Take 1 – I emailed the Director of Officiating asking about the reasons why players are getting kicked out of face-offs so regularly. He got back to me right away with a lengthy, detailed, very informative reply. Here’s some clarity on a few issues starting with when a player is warned as opposed to being tossed from the draw right away.
“There are three instances that the warnings come into play. (1) After an Icing (2) Puck shot out of play by defending team in defending zone (3) the first draw at the start of a power play. After 1 warning is issued, the 2nd face-off violation during that draw, on the same team, would result in a minor penalty for delay of game.”
Take 2 – Many of my questions drew back to the overall procedure of the face-off and what MJHL officials are being asked to do. The goal is to make it as fair as possible. A team trying to get even the smallest advantage will force the officials to toss a player out of the face-off. There’s two main parts to the face-off procedure which involves both linesmen, according to the Director of Officiating.
“The single thing that the linesman dropping the puck can do to maintain fair face offs which minimize the centers from moving is to be in his/her position and set before the whistle has blown with the puck presented. This will immediately draw the centers in. If they are slow, then a firm voice can be used to direct them in. They should not be begged to conform. If they don’t take up their positions promptly, you will see an ejection or warning. Once the referee conduction the line change procedure is done, you will see him/her drop their arm and point to the linesman. The linesman conducting the draw blows the whistle for the ensuing face off, his/her focus should solely be on the centers and having a fair puck drop. If the linesman is set, this minimizes movement of the centers created by the movement of the linesman. If the center man doesn’t set his skates and stick properly after being guided to, this is when you will see an ejection/warning due to a center man infraction.”
Take 3 – The other linesmen, the one who often blows play down because of illegal movement as explained here.
“The back linesman needs to also broaden their focus not only on the players behind but also the players in front. If there is an advantage gained, then he/she should blow the whistle. The last thing we want is a player out front to get an advantage and the puck ends up at the back of the net simply because we expect the linesman conducting an already difficult task to also focus on what’s happening out front. They need to look for any players encroaching into the circle in order to gain that advantage. Hockey Canada rule is that all players must be outside the circle with stick on their side of the hash mark. The MJHL is allowing players to be slightly touching the circle as long as there is no advantage gained. (This is the first step. You may see us move to outside the circle next year) We are being very strict with this and trying to set the standard early on in the game in order to not have issues with it later on in the game. This is why you are seeing more ejections.”
Take 4 – At the end of the day, it’s on the team and the players to properly take face-offs. Officials take their job seriously, have a passion for fair play in sport, and want to do their job to the best of their ability. They are held accountable. They will give room to learn and for players to grasp new procedures and understand what they are looking for. Ultimately, it falls to the players to adapt. It’s not a perfect system and the fake drops need to stop but the quicker officials and players get on the same page, the sooner the game can get back under way.
Take 5 – A new feature is going to be up on MJHLHockey.ca this season, it’s called D1 Diaries. Players who commit to NCAA Div-1 programs talk about the process they went through, how they balance playing in the MJHL while thinking about their future, offer advice to their peers who are perhaps going through something similar, and my favorite part, who they called first after they committed. It’s really great to hear stories about family members who have made an impact or mentors who were beside them from day one. Expecting a big number of Div-1 commits from all across the MJHL, so keep an eye out for that series. Bryce Brant is up now and coming down the road is Luke Mackenzie and Raiden LeGall.
Take 6 – This is an official plea to teams from broadcasters and those watching FloHockey: Just because a jersey or name bars may look cool up closely, does not mean it will look cool or even be seen from a distance. Please think of the children (Simpsons character voice) but really, think about those watching from afar.
Take 7 – Really great to see Swan Valley doing a Hockey is for Everyone night and then auctioning off the jerseys. They are beautifully designed and even if you’re not a Stamps fan, getting one of these jerseys for your collection is a must. It is very easy to get some bids in, go to @SVStampeders on X to get links to the bid site. You only have until December 3rd at 9:00 pm. Get something special, that means something special.
Take 8 – Was able to take in a couple of games in Niverville recently. If you have yet to go to the CRRC, it’s a stop you for sure need to make. They put on a good show and the rink is very nice. I got confused trying to find my seat, but I feel that’s more of a me issue than a rink issue. They’ve adjusted the music and the mic volume too, so it doesn’t feel like you’re at a KISS concert.
Take 9 – I will admit bias here since I get to see his play regularly and watched him going back to last year but anyone who watches him play closely or casually, will say that Noah Szabo with the Pistons is not just one of the best in the province, he’s one of the best defenders in the CJHL. He should be and hopefully will be in the conversation for Top Defenseman in the entire country at this level. The MJHL has produced some elite defenders and Szabo is certainly putting his name among the best to do it in the league.
Take 10 – If you care, good things will happen. Look at Mitchell Rauliuk out of Dauphin, he’s the voice you hear while watching Kings home games. He’s 15-years-old, still in high school and he’s calling games. He works at getting better, he wants to improve, and it shows. Good on him and the organization for giving him a chance and letting him find his way. He’s just one example of how some people get to live out a hockey dream by calling games. Every team has people that care, that want to see not just the team succeed but cheer for the players as individuals. It’s all about getting a shot and making the most of it. It comes down to hard work and a willingness to put in the time. Back to Dauphin, another example is Darnell Duff. Things haven’t been easy, particularly this year, but he still gives it his all, cares about what he does, and works tirelessly to follow his passion. Good things come to those who care and in the MJHL there are plenty of people who truly care.
Take 11 – The Blizzard players are giving back in a very cool way, they act as EA’s in the local schools. One of their volunteers, one of the best volunteers in the entire league, works in the schools and has them set up to help daily. They interact with the kids, they do projects or take little field trips. The kids feel like it’s their lucky day getting to interact with a Blizzard player and it’s a great way to get the players involved. This is again just one example as many teams in the MJHL put work in at local schools.
Take 12 – It came out Thursday morning that there are 547 CJHL alumni featured on USports rosters. I spent more time than I care to admit going over each name, totaling up the total for each MJHL team just in time for the article to be posted on MJHLHockey.ca, so here’s the link to that article showing all the players and where they played in the MJHL 63 MJHL Alumni featured on USPORTS rosters | MJHL | Official League Site (mjhlhockey.ca)
Take 13 – This is a big month for players in the MJHL as they look to lock down spots in the MJHL/SJHL Showcase. This is a big deal for the players. They want a spot. They want to represent and in talking with a fair number of guys, they want to win. This isn’t just an individual all-star type event, the guys want to win. They want to prove the MJHL is the better of the two. In the coming weeks, coaching and support staff will be announced along with rosters. There are going to be some names left off the list that will raise eyebrows but it’s key to note that not every great MJHL player can be a part of the event, some will not play due to injury or wanting to heal bumps or bruises. For those that don’t make it, use it as motivation to get better and earn more looks in the back half of the year. Many, many players all over hockey have stories of being left off a team at some point and all of them will say they used it to fuel the passion.