Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I will give you full marks for your comments on the Pens/Bruins fiasco...100 per cent bang on...that had to be the worst display of "game management" I have seen in a while. Kerry, I'm an old timer, spent about 11 years wearing the black and white stripes and saw a lot in my day. What I don't get and never will is the reluctance to allow Linesman to be more involved in decision making. And no I am not talking about having them watch for more, Lord knows with the speed of the game they already have their hands full.
HOWEVER, how many times have we seen blatant offences with NO call only to wind up with supplementary discipline? It happens routinely and you cannot tell me that in many of these cases one of the Linesmen did not see the blatant offence occur? Case in point: Phaneuf's hit on Sunday night...how in the world do 4 (four) sets of eyes not see that as a direct hit from behind...no call but he has a hearing! And I am a LIFELONG Leaf fan!
Point is if they (the League) are REALLY serious about cleaning up the game, then the culture amongst Officials has to change. You have four sets of eyes out there they should USE them and it can be done with undue burden...as I pointed out, not asking them to LOOK for more, but when they see it, they need to be able to call it.
It is called "CHECKING YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR". This should not be a slight against the Referees...the game has changed dramatically. It's faster, harder, players are bigger and more mobile - it's time to catch up.
Thank you for the thought-provoking question. You too sir are bang on with regard to many of the shortcomings that we see take place on almost a nightly basis in the current two-referee system. I have to question an apparent lack of coaching and the accountability process that NHL Officials are currently being held to when we witness similar plays that are often misjudged or missed.
From your experience as a referee Jeff, you know that you have to position yourself in advance of the play to acquire the best possible sight line to make the call. I have made reference to this crucial aspect of officiating on many occasions in this column. When a call is missed, the referee most directly responsible for that call often has an obstructed view of the play. Yes, the game is faster and the players are certainly bigger, but there are too many "puck watchers" currently wearing black and white stripes that don't see the game in advance.
Given the human factor, we know (and can accept) that calls will be missed; after all nobody's perfect. There are also a number of infractions currently in the rule book that Linesmen are allowed to call (hits from behind like the one Phaneuf delivered on Kevan Miller being one of them!) Linesmen have a difficult and specific job of their own to do; one that is very important and can also impact a game. Conferences between the four officials take place whenever a goal is scored and there is a question that goalkeeper interference took place or to determine if the puck was shot directly over the glass. A correct decision has often been rendered through these types of meetings of the minds.
Many of the young NHL Officials have been fast-tracked through a two-referee system where they never really had to fend for themselves. There was always another person to rely on which inhibited their growth and experience as a young referee. I maintain that to be most effective, a ref has to work like he is the only set of eyes on the ice. He should want to see everything that takes place with his head on swivel even though he is responsible for certain specific areas of coverage in the two-referee system. The better referees in the NHL work within the current system to support their partner but also like they are the sole referee in the game.
The confidence and authority of the modern day NHL referee has gradually been eroded through the safety net and hands on approach that the Hockey Operations Department exerts over both the officials and the Officiating Department. Telephones installed in the officials' dressing room provide a direct link to the Toronto Situation Room. The "hot line" can ring between periods if Hockey Operations personnel deem it necessary to provide input to the officials. The last time I checked, while many of them were excellent players, none of them refereed a game in the league!
Far too many times I see minor penalties assessed for what should easily be judged as a major or match infraction such as James Neal's knee to the head of Brad Marchand. Either the referees' judgment needs considerable tweaking or they prefer to rely on supplementary discipline to suspend a player if the Player Safety Committee deems it violent enough.
Video review is an excellent tool to verify the scoring of a legal goal but that decision also is taken out of the referee's hands and electronically transported to Toronto. That is of course, unless the Situation Room can't make a clear and firm decision in which case an "inconclusive verdict" throws the call back in the referee's lap who has yet to see a replay of the incident.
I don't think it's so much about checking one's ego at door Jeff. I believe it's more about developing proper coaching techniques and to empower the officials to be the very best that they can be. While there are a number of officials that do a terrific job there is much work that is required in this area. The NHL Officials, to a man, are good and dedicated people. They deserve the very best opportunity to succeed. It's in the best interest of the game they are given the proper tools to do so.