Saranac Lake — The Tri Lakes area has hosted multiple hockey games and tournaments with little trouble for years, but that may not be the case for the upcoming youth hockey season.
USA Hockey supervisor Butch Martin said tri-lakes regional youth hockey teams may have to cancel games and event tournaments if they can’t find hockey officials for the next hockey season. I’m here.
There is a nationwide shortage of people involved in youth sports. But for Martin, the situation in the Tri Lakes region raises particular concerns.
“We used to have a pool of about 30 men that we could reach out to over the weekend. We could handle almost anything that passed through here.” Martin said. “My pool of 30 is about 8 now.”
Lake Placid’s Martin said some officials have changed jobs, aged or lost interest.
“Specifically, during the COVID years, we did nothing in 2020.” Martin said. “The men were sitting at home and said, ‘Do I have to go back there and be abused all weekend?’
“I probably lost five because of that. Five out of 30 is a pretty good number. Then some got older and decided to cut back, but didn’t really want to. I had other interests.”
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Martin said the situation is not just limited to the Tri Lakes area, but is a very serious problem throughout New York State.
“I have to reach out to the entire state. Previously, I could reach out to the CAN/AM Potsdam area and collect people from there, but they face the same situation. ” Martin said. “They face a situation where they don’t have enough people. I had a weekend where I had to tell the youth hockey people.
Things got so bad at last spring’s CAN/AM hockey tournament that most games were canceled, Martin said.
“We were able to bring in six to eight guys from the Syracuse area to enhance our Midget weekend.” Martin said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Martin has never had to cancel a hockey game or tournament, but he has seen it happen closer to home.
“I know they have in the Albany area and I know they have in the Massena area.” Martin said. “We’ll finish this process and get you there. We’ll train you. We’ll have some games.”
CAN/AM Hockey, which hosts multiple tournaments, sometimes with about 100 games, saw similar challenges when the Olympic hockey rink was upgraded, according to Martin.
“Last year in Nashville, they reached out to us because nothing was going on yet because of the situation at the rink and some of us were out in Nashville.” Martin said. “They ended up working all day. Usually they do two or three tasks, but if you take a few hours off and do two or three tasks, that’s a full day. I worked continuously, but this was too much.”
Martin said the situation is tough right now and he doesn’t want to cancel the match.
“Especially when these tournaments bring in the money. Martin said.
Nearly 50,000 people across the country have stopped working as high school officials after the 2018-19 season, according to a study conducted by the National Federation of High School Associations.
Martin believes a major factor in the decline is parents and spectators yelling at authorities and making them feel like they’re in danger.
“I’ve heard of officials being attacked all over the country. The ripple effects will definitely reach the younger children.” Martin said. “Most kids start around age 14. (Imagine) a 14-year-old goes outside and is yelled at by an adult and quickly distracts them.”
A video of an official being attacked went viral on social media. Although the situation is rare, Martin believes these videos are a contributing factor to staff decline.
“You’ll see clips coming out of these parents going crazy. It can influence young people’s decisions about whether or not to do this.” Martin said.
While coaches and spectators abusing officials will never go away, Martin said the approach is different from USA Hockey’s typical zero-tolerance policy.
“We avoid confrontation at all costs.” Martin said. “If someone comes down and starts screaming, we don’t react right away. Let’s calm them down and see what happens. If they don’t calm down quickly, suspend them.” Or you can tell the organization, ‘This team or this coach was out of control.
Martin said his approach seems to work well, along with the excellent support system from the CAN/AM organizers.
“We seem to be on track. Out of the 40 weekend tournaments, one or two might go wrong.” Martin said.
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Martin, who has been in the hockey world for a long time, said becoming official completed the hockey cycle.
“I’ve been doing it long enough and I’ve been on the board long enough to see a lot of change there and to appreciate the players and the level that’s there and to see the players grow. rice field.” Martin said.
Martin said being an official not only helped him, but it also helped other officials find new appreciation for the game.
“Suppose a young person decides to referee many times and they come back and say, ‘Boy, this is so different from when I was playing.’ I realize now that I was an asshole when I was playing.” Martin said.
More than 20 youth to adult-level hockey tournaments will be held in Lake Placid next season, and Martin is asking for any help he can get.
“You can make $500 a weekend at any of the tournaments here.” Martin said. “It’s definitely worth it. It’s a lot of fun. You stay in the game and you’re with a lot of good people who enjoy the game and go to work every weekend.”
To become a civil servant, you must be at least 14 years old. Martin said he is looking for someone who wants to continue playing hockey regardless of age.
“There are so many games here that someone can jump right in and make money while enjoying the games they grew up with on the weekends.” Martin said.
Martin has said in the past that the process of becoming a hockey official was intense.
Those interested in becoming official must be vetted by USA Hockey as they complete multiple modules, tests, and seminars.
“You’re going to lose people because of it.” Martin said. “They’ve cut it down some. It’s a little better than it used to be.”
First-year staff are now able to attend seminars alongside their peers, according to Martin, who teaches seminars alongside other experienced staff. Applicants then complete a test along with some paperwork to become a Level 1 civil servant.
“Young people stay in the Tri Lakes area until they have experience.” Martin said. “Sometimes there are 15-year-olds who may blossom soon. Potsdam has to climb on weekends, so you could say they need to go out and get some experience. It’s going to be intense and you have to go through a season to get to that level.”
Martin said he’s trying to match officials with the least experience with veterans to make them feel more comfortable and confident before moving them up the ladder.
“Recently, it’s been faster than some people would like.” Martin joked.
If you are interested in becoming an Official, please contact a current Official or Butch Martin at [email protected]. For more information, please visit www.usahockey.com/officialsmembership.