As teams across the UK prepare for the puck drop on season 2023/24, the third team on the ice during each game have also been getting ready for action.

Ice Hockey UK Referee Section manages the country’s 250+ on-ice officials who cover all leagues in the EIHA, SIH and Elite League, and they recently completed their 2023 Conference over two days in Nottingham.

Officials from all levels took part in group seminars such as those around the updates to the IIHF Rule Book for 23/24 as well as level-specific exercises including fitness tests for Level 4 and above and skating tests for all levels.

The Conference was opened by Colin Davidson, who took over as IHUK Referee Chief in April succeeding Simon Kirkham. He went through the updates to IIHF Rule Book, the work of the IHUK section to get back to its status pre-pandemic, and our successes with officials at top-level IIHF events.

“This year’s conference has been really good,” said Davidson.

“The main objectives this past year have been to get everyone working together and to try and get back to how things were before Covid hit.

“We’ve had a really good uptake in attendance this year, with all levels well represented from newly qualified officials to our Elite and IIHF guys and girls.

“Having a joint Conference for everyone works well for us as it shows the newer officials the pathway available, and our top end officials are always open to talking and sharing experiences with their colleagues coming through the ranks.”

Davidson also touched on the key IIHF rule change this year – removing the Match Penalty as an on-ice sanction for officials. This clearly defines the role of the officials in calling the penalty, while any supplementary discipline falls to the relevant Associations and leagues.

“We always try to align with IIHF as much as possible and the removal of the Match Penalty this year takes some pressure off the match night officials – they can concentrate on calling the rulebook. It was great this weekend too to have Mike Maidens from the EIHA DOPS team to explain the background of their new process to our officials.”

DOWNLOAD: 23/24 IIHF Rulebook from here

The Conference also heard from Andy Dalton and Amy Prior who’ve officiated at the top of the IIHF system in the past season, they took part in a Q&A with all levels to explain about their fitness, nutrition, training regimes to get to the very highest levels.

“For a relatively small nation our officiating programme punches above its weight when it comes to IIHF – we’ve had Liam Sewell at men’s worlds, Amy at women’s worlds, Dalts at Division 1A, Hollie Neenan at U18 women top division, Danny Beresford also pushing up the levels. It’s great to have these role models here this week integrating with younger officials and explaining what needs to be done to get to the very top, but also to show it is possible for a UK official to do so.”

WATCH: full interview with Referee in Chief Colin Davidson on IHUKtv