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Welcome back! I'm sure you heard Peter Forsberg's comments last week regarding Canadian referees in the gold medal game. Seems to me that he was questioning the integrity and impartiality.
Did you think there was anything peculiar about this decision?
I am thrilled that NHL hockey is back and we can all adjust our watches back to the North American time zone!
Initially, I was surprised by the expletive-deleted comments Peter Forsberg made the day before the Gold Medal game and following the IIHF's selection of four North American NHL officials to work the Canada-Sweden game. Even though the officials' nationality and residency slanted exclusively toward Canadian soil, the timing of Forsberg's comments (the day before the puck was dropped) caused me to pause and consider the Swedish general manager's motives.
I've seen plenty of "gamesmanship" from general managers and coaches during Stanley Cup playoffs and finals, but Peter Forsberg's public comments rank up near the top of the list in attempting to gain an advantage and
Peter was not only a world class player but I also know him to be a very intense competitor. That being said, Peter is not a stupid man and made a calculated move in hopes of gaining some advantage for his players against a highly skilled Canadian team. I believe Peter's comments were designed to put the IIHF on notice in the event he felt the need to complain post-game but most importantly to plant a seed in the head of each game official hoping his team might receive the benefit of the doubt when one could be offered. It also became a story the day before the game designed to deflect some of the pressure away from Team Sweden players.
I don't believe that Peter Forsberg would honestly question the integrity and impartiality of the NHL Officials that were assigned to work the game. Kelly Sutherland, Brad Meir, Derek Amell and Greg Devorski were selected on the merit of their work during the Olympics and were regarded as the very best! They are professionals in the true sense of the word. The players have more confidence in the NHL officials' ability than their International counterparts.
Swedish team captain Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings believed that both teams would benefit from North American officials when he was quoted as saying, "We are used to having referees from USA and Canada in the NHL. We know their standards so I think it's easier for us too if the referees are from there." And teammate Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators agreed.
Prior to 1998, the IIHF would not assign an official to work a game in which his country of nationality was participating in. Only 'neutral' officials were assigned. That changed in Nagano with the inclusion of NHL players and officials. The best officials were assigned to the games regardless of their country of nationality or residency.
In response to Peter Forsberg's comments, IIHF officiating manager Konstantin Komisarov issued the following statement on the selection process; "The main factor of the selection of these officials has most of all to do with their experience officiating in high-level competitions. These include Stanley Cup playoffs, World Championship competitions and Olympic competitions. Their nationalities aren't considered as factors nor should they be, we want the best officials working the medal games. We are fully confident that with their experience and professionalism these officials will do their job well and preserve the integrity of the game."
Good for Konstantin Komissarov and the IIHF officiating committee for selecting the best officials to work the Gold Medal game. The officiating crew did an outstanding job and preserved the integrity of the game as Konstantin was confident they would.
Last Sunday, the game was played on Olympic ice in Sochi and not in the media. Peter Forsberg's silver medal-winning Swedish team was beaten fair and square by Canada to take Gold. The officiating was a complete non-factor; regardless of county of nationality. NHL officials are clearly the best in the world.