FHL to use four-man officiating crews for remainder of the season

In reaction to Sunday’s incident between Elmira Enforcers owner Robbie Nichols and a Federal Hockey League referee, multiple sources within the FHL confirmed that the league will be using four-man officiating crews for the remainder of the season, with the hopes of having them league-wide for this weekend’s games when all six teams are in action.

And according to Carolina Thunderbirds General Manager Scott Brand, who is now acting as the FHL’s officiating scheduler, four-man crews had been in the talks for the FHL prior to the start of this season.

“This was discussed last summer and we all believed it was agreed to,” Brand said of Wednesday decision. “I frankly have no idea why it wasn’t done – so it was always in cards. Everyone wants it and it is needed at higher level hockey.”

The FHL had previously only used four-man crews for playoff games, while using three for regular season games, including this past Sunday in Elmira.

One potential hang-up on it being fully implemented is there may not be the needed number of referees available for this weekend’s games, so some games may have three officials working them, but we were told that by the following weekend, every game should be up to the four-man crews.

Frankly, this is a great idea and like Brand said, one that probably should have been implemented long ago. In speaking with coaches and GMs from other leagues that go back and forth from three- to four-man crews, like the NAHL, they prefer the four-man version, due to it cutting down on the number of skirmishes and behind-the-play activity.

And if it costs the FHL an extra couple hundred bucks a night to cut down on a lot of that stuff, and potentially stop future incidents like Sunday from happening, then it will money well spent by the league.

It was not immediately clear if the league will be switching to four-man crews full-time for next season, but I have to imagine that with prior talks being close, according to Brand, and the last 10 games or so of the regular season and the playoffs allowing for an extended look at it, that it is very likely that the league could switch to that format for the 2019-20 season.

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