NHL

Fraser: The lowdown on media access to officials

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Kerry Fraser
4/11/2014 4:04:57 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.

Good morning Mr. F,

First, thank you for helping to educate us fans about the rules of the game, and for sharing your stories.

Second, my questions: What is the NHL policy on media and officials? Can they be on Twitter? Can they be interviewed by TSN? Can they publish a book? We rarely, if ever, see an active official make a comment off the ice. Is this because they don't have much to say, or because of restrictions? I could see referee interviews causing uproars among fans.

Thanks!
Kent

Hi Kent:

The policy the NHL has in place for their officials speaking to the media is clear and direct: NO COMMENT!

All media access to the officials (interviews) must be cleared and granted through the office of Gary Meagher, Sr. Vice President Public Relations & Media Services. Gary is assisted by Julie Young, Manager of Public Relations. Once the content and nature of an interview is cleared, Julie is typically responsible for contacting the official and facilitating the interview. Both individuals are extremely professional and very good at their job. It was a treat to work with Julie Young because through her efforts things always went smoothly during the many times that I was requested for interviews.

Social media is off-limits for all the officials! They are not allowed to have a Facebook or Twitter account as information could easily be misconstrued or deemed to be inappropriate. It is just another undesirable location that the officials could become accessible. After NBA referee Tim Donaghy was convicted on criminal charges and served time in federal prison for betting on games he officiated, NHL officials are "strongly discouraged" from entering casinos while travelling on NHL business. You can forget about reading a book written by any NHL officials until after they retire; unless perhaps it is a children's coloring book! Other than the number on the back of their sweater (no names since '94) the league is most content when their officials are seen and not heard from.

During the playoffs a supervisor (Officiating Manager) is assigned to each series. In the event that an explanation might be required for any reason, it is conveyed to the media through the series supervisor after he consults with the officiating crew. If a major controversy were to occur in game, Gary Meagher will typically craft a press release and/or instruct the supervisor as to the information that should be shared with the media. Personally, I preferred the day when a pool reporter was allowed into the ref's room after a game to get the answer directly from the official who made the decision on the ice. I would rather explain the reason behind my decision than to have it communicated through a third party or worse yet not explained at all. On occasion, pertinent aspects of my explanation became lost in the transfer and delivery of information. There are even times when the only answer is that an honest mistake was made but I doubt you'll hear about it!

Some officials are media savvy while others are not. I know many officials that would get torn to shreds by the media if they became accessible following a game. The only time the press would be interested to hear what an official had to say would be following some sort of controversy. It is at times such as this when damage control is utilized. Most often however, there is a reasonable explanation for a ref's decision that should become public.  Players and coaches can provide post-game comments from an emotional and often biased perspective. Those are the sound bites and quotes that fans are left with even though the NHL can (and has) impose fines to players and team management when they impugn the officials publicly.  

To prevent embarrassment or limit the need for damage control by the NHL, it is most obvious that a broad policy has to apply which restricts all referees or linesmen from making public comments. I am under no such 'gag order' so the best place to get a straight answer as we move into the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs is right here at C'mon Ref! Fair, honest and opinionated - the spin truly does stop here Kent!

Enjoy the final weekend of the regular season and the race for the playoffs.

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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