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Why It Matters

Zero Tolerance was instituted by USA Hockey in an effort to eliminate the kinds of negative behaviors that have become all too common in the game of hockey. HockeyCat supports Zero Tolerance, because it creates a positive environment for children to play, sets expectations about behavior and gives officials and rink administrators the tools necessary to deal with unruly behavior.

While Zero Tolerance has long been in some other sports, such as Lacrosse, it is relatively new to Hockey, Football, Basketball and Baseball. In Baseball, Football and Basketball a coach berating an official is called "working him" and is considered an accepted part of the game by some. While good natured questioning of calls, sometimes referred to as begging, has been and will always be part of any activity. Zero Tolerance sets clear limits on how far coaches, players and fans can go.

Some people view USA Hockey's guidelines as another example of how Hockey is a more "barbaric" sport. However, many officials who work other sports and hockey have noted that Hockey Officials face less abuse than some of the more traditional sports here in the US. These officials applaud USA Hockey for taking a positive, forward-thinking approach to the Zero Tolerance Program, including providing free Zero Tolerance Posters to anyone who asks. Other sports would do well to follow USA Hockey's lead.

Sadly, every year soccer, football, baseball and basketball offficials are assaulted, spit on, bumped or injured by fans, players and coaches alike. Most sports have some sort of discipline, but few have gone as far as to promote Zero Tolerance in the same manner as USA Hockey. Follow the links below to get more information about Zero Tolerance.

Click Here for Zero Tolerance Poster Information

Assault an Official - Go to Jail

If you have ever wondered why officials do not seem that intimidated by physical threats, it has to do with the fact that they know something most people do not. Assaulting an official is a crime in most states.

Of course, assaulting anyone is a crime, but in many states there is special legislation to provide additional penalties (for example: it is a felony to assualt an official in North Carolina). Anyone considering assaulting an official should also realize that officials are part of associations that generally will provide full legal support to their members. Just something to consider before resorting to physical violence.

Below is the full Zero Tolerance Policy, courtesy of USA Hockey - reprinted hear with permission of USA Hockey.

The Zero Tolerance Policy

In an effort to make ice hockey a more desirable and rewarding experience for all participants, the USA Hockey Youth, Junior and Adult Councils have instructed the Officiating Program to adhere to certain points of emphasis relating to sportsmanship. This campaign is designed to require all players, coaches, officials, team officials and administrators and parents/spectators to maintain a sportsmanlike and educational atmosphere before, during and after all USA Hockey-sanctioned games. Thus, the following points of emphasis must be implemented by all On-Ice Referees and Linesmen:


A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (Zero Tolerance) shall be assessed whenever a player:

  • Openly disputes or argues any decision by an official.

  • Uses obscene or vulgar language at any time, including any swearing, even if it is not directed at a particular person.

  • Visually demonstrates any sign of dissatisfaction with an official's decision. Any time that a player persists in any of these actions, they shall be assessed a misconduct penalty. A game misconduct shall result if the player continues such action.


A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (Zero Tolerance) shall be assessed whenever a coach:

  • Openly disputes or argues any decision by an official.

  • Uses obscene or vulgar language in a boisterous manner to anyone at any time.

  • Visually displays any sign of dissatisfaction with an official's decision including standing on the boards or standing in the bench doorway with the intent of inciting the officials, players or spectators. Any time that a coach persists in any of these actions, they shall be assessed a game misconduct penalty.


Officials are required to conduct themselves in a businesslike, sportsmanlike, impartial and constructive manner at all times. The actions of an official must be above reproach. Actions such as "baiting" or inciting players or coaches are strictly prohibited. On-ice officials are ambassadors of the game and must always conduct themselves with this responsibility in mind.


The game will be stopped by on-ice officials when the parents/spectators displaying inappropriate and disruptive behavior interfere with other spectators or the game. The on-ice officials will identify violators to the coaches for the purpose of removing parents/spectators from the spectator’s viewing and game area. Once removed, play will resume. Lost time will not be replaced and violators may be subject to further disciplinary action by the local governing body. This inappropriate and disruptive behavior shall include:

  • Use of obscene or vulgar language in a boisterous manner to anyone at any time.

  • Taunting of players, coaches, officials or other spectators by means of baiting, ridiculing, threat of physical violence or physical violence.

  • Throwing of any object in the spectators viewing area, players bench, penalty box or on ice surface, directed in any manner as to create a safety hazard.

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