Last season around this time, I did a Q&A with the USHL's Director of Officials, Scott Brand. I decided to ask Scott if he'd be willing to do it again, and he was more than happy to answer a few questions for the blog.
Thanks to Scott Brand for taking some time to answer a few questions!
1. Which referees have moved on from the USHL?
Referees: Chris Pitsocia-ECHL, Brett Sheva-ECHL, Kevin Curtis-CHL, Andrew Wilk-ECHL.
Linesmen: Ryan Daisy-ECHL, Brian Oliver-ECHL, Zac Thornton-ECHL, and Morgan-ECHL.
2. Are there any new rule changes that the league will put into play for this season?
No new rules.
3. Along the lines of the last question, what was behind the decision to allow the U18 kids in the league to wear visors this year?
It has been something we have looked at for 25+ years. We believe with more players wearing visors, it will result in less major injuries and more respect among the players. It's a pilot program and we have been given the opportunity to look at the data at the end of the season, and I know the NCAA is very interested in our findings.
4. What are your thoughts on fighting in the junior ranks and the USHL in particular, and is there a movement to ban it? If so do you think that will make the game more dangerous due to stick work and dirty hits?
The 2nd part of the question will not need to be addressed, but if we did, YES it would be more dangerous. First and foremost, THANK YOU for asking about a so called "move" to ban fighting. I think 1-2 so called "in the know" hockey experts or fans hear part of something or see something and never get the facts. THE UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE IS NOT LOOKING TO BAN FIGHTING. Please everyone re-read the last sentence. Now we are addressing it and talking about fights-YES. We must keep the players safe is first and foremost, they can keep their helmets on, or at least start with the helmet on and still fight when they are wearing a visor. Newer hockey players in general don't know-why, who, how, and even when to fight. A true hockey fan understands we must end what I call the "facebook" fight, they make our sport look like professional wrestling and damage our sport. Two players square off for no reason-just stupid. A goaltender gets bumped hard, or an elbow is thrown or liberties are taken, I think we all understand a fight may occur, and most of us see it as a way of policing the game. I can's say fighting is part of the game, but........
5. Will you be doing any games this season with the 2 ref system? If so, how many?
Yes - 10% of home games, so 6 of 32 games will be done in the 4 man system.
6. Are you concerned that the rule saying once guys take off their helmet they have to go immediately? Will kids be forced to fight before feeling each other out and does the ref have some leeway to use his discretion before calling a penalty?
Well that's really not the rule, the rule is a player can not deliberately remove their helmet to fight. If the helmet comes off in the natural act of fighting (punched off), no additional penalties will be assessed. The officiating discretion would come in when the official is unsure if the removal was deliberate. It's like the elbow pad rule, you can't deliberately remove the elbow pad, but if it comes off during the fight as a result of the fight, no additional penalties are assessed. If players do deliberately remove their helmets prior to engaging in the act of the fight- we have instructed our linesmen to step in, again the safety of the player is at stake.
7. Lastly, there have been multiple rumors of USHL expansion in the east, most notably Buffalo. Will there be USHL hockey in Buffalo in the next few years?
There are rumors of the USHL expanding everywhere and I hear them too. I am sorry but I am really not in the know, the league office would be a much better place to start. I think any business/hockey person would realize, yes more teams in the east to fill in the Youngstown/Indiana teams (division) would cut down on travel. I can't speak to any specific cities, I hear the same things, there are a lot of window shoppers. First and foremost we need an arena, I don't know of any arenas that are being built, lots on the drawing table, but none where the shovel is in the ground.