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Fraser: What I would have done on the Hamonic-Orpik call

Kerry Fraser
12/12/2011 3:22:18 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

What would you do after reviewing the Hamonic 'hit' on Orpik (video) after the game?

Assuming you made the same call and after the game realized what had actually happened, would you seek out the coach(es), GM(s) and/or the involved players and apologize for an error in judgment or is this even allowed by the NHL protocol?
 
I realize that refs make far fewer mistakes in a game than do players or coaches but some just seem to get blown up as a referee's job is usually thankless unless you're not mentioned in the post-game comments or interviews which usually means you did your job satisfactorily and that's the most thanks you ever get in the media anyhow. I would love to hear how you would react or feel about the scenario.
 
Thanks from Steve in Nova Scotia

 
Steve:

I can assure you that the entire officiating crew felt bad after the game and not just the referee that made the errant penalty call. There are four sets of eyes that often have a different angle and sight line to rule on a play. When an occasional call of this magnitude is made in error (usually from a less than optimum vantage point) it is every officials hope that one of his partners saw the play as it actually happened and can provide some immediate intervention and assistance to get it right.

Hockey teams win together and they lose together. While the officials are never credited for a win, they can occasionally be singled out in a loss.  Human error and mistakes are part of the game for players and officials alike. Once a mistake becomes obvious after a call has been made there is an ache in the pit of your gut that just doesn't go away quickly. Sometimes it even takes years to forget. (See excerpt from The Final Call re: chapter entitled, "The Missed Call" at bottom of this answer.)

You can rest assured that at least one of the officials saw the replay on the arena score clock after Travis Hamonic had been ejected from the game. I can guarantee you that several of the NY Islander players and the coaching staff communicated to the officials what they witnessed on the big screen and that it was a blown call.

A seed of doubt is created in the mind of the referee and he starts to replay what he thought he saw in his mind. Second guessing the decision takes place until overwhelming evidence will convince the ref that he "blew it."

But wait, all is not yet lost. There is renewed hope that the penalty killing unit will save the referee from his mistake by shutting down the power play.

 Internal cheerleading can take place by the referee. If a power play goal results, there isn't enough water in the Gatorade bottle to dampen the cotton mouth a referee will experience.
 
A referee has to fight the human tendency to want to correct the error - resist that dreaded make-up call because two wrongs don't make it right. You do that, and you're wrong on two counts and all credibility you strive to establish is lost.

To answer your question, Steve, this is what I would have done in this situation. At the first television commercial timeout I would have picked up the telephone at the penalty timekeeper's bench and spoken with the video review official in the building.  I would ask him to look at the play (if he hadn't already) and describe for me what took place on the replay. This would confirm for me whether in fact I had made an error in judgment.

I would then ask permission to speak with coach Jack Capuano, depending on the temperature that he was registering at the time. I might wait until the start of the next period or arrange a quick meeting through the League Security Representative during the intermission.  The security rep would also be present at this meeting where I would sincerely apologize for my error.

I would allow the coach to have his say on the issue. My apology would be conducted in a respectful, civil manner in an attempt to move forward and derail any animosity and anger that a coach would be entitled to feel.  I would shoulder the burden for my error in hopes that the coach and his players would move forward for the remainder of the game not allow be to be a negative influence on them.  In closing, I would ask Jack Capuano to please apologize to Travis Hamoic for me as well.

With another period yet to be played, I would put added pressure on myself to be as perfect as I could humanly be and not allow this mistake to affect any future judgment I would have to make in the game.

Following the game, I would write a report to advise the league that I had requested a discussion with the NY Islander coach to apologize for my error in judgment and that the coach conducted himself in a most professional manner.

The objective is not to miss a call, Steve. When it happens, taking it squarely upon your shoulders and offering a sincere apology to all parties affected is the only answer. 
 
For those that wish to read on I provide an excerpt from The Final Call; Chapter 4 - The Missed Call:

"As a referee, the biggest fear I've always had is that when I blink, something could occur in that fraction of a second that I will miss.  It's also uncomfortable when a player simply passes in front of your line of vision - you worry something fateful might occur.

Was this one such moment? There was an aching in the pit of my gut, a feeling of helplessness, a sensation so awful I wanted to throw up. The only thing to do in a case like this was to seek out help, like an investigator collecting facts before deciding whether to make an arrest and that's just what I did. First I approached Gilmour, and I could see as he touched his chin that there was blood, although it wasn't oozing. My initial thought was that some old scar tissue had been scraped off.  God knows, Killer had enough of that on his face.

Next, I asked him what happened. Doug said, "Wayne took a shot and the follow-through struck me on the chin." To which I responded, "If that's the case, a normal follow-through of a shot is not a penalty," because contact made when a shooter is following through is exempt from a penalty for high-sticking.

Doug said, "OK." He accepted that no penalty was warranted.

My next course of action was to appeal to both linesmen and hope that, form one of their vantage points, they could give me accurate information about had happened. I gathered Ron Finn, who had been at the opposite-side blue line, and Kevin Collins, who had conducted the end-zone faceoff and was retreating to his position on the same side of the ice where the incident had occurred.

With an intensity and urgency in my voice, I asked for their help, if there was any to be had. Both linesmen answered they hadn't had a sightline that could definitively determine what had happened.

It was at this moment that I came to understand clearly that in hockey officiating, it's not always black and white.

And now that aching in the pit of my stomach only intensified, and my mouth went dry. It's the most helpless feeling that I've ever had in any of the 2,165 NHL games that I refereed.

For most of my career, video review of plays wasn't even technically feasible and even today it is not allowed for a penalty call. The play was over and gone, lost to that split second of time and space that seemed like an eternity once Doug's blood started to drip."

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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