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I hope you address Ron MacLean's comment during the second intermission of Game 4 in Montreal-Tampa series. Basically, he suggested that the NHL should not have used a referee from Quebec, following the Game 3 disputed non-goal, because the referee could be biased towards Montreal.
On Tuesday, the host of the other playoff broadcaster said that a referee from the area should not have been assigned Game 4 of the Tampa-Montreal series after a controversial call Sunday involving another francophone Quebec referee. Do you agree with that sentiment? Coming off a game like Sunday's, should that have been done if it was an official from Ontario for a Leafs game? Or a referee from B.C. for a Canucks game?
Bobby, Jamie and to all Canadians:
Ron MacLean offered a very contrite apology for his initial inappropriate comments during a follow-up segment in the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast when he said, "First of all, I want to say I'm sorry. It's divisive any time you become about French and English in our country. But I didn't intend to go down that path."
We all need to accept Ron MacLean's apology. I have always had the utmost respect for Ron and his sincere apology speaks to the quality of the man more than the personality you see on camera. I know what Ron intended, even though it came out all wrong.
There have been many times when the NHL felt the need to alter an official's assignment in an effort to 'manage' a regular season or playoff series based on an incident that took place in a previous game. I called Director of Officiating Bryan Lewis one time when there was a overlap in the assignment process that would have resulted in me working six of seven road games for the Montreal Canadiens. It was just an assignment glitch that was quickly adjusted to avoid overexposure of a referee to one team.
Another time, VP of Hockey Ops Brian Burke assigned me as a last-minute addition in a Habs-Flyers game after Lyle Odelein threatened to 'get' Eric Lindros following a fight between the two players in the first game of a home and home series. I was also reassigned to work a return grudge match between Ottawa and the Leafs following a major battle they had a couple of nights earlier in Toronto.
In the 2004 Stanley Cup Final between Calgary and Tampa, an initial assignment schedule for the refs was doomed to fail from the very beginning. The referee pairings of Bill McCreary/Stephen Walkom and Brad Watson and I were assigned to work all of our games in the same venue. (Watson and I were assigned to Games 3, 4 and 6 in Calgary while the other crew was in Tampa for 1, 2 and 5).
Series traditionally heat up as they progress and it was a suicide mission to have the same refs work in the same venue. Following Game 5 in Tampa a meeting was held in the officials' room and I was informed by Colin Campbell and then Director of Officiating Andy Van Hellemond that Brad Watson and I were off Game 6 in Calgary. Nobody informed Brad Watson and he learned of the change the next day at the Denver Airport when 'Wats' overhead members of the media talking about the assignment change as they were connecting onto his flight to Calgary! I returned to work Game 7 in Tampa with Bill McCreary.
These kinds of adjustments in the assignment process are reasonable and necessary at times. Ron MacLean, as a referee himself, would certainly understand this type of logic. What Ron should have thought of before he embarked down a self-admitted "divisive" path is that whenever he pulls on his striped jersey, he's no longer from his hometown or even a star television host. In that moment, and in the performance of his duties, Ron is an impartial, unbiased referee that is empowered to place his integrity and that of the game on the line. He cares not what teams are playing or if they are from the town that he lives in. It matters not to Ron what colour their team jerseys are or the crest on the front.
It is his duty as a "referee" to perform to the very best of his ability without prejudice or bias. I know that Ron MacLean performs those duties without question every time he pulls on that striped jersey.
NHL officials are no different in this regard. When they pull on stripes they are professional people with strong character and integrity. They too perform their duties to the best of their ability and are paid to be impartial. We can criticize an official for a poor call or even our perception of their level of competency. What should never be brought into question is any perceived bias based on where an official might make his home or his family heritage.
The referee in Ron MacLean understands these facts as well as I do.
Ron - a consummate professional and a man of character and integrity - sincerely apologized for his slip up and brief act of misconduct. As such Ron needs to be forgiven. Time to move forward.