NHL

Fraser: Do refs/linesmen look at replays between periods?

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Kerry Fraser
1/3/2014 5:36:39 PM
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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.

Hey Kerry,
 
Just want to say I love the article. It's great to have your perspective!
 
With the use today of instant replay, sometimes as fans we have the luxury of reviewing plays that the on ice official doesn't have. I'm referring to missed penalty infractions, off sides and embellishments.
 
I was wondering if referees/linesman ever go to the dressing room between periods and look at any of these replays. And if so, doesn't it make them want to make a "make up call?"
 
Your input would be greatly appreciated!!
 
Thanks,
Jeff Reynolds
Ottawa, Ontario
 
Hey Jeff:

I can assure you that NHL referees and linesmen check the television monitor in the officials' dressing room between periods if there has been a call (made or potentially missed) that might require a second look to provide some measure of affirmation. You might find this hard to believe, Jeff, but every official strives to work that illusive "perfect game."  They are extremely hard-working and dedicated men but as we know all too well, they are human and mistakes are made. None of this has changed through the four decades that I worked as an official for the NHL.

What has changed is that before video replay and modern technology provided replays on the score clock and throughout the arena, the officials had to trust their first gut reaction and hope that the right call was made. Players and coaches always let you know instantly what they thought of your decision. Head games were sometimes played with the ref when false information was purposely provided from the players' bench where an assistant coach was in communication with a "spotter" in the press box. The spotter sat near a television monitor and had access to the broadcast replay or an in-house video feed. Some teams began placing a small monitor at their bench and coaches would quickly point to it telling the official the call he made was dead wrong! The next comment to the ref was, "You owe us one!"

When the period ended, the officials would inevitably rush to the monitor in their dressing room and hope that the play was shown on the intermission broadcast feed. After several times of witnessing clear evidence that the correct call had in fact been made, I began to take a very proactive approach with players or coaches that wanted to quickly provide false misinformation.  In an attempt to hold them accountable to their word I would look the individual in the eye and tell him how much I respected his honesty and trusted what he said to be true. If, however, after personally watching the replay between periods I found that the player or coach was not telling me the truth, their credibility with me would be seriously damaged! I asked again if they were sure the call was wrong. Guilty parties often said they would check the replay during intermission and get back to me. I knew I had them at that point!

Others were too far committed and stuck to their guns. On at least one occasion a player tried to sell me a bill of goods and wouldn't back down. The intermission replay demonstrated he had flat out lied to me and I told him as much. The player's response, "You can't blame me for trying, can you?" That player learned that trust is earned and not freely gifted!  

 The modern game is very fast and often played with an incredible intensity by phenomenally skilled athletes. If, as a spectator, you had the good fortune to sit at ice level you will understand what I'm talking about. The game takes on a very different perspective the farther away you are removed from the action. Things happen very quickly on the ice and in a blink of an eye something can easily be missed.

"Instant replay" isn't now just a luxury enjoyed by home viewers watching the broadcast, but plays and calls are seen on the 'Jumbotron' that hangs over the official's head at centre ice. This instant feedback intensifies the desire and pressure for the officials to be "perfect." While it isn't part of standard operating procedure, the honest fact is that on rare occasions the score clock has allowed a member of the officiating crew to sneak a peek at a replay when a group conference is being conducted in the interest of getting the call right.

So Jeff, with all the pressure on the officials to make the correct call, it only stands to reason that they would want to verify their call through a second look during the intermission break. A headset call can also be made to the video review official in the arena during a commercial stoppage to provide feedback on a play if the information the referee desires is really pressing. Regardless of the validity of a call, once it's made there is no changing it.  

The feedback can bring about some peace of mind or closure and can even eliminate the potential for head games. If the official learns he was wrong the best course of action is to admit the error, apologize and move on as quickly as possible in his ongoing attempt to be "perfect." 

Quick and O'Halloran (Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
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