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Chapter 6 - Referees & Substitutes
6.1 - Referees
Referees within GOHA occupy a position of great importance for the league and are tasked with ensuring that each game occurs in a manner that is as smooth, impartial and timely as possible. Each referee serves on a voluntary basis, donating their time and efforts to fulfill an invaluable role within the league, while also helping to preserve the integrity of the league and its players. Referees are also a part of the evolutionary process that drives the improvement and expansion of the league’s rules, both by virtue of the calls that are made on the ice and through active participation with management.
Selection Criteria & Essential Functions
In most cases, referees are selected from the league’s pool of veteran players, and in most cases, are chosen based off of whether or not they have indicated that they would like to become a referee on the intention cards sent out before each season. In rare but exceptional cases, rookies may be allowed to serve as a referee; most often, this situation will occur mid-season, or when there are referee shortages.
Due to the importance of the position and the sense of unbiased judgment that it requires, each referee must not only pass through a screening process before being selected, but must also complete any required training before they can be scheduled to watch over any regulation games. In Season 20 and beyond, all new referees must undergo training, and returning referees must be given a primer on how to handle the new protocols and rule updates that have been introduced.
The task of serving as a referee is voluntary only to the extent that each team meets its eligibility requirement (i.e., having at least one active referee on the roster by the end of the preseason). Prospective referees will be screened on a number of criteria, including but not limited to:
- Time involved with league and level of in-game experience
- Conduct history and degree of risk of bias or future conduct incidents
- Degree of necessity
- Level of knowledge of game mechanics and rules
- Consistency in attendance
- Current conduct status
- Ability to remain organized and focused on the game at hand
- Ability to communicate in an effective manner
A referee’s main tasks are to gather substitutes for each team as they are needed, maintain contact with team captains when necessary, set up and begin each game in a timely fashion, and keep focused on the action transpiring in each game as best as is possible while ensuring that players and teams alike adhere to the league rulebook.
While captains are responsible for deciding whether or not to use subs, and for informing the referee in a timely fashion that their team will need subs, referees are responsible for posting notice that subs are needed, monitoring the number of players on the ice for each team during warmups, determining whether or not each volunteer is eligible to play, and distributing subs to each team that needs them.
During a game, captains are responsible for communicating with their sub(s) and bringing them into the team’s group chat if deemed necessary. Additionally, each captain is required to switch out subs with their rostered players when available, and to adhere to the rules regarding on-loan prospects and rookie subs. Referees are similarly responsible for enforcing the rules for prospects and rookies, and for upholding all other rules related to substitutes.
Referees are required to post a notice asking for subs only under the following circumstances:
1) Captain messages the referee during warmups to indicate that the team will need subs, or the team speaks with the referee or management before a game and informs them that it is likely to need subs.
2) The referee has not been asked to find subs, but a team appears to be shorthanded (i.e., has fewer players than the opposing team), or both teams do not have the required number of rostered players, with only a few minutes before the game is scheduled to start.
Beyond these requirements, referees have the freedom to gather and handle subs in a way that they deem to be appropriate and of greatest benefit to each team.
If a referee arrives late and a team requires subs, then they should send a notice asking for subs before they input the game onto the scoreboard, as this will maximize the amount of time that players will have to volunteer to sub.
Referees are appointed to each game in the schedule as best as is possible, and in most cases, players will have a designated referee present for their games. In some cases, however, players may be required to referee themselves when a designated referee is not available; most often, this occurs due to referee shortages, in cases where a referee cannot be scheduled for a particular game, or when a referee must miss their game and a replacement cannot be found.
Regulation games must be officiated by at least one qualified referee. Games are said to be officiated under the watch of either a designated referee, or player-referees, both of which are defined below. The way in which a game is set up differs in each scenario and requires further explanation.
A designated referee is one that is scheduled to officiate a particular game. Designated referees are required to be in a referee uniform and are not rostered members of the teams that are participating in that game.
Designated referees act as an independent, nonpartisan judge and are responsible for ensuring that a game begins as close to its scheduled start time as possible. Ideally, referees will be present at least 10-15 minutes before start time; however, especially in cases where a player is involved in an earlier game and is scheduled to referee immediately afterward, a game will sometimes be forced to start later than expected.
If a referee arrives after the scheduled start time, they must set up the game as soon as possible. In all cases, teams will have 10 minutes after game setup (i.e., after the referee registers the game onto the scoreboard) to give their GTGs, even if the referee arrives late.
Due to limitations in the number of available referees during a season, as well as the inherently unpredictable nature of referee attendance, teams must always be prepared to officiate games on their own if necessary. If it is known that a referee cannot be scheduled for a game, or if a referee is scheduled but does not arrive by the scheduled start time, both teams should take steps to appoint referees from among their own players to avoid lengthy delays and the risk of postponement.
Teams must either appoint one player each to act as a referee, or must agree to allow one player to serve as referee if numbers are limited.
Player-referees may decide, but are not required, to stay out of the game or to dress in referee uniforms, and can participate in a game fully if they so choose. If two referees are used, they must cooperate and communicate with one another, both before and during the game, and must agree on how they wish to share the responsibilities of officiating.
For games that require the use of player-referees, teams, referees and players are all bound to the honor system and should hold themselves to the highest standard of integrity. Penalties are restricted to script-based calls, which cannot be overturned or argued.
The main functions of a player-referee are to call for substitutes prior to the start of a game, and to initiate faceoffs in the proper area of the ice based on the calls that are made. Player-referees may call any conduct-based penalties that are reached by an agreement, and should also present any incidents to management, who will pursue supplemental discipline if necessary.
The results of games that are officiated by player-referees can be protested; if there is a serious concern regarding bias, conduct or improper handling of a game on behalf of one or both player-referees, grievances may be filed with the referee manager.
Contacting the Referee
Over the course of a game, referees will need to maintain communication with both teams and may either relay their messages through captains, contact players individually, or speak/shout through local chat as appropriate.
Players and captains may speak with the referee through local chat at the bench, but should not engage in discussion that is distracting, argumentative, or combative in nature. Players should not shout at the referee unless there is a clear, urgent and valid reason to do so (e.g., indicating a civilian on the ice, puck goes out of play, captain asks for time out, etc.).
Any messages that are related to the team, to any calls made by the referee, or to the rules must be handled only by the team’s captain or acting captain. Players who attempt to message the referee to argue or protest a rule or a call made during the game may receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Team- or rule-related matters should be limited to IM between captain and referee.
Timeouts may only be called by a captain while there is a stoppage in gameplay, either by messaging the referee or shouting in local chat; any timeouts that are called while the puck is in play will be ignored. If a player other than the captain attempts to call a timeout, they will receive a delay of game penalty. In the event that the captain crashes, timeouts may be called by an assistant captain; if no assistants are available, then time may be called by a regular player.
Spectators should refrain from shouting at or messaging the referee during gameplay; if an incident occurs that does not require immediate attention, and if no other manager is present, it is best to wait until an intermission or the end of the game to pass the information along to the referee.
Judgment Calls & Caveats
While most of the calls that are made during a game are handled automatically by the scripts, unusual situations can and do occur which require a referee’s interpretation. As such, referees must be ready at a moment’s notice to make certain calls using their best judgment based on the events that transpire on the ice.
All rulings and penalties which are left to the referee’s judgment cannot be argued while a game is in progress. Captains may speak with the referee or consult the referee manager any time between periods or games to ask for an explanation behind a judgment call. Arguing any call made by the referee during a game may lead to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Referees are given a set of guidelines to follow when making a judgment call; while these guidelines are useful to handle more common events or for comparison if there is a dispute over the referee’s interpretation, they cannot possibly cover all situations that may emerge in a game. When a referee must make a judgment call for cases in which there is no precedent or no definite interpretation of the rules, then the referee is said to be making a call via caveat. Powers of caveat extend to both referees and members of management, and enable both to have a degree of freedom to act independently and make decisions when the rules fail to adequately cover a given situation.
The use of caveats is not common, but is a powerful tool that can lead to the formation of new rules or changes to existing rules; in turn, referees play an important role in the ongoing development of the game.
Referees and managers do not face any consequences for making calls through caveat, and any such calls cannot be used as the basis for a game protest. Consistently poor or incorrect use of judgment calls, however, may lead to a referee having a grievance filed against them and/or dismissal from their position as a referee. Similarly, bad judgment calls that significantly and directly affect the outcome of a game, as well as egregious displays of referee bias, can be used as the basis of a game protest.
When possible, referees should write a notecard describing any judgment or caveat calls that they make in a game in case of an inquiry or a dispute over the call. Management may investigate these calls and if deemed necessary, will request information from the referees who made them.
6.2 - Substitutes
If a team is shorthanded at the start of a game, they may use substitutes to round out their lineup and be able to match the number of skaters that the opposing team has. Substitutes may only be used in a defensive capacity; to be eligible to play as a sub, players must be an active rookie or veteran in the current season, or must be a prospect or returning player who is awaiting placement on a team. Players who are otherwise inactive or are under suspension are not eligible to act as substitutes.
Teams reserve the right to play without subs if they so choose; however, they do not have a say in who can volunteer to sub, and cannot pick and choose certain players to be subs. The referee has the sole authority to post notices to look for substitutes and is responsible for communicating with volunteers and captains, determining whether or not players are eligible to sub, and assigning subs to each team.
Teams cannot argue against the referee’s decisions with regards to which players get assigned to their team; similarly, players cannot argue over which team they are assigned to. Both of these actions may result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (see Rules 4.10f, 4.11b).
There is no limit to the number of times that a player can act as a sub over the course of a season, or to the number of times that a team can request subs. If a team begins to show a pattern of poor attendance, management may explore ways to improve the team’s situation, but the captain is strongly encouraged to seek assistance from their division manager beforehand to have the best chance of reaching a solution while minimizing any detrimental effects to the team.
Using & Replacing Substitutes
Substitutes are meant to be used in a way that will keep the number of players on each team as even as possible. If a team has enough of its own players, then they should not use subs. Teams are limited to using a maximum of two (2) substitutes per game, unless otherwise noted.
If both teams start the game shorthanded, then the maximum number of skaters who may be on the ice through the rest of the game is adjusted accordingly, as listed in the following chart (copied from Rule 1.3):
Starting Situation Maximum # of Skaters/Team
5v5, 5v4, 5v3 5
4v4, 4v3 4
These limits are in place to prevent a team from gaining any significant advantage in numbers over the other if any of its rostered players arrive later in the game. However, both teams can be given subs to help have full squads on the ice if they are eligible to play, and if both captains can reach an agreement before the game begins.
Substitutes are to be replaced by rostered members of the team as soon as those players are dressed, equipped, present at the rink and ready to play. If a team must use more than one sub, then the captain must abide by the following guidelines when replacing their subs:
A) If the team uses a prospect/rookie, as well as a veteran, then the veteran must be replaced first; failure to do so will result in a delay of game penalty to be applied to the captain.
B) If the team is using two prospects/rookies or two veterans, then the captain must decide which sub will be replaced first.
When the referee posts notice that substitutes are needed, prospects and rookies are initially given priority; if they volunteer to play within three (3) minutes after the notice is posted, then they will be given precedence over veteran players. Referees must leave this window of priority open any time that subs are requested, whether in the middle of a period or not; no other subs may step onto the ice until the referee has indicated that the three minutes have passed.
In all cases, volunteers are taken on a first-come, first-served basis and should leave a message with the referee as soon as possible if they wish to play.
Teams are responsible for their own attendance, and each captain must make their best effort to inform the referee before the game if there is a chance that the team will need subs. Referees should monitor the number of players that arrive at the rink for each team; if one or both teams appears to be shorthanded close to the scheduled start time, then the referee should attempt to gather subs in case either team needs players and should also contact the captain(s) or shout in local chat to ask if subs are needed.
If a team must request subs in the middle of a period, and does not call a timeout on their own, then they will be charged one timeout; if a team has exhausted all of their timeouts and makes a request for a sub mid-period, then they will be given a delay of game penalty. Teams may speak with the referee during the 1st or 2nd intermission to request subs without losing a timeout or risking a penalty; however, no subs may be brought into the game after regulation time.
Captains may request to have a sub available on standby if they know that there is a high possibility that the team will lose one or more players later in the game, or if a player is experiencing technical difficulties and no other rostered members of the team are available. These requests should be made prior to the start of the game if possible; at any other time, they are subject to the same rules as any other sub request, as detailed above.
Substitutions For Ejected Players
In cases where a player has received a game misconduct and has been ejected from the game, if their team is left shorthanded as a result, then the game may be stopped briefly while the referee searches for a sub to replace the ejected player. The team captain must indicate whether or not they need a sub to replace the player who was ejected, and the referee should communicate with both captains about the situation with regards to why the penalty was called and which player is being brought in to serve as a sub.
Under these circumstances, a sub is not restricted to playing on defense; for all practical purposes, these subs are considered as a normal player, meaning that they cannot be penalized for crossing center ice and can take any position on the ice.