NHL

Fraser: Importance of officials to work right to the end

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Kerry Fraser
11/21/2013 1:18:31 PM
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Hi Kerry,
 
I wanted to say that I love reading your take on these questions and I loved your book.
 
I have a question regarding the Montreal vs. Minnesota game the other night. Now I am a Habs fan so this may seem like a strange question but late in the third, Minnesota's Marco Scandella was called for hooking, clearly this was a good call but my concern is this - at this point the Canadiens were already winning 6-1 and I was thinking did the referee really need to make that call? I mean, there must come a point where the whistles have to be put away, no?
 
There is nothing wrong with a decisive win, and if the offending player had say given a blatant head shot or high stick to the face call it, but to me the hooking just added insult to injury and maybe should not have been called.
 
So my question is - does there come a time when you just put the whistle away and just let the game finish?
 
Thanks as always,
Dan Boucher
 
Dan:

Thank you for the kudos. Your philosophical question pertains to an area of officiating called "game management." Please understand that game management is not just about making a decision to call or not call a penalty. It goes much beyond that and pertains to a refs "feel" for the game as it is being played out in the moment. The most exciting and entertaining games are when the players are allowed to compete hard and on the edge where physicality is properly balanced with player safety. No different than a pot of water on a stove, the temperature of a game can intensify and will boil over if the 'chef' does not turn down the heat at the appropriate time.

A referee's ability to appropriately manage the emotional element of the game (players and coaches) is crucial in this regard. That can include situations when player frustration results during an embarrassing blow-out game.

The good referee knows when to impose his authority in a way that achieves a positive result. Former NHL Director of Officiating John McCauley, my mentor and current NHL referee Wes McCauley's late father, told me that "the very best game is one played with "controlled bedlam" and the most successful referee is the one that can get the players to play on his terms with laying the hammer down!" John was talking specifically about "game management."

There are some fans that take the position that a penalty is a penalty regardless of the score or the time of the game. Your question Dan highlights a more realistic and practical approach that balances a referee's ability to enforce the rules (maintain integrity of the game) with common sense judgment through his feel for the game and what a game requires in the moment.

The wide gap in the standard of rule enforcement from days of old has narrowed in the "new, newer NHL." The expectation from the majority of the hockey community is that a violation of the rules will (should) result in a penalty called by the referee. It is often hard to understand how a puck over the glass is an automatic penalty in overtime while an obvious hold might not be called? We know there is ongoing work to be done by the Officiating Dept. in the area of coaching and holding the refs accountable to the expected standard.

As these theories pertain to your specific question Dan let me say that an obvious penalty must be called at any time in the game, regardless of the score or the time! In addition to maintaining player safety, all flagrant fouls, stick infractions, dangerous hits and fouls on scoring opportunities should never be overlooked by the referees.

Marco Scandella of the Minnesota Wild hooked Max Pacioretty with a potential scoring opportunity after a turnover in the neutral zone. While Pacioretty did not lose possession of the puck the referee maintained the expected standard when Scandella hooked the hands of the Montreal player as he was cutting toward the Minnesota goal. A "must call" was made in spite of the 6-1 Montreal lead with 3:40 remaining.

It is also important to note that the referees worked the game right to the end with a consistent standard when Daniel Briere was assessed a penalty for holding Mikael Granlund with 1:49 remaining in the game. The infraction occurred as Granlund carried the puck up the wall in the neutral zone and was stalled from behind with a tug-hook and eventual free-hand grab by Briere that forced a loss of puck possession.

The proper standard was maintained with the holding penalty called against Daniel Briere and resulted in Danny Heatley's power play goal with two seconds remaining in the game. If the referee had missed, or worse yet avoided calling the infraction committed by Briere you can bet the game temperature would have spiked through Wild frustration during the final minute and a half.

The timing of the Briere infraction allowed for excellent "game management" to be demonstrated by the referee. John McCauley would be proud.

Brendan Gallagher Alex Galchenyuk (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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