the same kind of marginal infraction was ignored against Team B just three shifts prior.

It’s called awareness of the game, not simple memory of the rulebook. And trust me, it takes time and skill to apply this into game scenarios.

Game management also keeps the contest flowing. Ask any fan or player and they’ll tell you nothing’s worse than a choppy game.

And then there’s the consistency component. It’s usually best to be consistent – whether consistently awful or consistently excellent. I mean, that’s all we hear from coaches, players, beer leaguers and low-level JV team managers. “You guys are inconsistent!”

Let’s elucidate via example. Okay, so it’s 5 -1 in the third, the losing team is suddenly in a great scoring position, and your partner is too quick to whistle down a loose puck in front of the winning team’s net. The losing team’s fans, coaches and players are hollering. “Should be 5-2 zebra!”

Two minutes later, the play’s going the other way with another loose puck, this time in the losing team’s crease, and several players are flopping like drunk flounders all over the blue paint. A veteran official immediately senses the scenario. He knows the losing team’s down by four, and that a similar play was quickly shut down with the losing team in a great scoring position just two minutes earlier. Marshaling his veteran experience, the ref senses it’s probably best to be quick on the pea because the last thing you want is to have the winning team padding the lead to 6-1, and the losing coach bellyaching that your partner just whistled down the exact same play only minutes earlier.

Nothing in the rulebook about this, but it’s a veteran, common-sense decision that will provide superb deterrence against controversy, including complaints from team managers, Android replay from uncles and grandpas and adverse emails from local assignors.

Think I’m wrong?  

Then explain how else OS has lasted 34 consecutive seasons as an “independent contractor” in this business.

New guys and midnight lumberjacks, do you understand what OS is trying to accomplish here? Don’t look at the calls in isolation. Sense the big picture. Everything’s part of a process.

Conflict management. Avoidance of controversy. The goal is to have everyone shaking your hand at the end of the game. And to get this result, you often have to throw out the rulebook.

Yeah, OS gets that only veteran guys really understand this. But that’s why the rest of you read OS. To acquire knowledge. And not just for officiating purposes.

Game management. Or life management. The big picture. Yup, these are generational lessons that are applicable to the social, business and domestic worlds.

A public service from OS and Let’s Play Hockey.

Questions, comments and feedback can be sent to, via Twitter @OSpeaking or through the Let’s Play Hockey Facebook page