About the League
Sergei Boyarkin is one of the youngest officials in Junior Hockey League. He was born in 2002. The 2020-21 season was his second with the league.
75 referees and 126 linesmen officiated Parimatch Junior Hockey League in the 2020-21 season. Among them were a couple of youngsters. Sergei Boyarkin has been a league’s official since he was just 17 years old. The young linesman looked back on his journey to Junior Hockey League, opened up about the most difficult games along his path and shared how he works with bullying teams.
“Officials’ gestures are in the spotlight. They have to clear and beautiful. Officials practice their gestures in front of a mirror”
“I played hockey in a sports school but after the graduation I wasn’t able to continue my playing career – so I decided to switch to officiating,” explains Sergei Boyarkin. “I knew how to skate and it was something I wanted to be a part of. All I had to do was improve my theoretic knowledge. There are no special demands in the early stages but once you get to a professional level, everything is taken under close consideration – even things like your height come into play. Linesmen tend to be over 190cm tall.
“I have read various textbooks and guides for officials. After I learned the rules, I went to my first camp. We put a lot of focus on the theory over there and then I had to undergo physical testing on and off the ice. The camp went well for me and soon after that I moved on to getting steady practice. My first games were tough. I couldn’t do a lot of things right but as time went on I got better and I started feeling more confident out on the ice.
“As the matter of fact, camps for officials are about constant practicing. We have at least two camps a year. That’s where we are explained the new rules and changes in the rulebook. We put a lot of focus on the theory part at these camps. We also have to succeed at physical tests on and off the ice. Officials’ gestures are in the spotlight. We spend a lot of time working on them. They have to be clear and beautiful. Officials often practice their gestures in front of a mirror and work scrupulously on them.”
“Older junior players perform at high speed”
“I began with officiating kid hockey,” continues Boyarkin. “I worked at Russia Championship with the oldest age group – 2004 year borns – and also with the youngest age group – 2010 and 2011 year borns. There are strong team in every age group and the oldest junior players show shades of major junior hockey already. The boys play at high speed, they skate pretty well, they take strong shots, and that’s why you have to stay alert in those games. In one game there was an offensive rushes developing down a wing, I skated away so I wouldn’t get in the way of hockey players skating up the ice. One boy didn’t notice me and slashed me with a high stick at full speed. I managed to get out of it unscathed. When I joined Junior Hockey League, I didn’t stop officiating kid hockey games. This was my fourth season.”
“The ability to stay calm is a good official’s skill”
“There’s always talking on the ice, banter and chatting. It’s one of the main things about the job,” says Boyarkin. “It’s my job to place the players for the face-off the right way. Sometimes I have to yell when the puck is in play and when the play is dead – if it’s an icing or offside. For the most part talking to players is pretty well-mannered. The ability to stay calm is also a part of official’s job. Sometimes hockey players yell at each other and being rude to one another. When something like that happens, we talk to them in a way they could hear us and cool down.
“Games can go differently. When Tolpar [Ufa] faces Mamonty Yugry [Khanty-Mansiysk], the games are usually pretty tight. There are a lot of difficult moments, pushing and shoving, and so on. In those kind of games you have to keep your hand on the pulse and react fast. But, for instance, Belye Medvedi [Chelyabinsk] never miss up an opportunity to yell at the opposition.”
“I stopped getting nervous after my rookie Junior Hockey League season”
“Between my decision to become an official and my first Junior Hockey League game, two years passed,” continues Boyarkin. “I was a little nervous prior to stepping onto the ice for my first game. I was afraid to get a wrong call or to miss a penalty but everything went smooth enough.
“When I just became an official, I would just pay close attention and watch the hockey game unravel. Sometimes I would miss a penalty or lose track of play. It happens to everyone in the early days. To avoid that you need to play closer attention to your partner and move along with him as one unit, whilst keeping track of the puck. It comes with experience. My second Junior Hockey League season was a lot calmer then my rookie season. While I was still getting nervous prior to every regular season game last year, I am way more confident going into games these days.”
“My goal is to do my job the right way and avoid negatives from the players”
“Here’s a story for you,” shares Boyarkin. “Belye Medvedi [Chelyabinsk] played hosts to Mamonty Yugry [Khanty-Mansiysk]. The visitors skated into the offensive zone and I spread my arms. Chelyabinsk players thought that the play was offside. They got animated and began yelling. Their coach told them the zone entry was clean and the players got calm right away. I do my best not to pay attention to little things like that and focus on just doing my job the right way.
“My goal is to do my job the right way and avoid negatives from the players. It’s very difficult to pull off but that’s something every official aims at.”
“My job can be graded by several factors”
“Game inspector judges the level of our work,” explains Boyarkin. “Everyone of us has his own profile. It’s a little bit like a social network for officials. That’s how we get to know who works at what games. And the game inspector uploads his report for every official individually there, too.
“Grading an official’s work involves many different factors. The way he looks, his physical conditions, number of mistakes made and so on. After the game the inspector writes a report on every official. You’re allowed to make single mistakes but if you keep making the wrong calls on a regular basis, it’s something you can get suspended for. What was a difficult situation I was involved in? I was at the red line and I didn’t a player skating behind me. He was sent a high saucer pass, I didn’t read the situation in a way I should have, I didn’t get who entered the offensive zone first – him or the puck. I made a call and it turned out to be the right call to make.”
“I watch Junior Hockey League games so I would know what to expect”
“I have 50 Junior Hockey League games under my belt now,” concludes Boyarkin. “On one hand, it’s not that bad, on the other – I would like to reach the 100-game plateau. I constantly watch Junior Hockey League games. I follow the teams and certain players so I would know what to expect from them ahead of meeting them. Some hockey players tend to play a little too rough and you just have to keep a closer eye on them. When I first started, I would watch not the hockey game but the way it was officiated. I did my best to learn something and pick up a few things along the way. I constantly learned something new. I kept a closer eye on Sergei Shelyanin and Sergei Gusev, who officiated Kontinental Hockey League games.”