On-Ice Officials under Attack from All Sides

Article excerpt

In the midst of the latest referee contretemps, some genuine concerns have been raised about the system the National Hockey League uses in governing its on-ice officials.

Players, while being careful not to allow their names to be used, are saying the refereeing has been bad for the entire playoffs.

Those close to some referees say there is an old boys network in the NHL, which means the same veteran referees are chosen to work the Stanley Cup semifinals and final no matter how well they have performed; that league supervisors can be too heavy-handed with referees; and that some officials can be intimidated by team executives who indirectly control their careers.

Those in charge of the referees and linesmen, NHL director of officiating Bryan Lewis and NHL supervisors such as Wally Harris, both ex-referees, say there is nothing wrong with the system. Lewis says the officials are not over-supervised. What may go wrong occasionally is that officials are only human and may have a bad game now and then.

"At this time of year, Bryan Lewis or (supervisor) Dave Newell can't tell guys like Andy van Hellemond or Kerry Fraser how to officiate a game," Lewis said. "They already know."

The fuss was raised in the wake of Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Referee Dan Marouelli angered both the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs for what they saw as inconsistency.

During the playoffs, the series supervisor meets with the officials on the morning of every game. According to Lewis, these meetings are necessary because often the official has been working another playoff series and needs to be informed about trends in the current series.

Someone who is close to several NHL referees agreed with Lewis, but said the meetings can be a double-edged sword. Poor work in an early playoff round can mean an official is dropped from the later rounds (and loses playoff bonus money), which means some referees become too eager to please the supervisor and change their style of handling a game. …

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