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Fraser: Should NHL referees give post-game interviews?

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Kerry Fraser
6/5/2011 6:46:08 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 have always been curious as to why NHL referees do not have to give post-game interviews, especially in the playoffs.  Since technically the NHL fans pay the referee's salary from revenues generated by their ticket purchases, I often feel like we deserve an answer. In Game 2, I would have loved to have heard an explanation on the Bieksa delay of game penalty and the Peverley slash on Bieksa, which led to a grade A chance.

Joe

Joe:

I couldn't agree with you more about allowing media access to the officials for post-game comments.  It is a position I have always held.  At the very least a pool reporter should have access to the officials and then provide quotes to the rest of his colleagues in the media.   Failing this, an official statement should be released by the vice-president of officiating, Terry Gregson or through the league's media relations department.

The media has access to players and coaches following a game and they can be asked about calls that went against them.  Those responses are always biased and often emotional.  Why not gain a perspective from the person that made the decision?  The media could then provide a more balanced report of an incident to you, the fan.  

The truth is that most of the officials would welcome the opportunity to express their reasoning behind decisions on calls and non-calls; even if it was just an honest statement of, "I missed it - I blew the call." Anyone remember Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce's tear-filled public apology after viewing the replay of his blown first base call with two out in the ninth inning of what would have been a perfect game for Tigers pitcher, Armando Galarraga?  Joyce got a standing ovation for his admitted error when he worked home plate the next day. 

Added insight would be gained by fans through media that were allowed to interview the official responsible for making the decision in question.  Every day that this column is posted, you, the readers are expressing a new perspective that is being gained from 'C'mon Ref'.  I know the same would apply if you got to hear it from the game officials' point of view.

The problem here is the NHL places a seal on the lips of the officials which prevents them from making public comments.  This is beyond just a policy but a term of employment that is clearly spelled out in the Officials Association Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL. 

Under the heading, Code of Conduct and specifically the clause titled Public Statements, it stipulates that, "Each official will refrain from making any public statement concerning the NHL, its Officers or Governors or its policies or any aspect of his duties as an official or any incident occurring in the course of the performance of his duties as an official or about his fellow officials or about any other League or Association with which the NHL has friendly relations, without the express permission of the Commissioner, the Senior Executive Vice-President and Director of Hockey Operations or their designee…"  The officials working the Stanley Cup playoffs are frequently reminded of this condition as restated in their playoff manual. 

As such, you and I are only allowed to speculate on what took place in a game without the benefit of hearing it directly from the horse's mouth.  Although it's old news now, it was reported in the final game of the Vancouver-San Jose series that with 30+ seconds remaining, an icing call was made in error when the puck 'appeared' to strike Daniel Sedin.  All networks stated it as factual through replays they looked at, as did the USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets. 

To my knowledge, nobody asked the linesmen what they saw.  They likely would have told you they saw the puck hit the stanchion and ricochet down the ice.  That is, if access to them was granted.  Worse yet, no official response came from the league to refute what was reported on the broadcast, either prior to going into overtime, after Vancouver tied the game and then ended the series or the following day.  We were all left to conclude (perhaps accurately - perhaps not) that the icing call was made in error.  

One thing l do know for sure is that Hockey Ops watch the games very closely (and sometimes even listen more closely) to scrutinize calls the officials make.

There aren't many games in the NHL schedule that aren't televised.  I had one in Chicago on a week night with the Vancouver Canucks in town.  The game was tied with just under a minute to play.  Eddie Jovanovski had a minor brain cramp in the corner of his end zone with Chicago pressing and grabbed a Hawk player around the neck and threw him to the ice.  It was an obvious call to make, regardless of the score or time remaining for those of you who think that might be a factor.  Jovo went straight to the box and the Hawks went on the PP. Time wound down as Theo Fleury of the Hawks crashed the net and jammed the puck over the line, just as the horn sounded to end regulation time.  We went to video review to check if time had expired prior to the puck crossing the line.  (No network television broadcast but just in-house video for review purpose.)  I was informed by the video goal judge that .02 seconds appeared on the clock burn-in when the puck crossed the line.  We had a good goal. Game over.

As I was taking my gear off in the officials' dressing room, the video goal judge entered our room.  I thanked him for his quick response to the review.  He advised me that he got a call from the Toronto War Room after the game.  I asked if they wanted to know how much time remained on the clock when Theo scored the game winner.    He said no, they actually wanted to know if the penalty you called on Ed Jovanovski was a 'good call'.
I was somewhat confused by this.  Since the game wasn't televised, I wondered how they would have known about the penalty I called with less than a minute remaining.  The video goal judge said, "They told me they were listening to the game on the radio and the Vancouver broadcaster didn't like the call."

With a puzzled look on my face, I said what did you tell them?  He said I told them, "You mean when Ed Jovanovski grabbed the Hawk player around the neck and threw him hard to the ice? Yah, it was definitely a penalty!"
It would appear that, at least on that night in Chicago, the video replay goal judge was both the eyes and the ears of the game.

I probably shouldn't speculate on the two calls that you questioned from Game 2 (both involving Kevin Bieksa) since we aren't able to talk to the officials that made or didn't make the calls.  (I can tell you first hand, it is often next to impossible to see the puck hit the glass before heading into the seats when dark clothing is worn to the game by spectators.)  Until things change and the league grants access to the officials, maybe we should call the video replay goal judge.  He might be able to provide us with the accurate information we desire. After all, we are in the information age.

Dave Jackson and Jean Morin (Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
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