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In Monday's Habs/Bruins game, there were three questionable/brutal calls against the Habs late in the game - Tomas Plekanec, then Douglas Murray, then Brendan Gallagher. Both Murray and Gallagher had some choice words for the refs and I can't blame them. Mike Johnson mentioned that Gallagher should be careful or he might get more for chirping the ref. What are the rules in terms of what gets you tossed? How far can you go in terms of pointing out to the ref that he just might not be perfect?
Head of English
HOLY TRINITY SCHOOL
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Every official has a unique and individualized flash point that will usually be triggered by a player's physical gestures and/or a choice of words that might include profane or abusive language. What is deemed to cross the line with one official might not get the slightest reaction from another. I am quite sure this philosophy applies in the classroom as well James when you and your colleagues determine what level of inappropriate student behavior will result in a detention.
A one-on-one conversation between the ref and a player can often get heated (even profane) so long as the player doesn't get personal and knows when it's time to skate away. No one appreciates being embarrassed so if a player is overly demonstrative or persists in disputing the ref's ruling with a public tirade witnessed by other players, coaches and the crowd, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will likely be assessed. Slamming of sticks on the ice or boards, along with hand gestures and tossing of equipment can usually garner an unwanted reaction from the referee.
Typically a warning signal is issued to a player when, in the heat of the moment, things start to escalate and the referee shows signs of getting his back up! A veteran referee that has developed relationships and established a reputation with players and coaches can often be cut some additional slack. The veteran might also be less tolerant of player/coach abuse or disrespectful conduct so players know when it's time for them to pull back before they get to the edge of the cliff. The warning signal issued by a ref doesn't necessarily have to be verbal. I found the less I opened my mouth the better, since it often resulted in imposing ultimatums I might not want to enforce at a later point in the game. Statements such as, "one more word out of you; if you do that again," can invite a confrontational response from a player. If I did communicate a verbal 'request' to a player I attempted to do it in a non-threatening fashion and by keeping any negative energy I might be feeling in check.
Once I was well established, I often preferred non-verbal signals in the form of body language, a stern look or a hand signal that indicated I had enough and the player was skating on thin ice. Our seven children around the dinner table one night 'affectionately' termed it the "Daddy Look!" In a game at the Staples Arena in 2006 the LA Kings came onto the ice prior to the national anthem. Future Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille was in his final season and immediately blasted up beside me with his big trademark smile pasted all over his face. Excitedly, 'Lucky' kept repeating that I was "Really Big" and shared with me in all his years 19 in the NHL it was the first time a coach (Andy Murray) dedicated the game day meeting to talking about the referee. According to Luc, Coach Murray said, "Kerry Fraser is the referee tonight and if he raises his arm and gives you a penalty don't open your mouth to argue; skate straight to the penalty box. If Fraser says it's a penalty—it's a penalty so don't 'piss' him off!" 'Lucky' and I laughed as he continued to tell me how "Big" I was.
It is important for a referee to understand that players are never happy when they are assessed a penalty and it is best to give them a wide berth on the way to the penalty box to avoid a confrontation or to appear antagonistic. If a player chases the ref then the onus is clearly on the player and can be held accountable for his actions. I have also seen improper conduct demonstrated by fellow refs that did not diffuse player anger or establish control. Gasoline was thrown on the fire when, on occasion I saw a ref inappropriately yell at a player to, "shut-up and get in the f-**n box". Unprofessional behavior such as this by any official cannot be condoned, defended or tolerated.
A referee must feel the energy of a game and attempt to manage it in an appropriate manner without taking the game away from the players. Last night in Boston there was a surplus of energy in that game that made it exciting; some of the negative energy even contributed to the entertainment value. While we can scrutinize and disagree with some of the calls and non-calls throughout the game I think it is worthwhile to note that the refs also demonstrated some tolerance and self-control. They weren't quick on the trigger and allowed the Montreal players to vent their frustration before stepping into the penalty box on a few occasions.
I felt the cross-check penalty to Tomas Plekanec for pushing Brad Marchand to the ice was a weak call and a byproduct of the incidental contact between Plekanec and Tuukka Rask 190 feet earlier. Douglas Murray, on the other hand, was assessed a legitimate penalty that is most often called once he removed his hand from his stick and wrapped and spun Chris Kelly off the puck. Brendan Gallagher had the most valid complaint as he surgically positioned and lifted his stick below the lower hand of Gregory Campbell to separate Campbell from the puck on a breakaway. Even though Gallagher's stick slid up the shaft of Campbell's stick and made momentary contact with Campbell's bottom glove the stick check had already been executed and should have been ruled a good defensive play. The fact that it was determined to be a foul by the referee his best response should have been to call a penalty shot since it had occurred from behind. Thankfully, there was no point to center ice and no unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed when Gallagher protested the penalty call.
James, the best way for a player to respond when a ref doesn't make a "perfect call" is to do what Coach Andy Murray suggested; "go to penalty box and don't piss the ref off." I would also add, once the penalty has been served approach the ref and calmly attempt to plead your innocence. It just might plant the seed for a budding relationship to develop with the referees.