The Elite League has announced it has taken the bold step to reintroduce 4 on ice officials for Challenge Cup games. Starting from this weekend each stand alone cup game will have an extra on ice referee.
It will be a talking for sure as players and fans get to grips with additional referee but the league should commended for bring it in. The addition of an extra import in the EIHL has seen many teams stock up on aggressive agitators and grinders. Already this preseason there has been the late hit on Coventry Blaze’s Jerramie Domish and Brad Leeb’s sucker punch on Sheffield’s Jason Hewitt showing that an extra pair of eyes will be needed.
The four-man system was briefly used by the EIHL before but due to a lack of trained officials was scrapped. The decision to phase the system in will be the first step in bring the EIHL into line with vast majority of leagues in Europe and the World Championships giving the Great Britain players the chance to be used to playing under the system.
There is no doubt that British fans will question many more calls but that situation was the same in the NHL were the number of penalties rose immediately after the introduction of the four-man system. The major question from the fans will be the standard of officiating though.
However the four-man system is a great way to bring in new officials, as there is less pressure on them to see everything and also younger officials to learn from their more established colleagues. It may take some time for British fans and players to get used to the system but by starting with the challenge cup it gives the system a chance to be bedded.
The Elite League did hint that the system could be rolled out for all games as long established referee Mike Hicks said “This is a great way of phasing in the four-man system, which is used in the best leagues in the world.”
Speaking on behalf of the league, Tony Smith added “The system will be monitored throughout the season and we will review the success at the end of the season with a view to the future.”
The new system will be in place for the first time at this weekend’s Challenge Cup games between Braehead and Belfast, Hull and Nottingham and the Fourth derby clash between Fife and Edinburgh.