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StealthElephant 06-16-2004 07:01 PM

Dare I go there....will the NHL ever change?
Well another season has come and gone. The talk of obstruction and holding coming to an end is about as likely of happening as a hard cap. As a frustrated Flyers fan (and every other Philly sports team) I have to wonder if the NHL will ever fix what I consider the worst part of the sport....the referees.

I never understood why referees in the NHL have no accountability. You can't comment on any of their calls without a fine, it seems like they will never say they made a wrong call.

My best example would have to be from this season. The Flyers were playing the Dallas Stars. The Flyers had just lost possession of the puck in the Dallas zone and so Donald Brasher and two Dallas Stars were heading back down the ice. They were about 3 feet from Turco very close together. One of the Dallas players went to turn around to head up ice, as he made a quick turn he swung his stick around, nailing his FELLOW DALLAS teammate in the head. His teammate, not knowing what just happened, did the normally song and dance every player does when a stick makes contact to their head. He cocked his head quickly like he just took a punch from the heavyweight champ, and went down to he knees. During this entire time Basher's stick was on the ice, it never left the ice. One of the referees, turning around just as the Dallas player goes to his knees, sees Brasher, and instantly calls a penalty. As 20,000 Flyers fan boo and watch the replay on the jumbotron, Brashers pleas fall upon deaf ears. The Flyers managed to escape the penalty without yeilding a goal, but they never should have been down to begin with. The Dallas player was hit by his own teammate, yet Brasher was given the penalty, simply because there was a Dallas player going to his knees holding his head. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but I know I never saw that referee come out in the post game and say he was wrong. I doubt the league did anything to him.

Personally, I feel that ever since the NHL went to a 2 referee system that the consistency of officiating in the NHL has gotten worse. There are too many young refs, most of which I believe call too many penalties. I am a firm believer if you call a penalty at one end of the ice, you must call it the exact same way at the other end, no matter if there are 15 minutes left in the period or 85 seconds left in the 3rd with a tied game. I believe referees who attempt to call every penalty they see hurt the game. Most calls are borderline to begin with. A slight hook, slight obstruction etc etc. When a referee gives out 5 penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game for little things that could go either way it is inevidable that those SMALL BORDERLINE calls he is making will start to be missed. One team gets penalized 3 times for slight hooks, yet they see their own players getting "slightly hooked" the exact same way and no call is being made. Apparently the referee does not believe those hooks to be penalties. There comes the borderline judgement consistency problem.

Kerry Fraser tends to call games fairly loosely. As long as the game is under control he won't call a penalty unless it is obvious. He doesn't tend to nit pick little things, he lets the players play. Then comes Bill McCreary, who, while he DOES call the game the same at both ends, he tends to call everything, borderline and anything around that. If you are only calling obvious penalties, chances are you will see 90% of those. If you are calling every little borderline call, you are probably only calling 50% of them, because you can't possibly see EVERY BORDLINER call. So most nights, there is one team who is on the PK much more then the other team, simply because the ref is calling EVERY LITTLE THING, but he doesn't see EVERY LITTLE THING, he is only calling every little thing that he finds.

Even worse is when you have a game where both McCreary and Fraser are reffing. Kerry Fraser is standing in the corner behind the net, the players are battling, one player gets knocked down from behind. Fraser makes no call, because it wasn't dangerous or dirty, the players were simply battling for the puck. Yet 100 ft away at center ice McCreary will call that penalty. Personally, I've seen way too many penalties called by the referee standing 100ft away at center ice, while the referee who is standing 3 ft away makes no call, probably because the referee standing right there has a better perspective. That kind of refereeing, where the refs call the game differently, makes it terrible for the players since they have no idea what is or is not a penalty. One team gets penalized for hooking, yet 5 minutes later the team that just was penalized for hooking sees their own teammate getting hooked in the same way, but no call. There is no consistency.

I could probably go on forever about how big the referees are suckers for the high stick. I've seen players have a stick come within 2 inches of their face, it never actually touches them, but their natural reaction is to jerk their head back, either to protect themselve, or trying to accentuate what they believe is going to be a high stick. Either way, despite the fact the stick never makes contact with the head, the ref sees a stick in the air near the players head, and they see the players head jerk, so they call a penalty even though the player was never hit.

On the same token, one game the Flyers had just taken a penalty for high sticking. A fair call. However a few minutes later, Roenick is hit in the face with a stick and is completely bloodied. A referee is standing 5 feet away from him as he is hit in the face, Roenick is screaming, blood dripping down his face, yet no penalty is called. The ref tells him dryly "I didn't see it.". Standing 5 feet away and he didnt' see it so there is no penalty. Personally, it's the referees job to see it, so he should either be fired (like the union would allow that) or he should be fined for poor performance (again, will never happen).

The fact that the best referees get to officiate the playoffs is kind of pointless, since the regular season and the playoffs might as well be considered two completely different planets, since the officiating changes so much in the playoffs. You will almost never see the borderline calls in the playoffs that you see half a dozen times a night in the regular season. Once again, no consistency.

So we come back to the all mighty accountability. The referees have none. They continue to be suckers for cheap calls, yet are so inconsistant it makes the game worse to watch, and I must believe worse for the players to play. While the NFL Officials can claim at 95%+ accuracy rate....the NHL is easily FAR behind. Any given game there are probably 2-3 that should have been made, at least 1 call that should be not, and probably 2-3 borderline calls. I dunno, maybe its just me. Or maybe there is a reason why hockey is the least watched major sport.


Bran 06-16-2004 09:54 PM

My example of bad officiating is none other than that game seven call of the Cup finals with a minute left to go. If that was the regular season you'd make that call on Ference, but game seven of the cup finals with a minute left to go and the score is was a shame. Other than those types of calls, i think the NHL refs do exactly what they are told by the gentlemen' upstairs.

And often I think refs in all sports get a bad rap and they are the easiest to target. They're all human, just like the rest of us, and they do make mistakes...and obviously in big games too. As far as refs not admitting a bad call, you can't really say that since we never get the opportunity to hear them after the game. I've seen a lot of make up calls this year though, which I appreciated when a ref made a bad call and knew it...he'd draw a make up call on the other team.

I believe that a ref can never cost you a game. Even if it's the final second or minute left. It's ultimately the players who determine the outcome of a game. There will be bad calls, but part of sports is about moving on and overcoming all the circumstances.

StealthElephant 06-16-2004 10:17 PM

I just don't understand why the NHL allows such a level of extremes when it comes to referees. Some games you will see two teams beating the hell out of eachother, knocking eachother down, battling, and then out of nowhere, even though the game was being clawed out for the past 45 minutes, they will call a penalty that could have easily been called before, but suddenly they decide to make a call. Other times there are just too many penalties and the game has no flow. From game to game there is absolutely no consistency.

The playoffs normally are pretty well officiated, but thats because its mostly the more experienced referees. The regular season from game to game is pretty bad alot of times. As a fan not just of the Flyers, but as someone who watches games whenever ESPN shows them, it just seems like the NHL could dictate to the referees to control the game, make the obvious calls, but let the players play. Some of the newer referees just make too many calls. I've noticed a couple of the newer referees like to make 2-3 weak/borderline calls in the first 10 minutes to sort of "lay down the law" then they won't call those kind of thigns again. But it ruins the flow of the first period, and puts the players off base.

If the regular season was refereed like the playoffs I would be happy. No weak calls, the only thing about the playoffs was as you mentioned, not all referees are willing to make a call depending on what part of the game. A penalty that will almost 100% be called in the first two periods, might not be called in the last 5 minutes with some referees. In the playoffs the referees also tend to let some players get away with more and more and more. Just too many weak calls though.

Bran 06-17-2004 01:04 AM

I agree about the referring being inconsistent, it's been like that for the past 10 years. Personally, i'd like to see them making more of the brutal non-calls in the playoffs. I agree about letting the players play and everything, but over the years there are some hits and charges that absolutely needed to be called. I am tired of seeing guys get muged in the playoffs with no penalty. Maybe this year was the only case, but in years previous you'd only see a call if somebody literally couldn't walk anymore.

If the NHL told the refs to call the regular season like they do the playoffs, guys would be out left right and center. You'd see injury after injury and players would be worn out before the playoffs even started. I am in agreement with you on seeing consistent referring with the NHL. Regular season and playoffs are completely night and day. The more physical teams have the advantage in the playoffs rather than the skilled and more talented teams.

StealthElephant 06-17-2004 12:12 PM

Well as I mentioned, the officating in the playoffs is fairly good, except for the tendency to let players get away with a little too much. I personally don't believe in penalties just because the player was hurt. You can cream somebody with a body check and 9 out of 10 times they pop back up, the crowd is happy, no one is hurt, the game goes on. But sometimes that exact same hit does hurt someone, and it is a penalty not because of the way the hit was made or because of intent, but only because someone was hurt.

I think if the players knew the game was going to be called like it is in the playoffs all the time, they would pace themselves and control themselves. Just let the little stuff slide, let the players battle, but maintain control. If players are constantly pushing and shoving at every stoppage then yes, maybe matching roughing penalties should be made to calm it down. I just hate seeing weak hooking/tripping/obstruction calls. If a player is screaming down the ice with the puck with 30 seconds left, and his team is losing 2-1, if he is hooked slightly he is not going to go down, he will fight through the hook and try and make a play. Oppositely if it is the 1st period and it is 1-1, and his arm is getting hooked, many times the player will allow himself to be pulled down to draw a penalty. Look at the play Kovalev made, his hand was slashed, he tryed to accentuate the play and draw a penalty, unlike the regular season, the refs were not going to give him that, and his team lost out because of it. I hate those kind of weak calls.

Referees also call a penalty for the MOTION of a slash. Not taking into account for intent or how hard. Some slashes can't even be classified as a slash. Just like a slight tug is not a hooking call, the hook isn't called based on the motion, but on how hard/long you hook the person. Yet weak slashing calls are made all the time. I don't believe the more physical team always has the advantage, look at Mark Recchi, he's 5'8" but he bangs like hes 6 inches taller. Some players will not play as hard as required. Look at some bigger players that simply do not perform or go into the dirty areas and they are criticised for it. Most of the teams are fairly even if you look at average weight/height, its how the team uses it. John Leclair is big, but he is no where near as effective as he used to be.

lmanchur. 06-17-2004 08:18 PM

Hockey is the hardest game to play... and it's the hardest game to officiate. Theoretically, it should be easier to officiate with 2 officials. It probalby is, but it is way too inconsistent. There's not really much one can do about it, except for the NHL to set standards at the start of the year (which I'm sure they do) and make sure they are upheld by penalizing refs who dont' comply (which I'm sure they do not).

Theoretically you should ref the game the same in the first 5 minutes and the last 60 seconds. I think it can be that way, and it probably is in most cases, but between one game and another it is completely different.

I like the way Fraser calls most games, but hate McCreary... though he was good in the last 3 games of the finals this year.

StealthElephant 06-17-2004 09:26 PM

lol, I absolutely HATE McCreary....every Flyers game he officiates he has at least 2 complete BS calls. The only thing McCreary does right is that he doesn't care what the score is or how much time is left, he doesn't let calls slide because it's late in the game etc. Fraser is probably my favorite referee, plus he gets bonus points for the hair.


make sure they are upheld by penalizing refs who dont' comply (which I'm sure they do not).
That is where I believe the union comes in. In a perfect world, referees would get fined for consistently making bad calls and for missing calls. The problem is, I doubt any labor union on earth would ever accept that into a contract, that the referee loses money for every bad call. The only real power the NHL has is picking who officiates the playoffs based on quality, but that still leaves 82 regular season games with inconsistent officating and referees who miss or make bad calls with no accountability. There was a newer referee this season, Angus, he would not let a fight happen during one Flyers game. He kept breaking the players up, getting between them, and as two players went to start swinging he jumped in the middle. It was like he was on a mission to make sure not a single fight happened under his watch, meanwhile you have 20,000+ philadephia fans (and me screaming at my TV) booing because they paid, on average, 100$ for a ticket, and the damn referee won't let the players fight. He also made several weak/borderline calls, he just tried to control the game too much. He was fair in the calls in that both teams were given weak penalties, but it ruins the flow of the game. Plus the fact that the Flyers are a much better 5on5 team then a special teams....I was fuming.

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