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If you were going to pick the sole, most important aspect of a hockey game, you would probably say scoring goals, because that’s how you win and lose. Everything else is just a means to an end. You make plays to score goals. You hit people to get the puck to score goals. Everything boils down to trying to get the puck in the other team’s net.

With that being established, what should be a referee’s number one priority? Making sure they see, very clearly, every goal that goes in. Or doesn’t.

That brings us to the Golden Triangle.

This is your basic goal line positioning diagram. As pictured above, “home base” is on the goal line, about halfway between the net and the boards. I was always told you should use the goal line as a sort of slingshot. If the puck is on the same side of the ice as you, you want to be in the corner, and moving up and down along the boards to stay out of the way. If the puck is on the opposite side of the ice, you want to move along the goal line, getting closer and farther from the net as necessary.

This positioning is probably the most important because you don’t want to find yourself far away and unable to see anything when there’s a scrum going on at the net. If there’s a close play happening, you want to be right on top of it. You can’t make a good call if you can’t see what’s going on. If you wave off a goal, or allow one, you need to be able to have evidence of what happened, especially if it’s not extremely obvious that the puck was in the net (i.e. maybe the puck bounced around on the line for a bit before going in; maybe it was kicked or pushed in with a hand; etc, etc). A coach may not like when you wave off a goal, but if you were right on top of the play, then he can’t argue with you much.

A few weeks ago, I was working with a newer ref (which always unnerves me, because I don’t feel like I should be teaching other people how to ref when I still feel like a beginner myself sometimes). As is the habit of people newer to officiating (I probably did the same thing when I started), they tended to stay back a little bit. They hovered a few feet away from the goal line and the blue line.

I think this mostly happens because they’re a little afraid that they’ll get caught or get in the way, but the one piece of advice I felt confident giving was telling my partner to get his butt to the goal line. This goes for the blue line too, because you don’t want to wave an offsides off that could lead to a goal. But if you had to pick a line to really stick to, I’d pick the goal line. And don’t be afraid to get close to the net. Get right behind it if you have to. I watched an NHL game once and at the end of the play, the ref was standing on the back of the net. You do what you have to do in order to make the right call.

The moral of the story here is that being on the lines are important. The goal line determines the end result of the game, and after all, most teams play to win. So stay on top of it. Literally.

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