Players not the only ones hoping to go deep into playoffs
Hockey: Official wants a trip to Alberta Junior Hockey League finals
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 12:18 pm
It’s not just the guys in green-and-black from Okotoks who are excited about the upcoming Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs. So is a guy who grew up in High River and will be wearing black-and-white stripes.
“I love refereeing during the playoffs. It gets exciting,” said Shaun Harris, who is in his seventh season as an Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) official. “The intensity the players bring brings the play to the next level. What I love is it is great hockey because the kids come to play and are more disciplined.
“And the AJHL is just such good hockey.”
Although the playoffs are more physical than the regular season, that doesn’t mean it is more chippy — as long as the official sets the right tone.
“If you make the right call early in the game when the intensity rises, and that opportunity comes up to make that call when it gets a little chippier, it can bring the level of play back down to that level of intensity with good clean play,” Harris said. “If you have a referee who doesn’t pull the trigger with the right call at the right time, that is when things can bubble over.”
The AJHL officials received a directive to call the game in the same manner as a regular season game. However, there is a bit more reluctance for a referee to raise his arm in the dying minutes of a close playoff game.
“The rule of thumb is in critical moments or in overtime we want to avoid marginal calls — ones that could be called really early in the early season to set the tone of what we don’t want,” said Harris, who also worked 18 games in the Western Hockey League.
“A small hook or an interference that isn’t involved in a scoring play for example we might overlook.
“A flagrant call, like a cross-check, boarding, checking from behind, they will always be called.”
He said the key to keeping a game under control is communication with players and coaches.
“You want to develop a rapport with the coaches and players during the regular season,” Harris said.
For example, Harris will tell a player in a positive tone — mentioning after a whistle he is playing hard, but he is coming close to crossing a line and drawing a penalty.
“If you can take two seconds and try to get that point across to the player it can snap him back to a good mental focus and he knows where the limits are,” he said.
Harris could have some help in the playoffs. He is expecting the AJHL to add an extra official sometime during the post-season as the league has done in the past.
“In the past few years they have gone from three-man to four-man after the first round,” Harris said.
The extra referee gives Harris a different set of eyes but also a different set of legs.
“In three-man it seems you are following the play as a referee, in four-man you are leading the play — you have a different set of sight lines to make the right call,” Harris said. “One thing in four-man is you are not in that crunch to skate up the ice to keep up with the play. So it doesn’t physically exhaust you.”
The most important call for a referee is to decide whether a goal has been scored. The four-man system helps prevent those situations where a breakaway occurs when the referee is on the other end of the ice.
“A team can pass the puck from their goal line to the far blue line and they have a partial break,” Harris said. “Meanwhile, in three-man the referee is still at the goal line. With the four-man you can keep up with that… The most important call is did the puck go in the net, and if you are a 150 feet away, that could be a crucial call in the play.”
Make no doubt about it, Harris is no different than Okotoks Oilers Chris Collins or Jared D’Amico. His goal is to be in the AJHL finals and how far Harris goes in the playoffs is based on his performance.
“I have gone as far as the South final — I think it was Camrose and Okotoks,” Harris said. “I would love to be in an AJHL final.
“I think I have a better chance of being in a final this year.”