February 19, 2009

The most anonymous men on the ice.: They are the first skaters on the ice before a period starts and the last to leave when it is over. They are in motion for all 60 minutes of play.

posted by BoKnows to hockey at 10:38 PM - 8 comments

Hockey linemen have to be on a list of thankless jobs. If you do a good jojb, no one notices it, but if the linesman is horrible, everyone knows.

posted by jjzucal at 11:50 PM on February 19, 2009

Great story. Funny how you never think of the linesmen getting clobbered by a puck or a player collision.

posted by rcade at 07:41 AM on February 20, 2009

A nice close-up of the linesman, Bo, thanks for it. Every once in a while a hockey play-by-play announcer or color analyst will comment on the linesman's ability to get almost all of the very tight offside calls right. That's about their only recognition. What was mentioned in the article, but is something I haven't seen as much of as I used to, is the linesman climbing the boards. I see them moving away from the boards or toward either side of the blue line more often now. Is climbing the boards becoming a lost skill? Also, I seem to remember a video of some years ago of a linesman being KOed by a punch (accidentally) while trying to break up a fight. Does anyone know if it is still out there?

posted by Howard_T at 02:35 PM on February 20, 2009

That's a fascinating article. I confess, I've always known that the linesmen were there, but I've never once given them a second thought. That actually speaks pretty highly to most of the NHL linesmen's ability to do their job properly.

posted by Joey Michaels at 03:02 PM on February 20, 2009

While i don't have any official data to go by, I would have to think that hockey officials have the most dangerous job of any sports' officials. Sure, a ref might get clobbered every now and then in a football game, but I think I'd take that over being kicked in the face with a skate!

posted by dviking at 08:44 PM on February 20, 2009

Thanks for the post, BoKnows. I'm a huge fan of anything referee-related in sport. Yes, they are generally the most under-recognized participant in any sport.

I kind of like the question Howard_T poses about the "skill" or "art" of play-dodging on the boards. I'm wondering if it isn't something that the people who train/supervise the refs haven't tried to avoid certain collisions. Jumping up the boards "may" be one of those things that sound like a good idea, but may in fact be putting the ref in a more dangerous position. I don't have the info to back this, but I do know that officials are always concerning themselves with being in the best position to make, not only the call in front of them, but the "next" call as well. Not to mention, to be out of the way as to not interfere with the play. As such, I'd like to know if it's just a "lost" skill or if it is actually something of a "new" skill.

As to the "danger" of their job and whether it's more dangerous than other sports? Eh, that's hockey. Hockey is a dangerous sport. Vulcanized rubber, sticks and blades ... all at a breakneck speed ... yep, it's a dangerous game. I don't think that the "danger" of hockey really enters the mind of any referee, just like it escapes the minds of the players.

posted by Spitztengle at 10:58 AM on February 21, 2009

As an official myself, the 'art' of officiating is being refined as it ages. It used to be common place to jump on the boards to get out of the way. Now, we are teaching refs to avoid that at all costs. As soon as your skates leave the ice you lose the advantage of solid base. One good check while you're on the boards can put you into the players bench or can end up much worse - broken arms and legs are not unheard of. As you get to the higher levels of hockey, players learn that the linesmen are in basically the same spot every time and they in turn learn to avoid that spot - a puck shot into a linesman is not a puck that clears the zone. We officials still have to keep our head up for the panic plays but most of the time we can have faith in the players. In my 11 years of officiating I have suffered a concussion, a broken foot, many "tattoos" and coutless other bumps, bruises, and cuts but that is just part of the game. Players skate though most of that so we officials do as well.

Referee's are lucky in that their positioning is much more fluid than a linesman has to be. Linesmen have to be on their line to make the call whereas the refs move to get a better vantage point throughout the game.

posted by pettym at 01:08 PM on February 23, 2009

Thanks for the input, pettym. I had suspected that the changes in the game over the past few years (speed of the game, taking the 2-line pass away, the addition of the 2nd referee, etc.) might have had something to do with the linesmen not climbing the boards anymore. You've confirmed that there is indeed a change in the way linesmen work. I used to do a lot of baseball umpiring at the high school level, and we used to have yearly clinics to go over the changes in emphasis. More importantly, we would change the way the 2-man and 3-man crews would work their mechanics in order to best cover the changing game. Now I understand that it works the same way in hockey.

posted by Howard_T at 10:21 PM on February 23, 2009

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