Physical Assaults on Officials

Policy and Procedures for Southeastern District Officials Amended August 16, 2016


One of the more disturbing trends in modern society is the tendency by individuals who feel they have been wronged, or who disagree with decisions of persons in positions of responsibility, to seek immediate redress of perceived wrongs by means of violence directed against the source of their frustration. Stories of physical assaults directed against police officers, teachers, workplace supervisors and, increasingly, sports officials, have unfortunately, become staples of the daily news.

To counteract this trend, USA Hockey has implemented a strong national policy to both protect its officials and eliminate violence from the game. Essentially, any participant (player, coach, or team official) that is found to have committed a physical assault on a USA Hockey game official is subject to a minimum one year Suspension from all USA Hockey games and practices throughout the United States. This is followed by a one year Probation. A repeat violation during the probationary period could subject the offender to permanent expulsion.

This summary is provided to all Southeastern District officials to familiarize them with USA Hockey national policy and establish district-wide procedures for officials to follow in the event they become the victim of a physical assault.

It should be noted that USA Hockey sanctions relating to assaults on officials do not extend to spectators and other non-participants. In the event of an assault by a non-participant, game officials are encouraged to immediately notify local law enforcement and pursue a criminal or civil complaint. Additionally, the official should file a USA Hockey Incident Report.

Disciplinary Authority

Except for juniors, disciplinary authority for assault cases is exercised by the USA Hockey affiliate association in which the participant is registered -- not the participant's home team or league. Affiliate associations in the Southeastern District and their respective areas of jurisdiction are:

Disciplinary authority for incidents involving junior players or team officials is exercised by the junior league -- not the home team.

What an Assault Is

A physical assault is any deliberate action by any participant to physically strike, or attempt to strike, a game official on any part of his or her body, on or off the ice, with a gloved or ungloved hand, stick, or any other object, and for which a match penalty (gross misconduct in junior classifications) has been assessed under the provisions of Rule 601 (f.1). This includes deliberately shooting a puck and striking an official with the obvious intent of causing injury. The term “game official” includes both on-ice officials (referees and linesmen) and off-ice officials (scorekeepers, timekeepers, goal judges, and penalty box attendants).

What an Assault Is Not

What to Do

In the event that an on-ice or off-ice official becomes the victim of a physical assault by a game participant, it is essential that the referee (in the one referee/two linesmen or the two referee/two linesmen system) or the senior referee (in the two-referee system) complete the following process exactly, completely, and within the timeframes specified:

  1. Assess a match penalty to the offender(s) at the time of the incident and ensure that it is recorded by the official scorer on the game score sheet.
  2. Immediately after the game and before leaving the rink, write a notation on the score sheet indicating that the match penalty was imposed under the provisions of Rule 601 (f.1) for a physical assault on an official.
  3. Arrange with rink management to obtain photocopies of the game score sheet; alternately a photo via a cell phone will suffice. Separate copies should be made for each official.
  4. Identify any witnesses, other than officiating partners, who could verify or corroborate the on-ice officials' versions of the incident. This includes off-ice officials (scorekeeper, timekeeper, etc.), rink employees, and disinterested spectators. Obtain names, addresses, and telephone numbers before leaving the rink.
  5. Notify the USA Hockey State Supervisor of Officials of the incident by telephone as soon as possible, preferably before leaving the rink.
  6. All On Ice Officials shall complete a Southeastern District Referee's Game Report form via the Southeast District website “ASSAULT ON OFFICIAL” link In addition to the Rule 601 (f.1) violation, be sure to list all minor, major, and misconduct penalties related to the incident and provide complete details of the facts and circumstances, including a description of events leading up to the incident. Use a separate sheet to diagram the relative positions of players and officials, if appropriate. A diagram can be helpful to a hearing board when a participant has gone out of his way to confront an official.
  7. Ensure that each officiating partner completes a separate Game Report giving their version(s) of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. (The narrative portion of the Referee's Game Report and the narrative statements by other members of the officiating team must be written separately and without collaboration.)
  8. The Game Report that is completed via the Southeast District website will automatically go to the RIC, the Director of Administration, and the State Supervisor, as well as yourself. Also forward any additional pertinent information, e.g. items identified in step 4 above, a copy of the game score sheet via electronic mail attachment(s) within 24 hours, etc. to the Director of Administration, and the State Supervisor.
  9. The referee assessing the 601 (f.1) penalty shall create a USA Hockey Incident Report. Details on how to accomplish this can be found at Please note the following: In the narrative section titled “Brief Report of Incident”, insert the following statement only: “This incident is being investigated by the SE District R-I-C, and a recommendation will follow.”

What Not to Do

The conduct and actions of game officials during and after any altercation, dispute, or other potentially volatile situation must meet the highest standards of competence and professionalism and be beyond challenge or reproach. Know and abide by the USA Hockey Officials Code of Conduct. Regardless of provocation, game officials must NEVER--

What Happens Next?

The completed game reports and related information will be screened by the USA Hockey State Supervisor of Officials to ensure that the incident meets the criteria for a physical assault and that the proper penalties have been assessed and recorded. Within the next 24 hours, the State Supervisor forwards the game report and a recommendation to the District Referee-in-Chief, who makes the final determination as to whether the incident constitutes a physical assault on an official.

If the District Referee-in-Chief determines that the incident does not constitute a physical assault, the matter will be referred back to the State Supervisor for coordination of disciplinary action with the local league(s) under the appropriate rule(s). If the District Referee-in-Chief determines that a physical assault on an official has occurred, the matter will be referred to the governing affiliate association or junior league.

The governing affiliate association or junior league will appoint a hearing board, schedule a hearing, and notify the offender(s), officials, and witnesses of the date, time, and place. USA Hockey requires this hearing to be conducted within 30 days of the incident, therefore your adherence to these guidelines is imperative.

The hearing board will review the game reports and invite the offender(s), officials, and other witnesses to describe their versions of events. Questions may be asked by any member of the board to clarify accounts or resolve inconsistencies.

After the hearing, the board will deliberate and render its decision, which will be communicated to the participants by mail and to the official(s) by the District Referee-in-Chief, through the State Supervisor.

There are four questions that must be satisfactorily answered for the disciplinary committee to uphold the call:

  1. Was contact made or attempted?
  2. If contact was made or attempted, can the intent of the action be determined?
  3. If the intent can be determined, was the player's action intended to harm the Official (e.g. If the official breaks up an altercation, and receives an elbow in doing so, by no intent of the player, this is not deemed to be a Match penalty)? You must be able to answer YES to all three of these questions in order to assess a Match penalty.
  4. If the players action was intended to harm the official, did any prior actions of the official contribute to the penalty being called? If you answer YES to this question, then there is no intent, and consequently, no Match penalty.

If You Are Summoned to a Hearing...

A Final Word...

Nothing in these policies or procedures prevents an official who has been assaulted from pursuing criminal or civil complaints through the local courts. There is no USA Hockey policy on this matter. Such decisions, therefore, are left entirely to the discretion of the affected official(s).