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Could you explain how the officials are chosen for the NHL playoffs? What criteria are used to select who works these games and who gets to move into each ensuing round?
Clark: I always enjoy our conversations when you and I meet in the Wells Fargo Arena press box to cover a Philadelphia Flyers home game. Yesterday the NHL announced the names of the Officials selected to work the first round of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs which kicks off tonight with three games. Let me tell you (at least in theory) how the selections were made. Those fortunate enough to be selected are as follows:
Paul Devorski, Eric Furlatt, Marc Joannette, Tom Kowal, Steve Kozari, Mike Leggo, Chris Lee, Wes McCauley, Brad Meier, Dan O'Halloran, Dan O'Rourke, Tim Peel, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Chris Rooney, Kelly Sutherland, Francois St-Laurent, Stephen Walkom, Ian Walsh and Brad Watson.
Derek Amell, Steve Barton, Dave Brisebois, Lonnie Cameron, Scott Cherrey, Greg Devorski, Scott Driscoll, Shane Heyer, Brad Kovachik, Brad Lazarowich, Steve Miller, Jean Morin, Brian Murphy, Jonny Murray, Derek Nansen, Tim Nowak, Pierre Racicot, Tony Sericolo, Jay Sharrers and Mark Wheler.
Noticeable omissions from the list of referees are veterans Dave Jackson, Dennis LaRue, Don Van Massenhoven and Greg Kimmerly. Absent from the linesmen list are previous playoff performers Mike Cvik, Pierre Champoux, Vaughan Rody, Michel Cormier and Mark Shewchyk (Dan Schachte has retired and I congratulate him on a tremendous career as an NHL Linesman).
Part of Terry Gregson's duties as Director of Officiating is to administer a numerical performance evaluation/rating system of his on-ice officiating staff for the purpose of playoff selection and to determine an official's ongoing employment status. This status would include termination through persistent substandard performance or succession planning relative to a mutually agreed upon schedule for an official's retirement.
Data is submitted through a computer generated game supervision report that is compiled by Gregson and his supervisory staff every time they attend a game and observe a crew of officials. Clark, you have seen several Officiating Supervisors at games in Philadelphia during the season. They travel around the League and similarly observe all the officials on staff.
The evaluation form or supervisor report deals in part with an official's skating ability, positioning and a "catch-all" category called comportment. Comportment includes how an official communicates and interacts and with the game participants (players, coaches, fellow officials) and reacts to situations that are presented throughout a game. Comments will be included relative to the standard of enforcement employed by the official including any calls perceived to have been made in error or missed as well as areas of concern or recommendations for improvement.
Terry Gregson's primary supervisory staff at the NHL level consists of former NHL officials Rob Shick, Mick McGeough, Don Koharski , Bill McCreary and Kevin Collins. Former referee Bob Hall administers a recruiting and development program responsible for those contracted officials working in the AHL and to compile a "draft list" of prospective talent working at various amateur levels of hockey.
Hockey Operations monitors every game that is played during the regular season and playoffs from the "situation room" in Toronto. League personnel that staff this room will record and clip questionable calls that they view or situations that are commented upon by play-by-play and game analysts for Terry Gregson to review.
Aside from officiating complaints received by Hockey Ops and/or the Director of Officiating via telephone communication during or after games, team General Managers can also submit a written request for review of a call or an official's performance. When this occurs Terry Gregson is obliged to investigate the claim and respond back to the team with his findings.
This adds up to a full season of scrutiny that the official's performances are subjected to. As with any rating system there is some subjectivity that is imposed by the people that review the performance and input the data. Office politics applies in every corporation, organization and job on the face of the earth and the NHL evaluation process for their officials is no different.
Any and all material gathered from the above listed sources can't help but influence the perception held by Officiating Managers to some degree as they conduct their evaluation process. A comprehensive package of information including discussions amongst the supervisors and evaluation meetings scheduled by Terry Gregson are utilized to determine each individual official's ranking.
Some Officials share a philosophy and openly state their concerted effort "fly under the radar." That means avoid controversy and stay out of the highlight reels. My objective would be to utilize sound judgment and react accordingly to make calls (especially tough ones) that can be defended and can stand up to any video scrutiny.
For those that were selected to the first round of the playoffs I congratulate you and wish you much success. The pressure is on to perform to the highest level of your capability at this most exciting time of the season.
Prepare yourself well for every game and maintain focus and concentration throughout. React to game situations and trust your instinct and gut without looking over your shoulder or upstairs for guidance even when unpopular or controversial calls have to be made. Place yourself in position to gain the best sightline and make the call with courage and conviction.
When this round ends and the management team reevaluates every officials performance to determine which of you will advance in the playoffs be able to look in the mirror and honestly say, "I gave the Game the very best that I had to give - I did my job to the best of my ability!"
Best of luck; we'll all be watching...
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