11 December 2009


Last night, with 5:52 remaining in the third period, the Canadiens scored a goal to tie the game 3-3. The puck was loose in a goal-mouth scramble, and Scott Gomez pushed it over the line. The red light came on, the crowd roared with cheers.

But wait! Enter Chris Lee.

The last time a referee called for the end of a play in Montreal that quickly, Bret Hart punched Vince McMahon in the face.

At some point the NHL must re-visit the way it handles video replay with regards to the timing of a puck crossing the line, the referee blowing his whistle, and a loose puck. If a puck is loose and the referee is out of position, thus unable to make the correct call, why should the call stand? What is the point of investing in all this technology, having all these cameras at all angles of the ice, of having a "war room" in Toronto where League officials can review a play in order to make sure that the correct call is made, if all of it can be overturned by what the League casually refers to as "human judgment"? Why bother with this idea of "getting the call right" if the ability to overturn the wrong call in such circumstances is flatly denied?

Far too often this season we have seen the wrong call. Brad May was denied a goal on a play that was so blatantly obvious it hurts. Goals have been scored when play has continued after a puck has hitting the netting above the glass. So-called "quick whistles" have denied good goals. Even whistles that you don't hear until after the puck is in the net have denied ostensibly good goals, because if the ref intended to blow the whistle that's good enough. There is something evidently wrong with the way the referees are calling games in the NHL.

The NHL also needs to introduce a public accountability system for its officials. Two years ago, NFL referee Ed Hochuli horribly botched a call that affected the outcome of a game. Read the details here. Hochuli admitted his mistake and the NFL held him accountable, downgrading his referee status and making him ineligible to officiate playoff games that season. Hochuli is one of the NFL's most well-known and -respected referees, a 20-year veteran that has worked a pair of Super Bowls. But he was admittedly in the wrong on that play, and the League made sure that he was disciplined for the error. At this time, no such system exists in the NHL. Players and coaches are under threat of a severe fine if they in any way, shape, or form criticize officials for their work. The League does not discuss mistakes that are made on the ice. If the referees are taken to task, we do not hear about it. This must change, for the integrity of the game.


Anonymous said...

Another crying Hab.

Get over it. I've seen the Habs get the dubious call late in the game too many a time to shed a tear for them.

Frunger said...

The quick whistle isn't so much a problem on it's own. I have an issue with the inconsistency.

Sometimes the whistle gets blown as soon as the puck hits the pads. Other times a goalie gets whacked and smacked for 5 seconds before the zebra decides to end it.

It usually causes a tussel or a fight because the defensive players need to protect him if the refs aren't going to.

Consider this scenario that I've seen before. Time is running down and a goalie wants to toss the puck into the corner so that his guys can muck around for the last 10 seconds in a game. The ref blows the whistle as soon as he's got it, even though he's already in a flipping motion to dump it behind him.

Now the losing team has a chance to set up and try to win a faceoff for the equalizer.

I agree. There's sn't any accountability for bad calls in the NHL.

Go Flames. Kipper is a beast right now.

RGM said...

Thank you for your insightful contribution, Anon.

@Frunger: it is amazing how some things get called immediately, while others the goalie is told "play the puck." Earlier in the very same game Price didn't even have the puck in his glove yet and the refs blew the whistle on the play.

Iginla for Team Canada Captain!