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Fraser: Let the referee in the right position make the call

Kerry Fraser
4/3/2012 6:23:41 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!

Hi Kerry,

I was watching the Oilers/Kings game last night, and one burning question I've been wondering for a long time is why are there so many boneheaded calls made by back referees who are more than 100 feet away from a play going down in front of his partner. All three penalties against the Oilers were awful but the worst was the one that turned a great defensive play by Tuebert into a minor penalty. The lead ref saw and recognized Teubert knocking the puck away from Dustin Brown (I think?) well before minimum contact was made with Brown, who fell more because he was surprised by the poke and couldn't stop in time from crashing into the net. As clean a poke as you could hope for. The back referee a mile away makes the call. 

Honestly, this happens a lot. I was taught my first year of reffing to defer to lead ref unless you observe that an infraction was out of his line of view. In the NHL, too many refs try to be heroes and make a call they have no business making and by virtue, undermine their partner. Why hasn't this been addressed since the two ref system was instituted?

David Schaefer, Toronto

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Kerry,

Watching the Oiler game against L.A. and Colten Tuebert gets called on a tripping call as Dustin Brown was cutting into the slot for a shot. Tuebert slides, hits the puck first with his stick and Brown crashes into the net. But wait, there's a penalty for tripping from the back official! Give me a break, what view does this guy have....none!

This is another looooonnnnnngggg line of terrible and non-calls by your society.

Please let them hear this.

Steve Laughlin

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Dear "Society Members":

I provide you with a performance evaluation/critique offered by David Schaefer and Steve Laughlin as expressed from their game observations. I cannot defend the tripping penalty called on Colten Teubert.

David also offers some sound advice that he learned early in his officiating career that could prove beneficial as some of you move into playoff competition next week. I am sure that everyone who reads this column will join me in wishing each one of you the very best of luck.

David and Steve, when properly executed, the two-referee system is an art form similar to synchronized swimming where movements are fluid and transitions of coverage are made seamlessly without any gaps. You expect the same performance from one to the other. A marginal or poor call made from a long distance disrupts the game flow process. It is like throwing an anchor to both swimmers and watching them sink to the deep end of the pool at the same rate.

As individuals, each ref must trust his partner's ability and judgment. Trust is especially crucial when the closest referee to the play, in his primary area of coverage, has an unobstructed view and can be seen looking directly at the play. When one member of the team steps outside this box and imposes himself from a long distance away, he better make absolutely sure that his call can be defended through a replay.

It annoyed me greatly when I had a good sightline on a play (sometimes as close at 15 feet away) and deemed that no infraction had been committed, only to hear a whistle blow from 100 feet away. I usually moved my feet in advance to gain a good sightline and felt my judgment was pretty solid most of the time, similarly to the low ref last night that judged the Teubert poke-check perfectly.

Whenever a phantom call was made in my area of coverage, I would have a productive conversation at a commercial stoppage or between periods. If long distance calls began to happen more consistently with certain individuals, I initiated a discussion prior to games we were assigned together.

I started such pre-game conversations by saying, "When I am the back referee and I see you looking directly at a play that is in your area of coverage, I am going to trust your judgment to make the right decision. I will lay off the call unless it is something major that I know you could not have seen properly. On the other hand, when I am looking directly at something, please trust my judgment and you step up only if you believe it is major and must be called from your perspective. Know that the replay will always be our check and balance as to what we call or don't!"

When I worked games with colleagues such as Bill McCreary, Dan Marouelli, Don Koharski, Rob Shick and current referees Kelly Sutherland and Wes McCauley, the game was officiated like synchronized swimmers from one end of the rink to the other. Last night in the Staples Arena, there was absolutely no reason for the back referee to impose himself by making an incorrect long distance judgment on Colbert Teubert's great defensive play.

First of all, he should have seen that his partner down low was in good position with an unobstructed view and focused on the action/puck carrier as was his primary responsibility.

Secondly, when Teubert dove and lunged forward with his stick, it would be difficult (if not impossible) for the back referee to accurately determine if Teubert had contacted the puck with his stick prior to any degree of contact with Dustin Brown's skate/leg. From this deficient position, a guess would have to be made as to whether Teubert had made contact with the puck first. If you have to guess as a referee, you are better off not raising your arm!

Phantom long distance calls such as this one must be avoided by the back referee as the game moves into the final week of the regular season and into the playoffs. It is far better to "trust" the judgment of your fellow referee if he has a closer perspective and better sightline.

The two-referee system is required in today's game and can work very effectively when properly synchronized. It's always best when the referee makes a call with his head above the water.

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.

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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