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THN at the Olympics: Canadian women hoping for U.S. ref in gold medal game

VANCOUVER – If the Canadian team has its way, an American referee will handle the gold medal women’s game between Canada and USA.

Canadian coach Melody Davidson has made it clear that she has no problem with American Leah Wrazidlo working the final game and prefers Wrazidlo over the other two finalists for the game, Nicole Hertrich of Germany and Aina Hove of Norway.

“We’ve scouted the officials just like we’ve scouted other team, but I really believe the best official should be in the game,” Davidson said. “I’ve always believed that and (Wrazidlo) is the best official. I think it’s a travesty for those officials (to not be selected). They work so hard, especially the North American ones, and to be shut out of the top-dog game just because of where they’re born, I don’t think is good for the game or good for us.”

That Canada is lobbying to have Wrazidlo work the game is a testament to her abilities. Eight years ago in the gold medal game, American referee Stacey Livingston whistled the Canadians for 12 penalties in Canada’s 3-2 win, prompting defenseman Geraldine Heaney to quip, “She might as well put on the (USA) jersey.”

“I think she’s the best official here and I think she’s been the best official over time,” Davidson said. “I think the other officials are good officials, but (Wrazidlo) has the most experience and to me, she brings the most calming influence out there on the ice. You know what she’s going to call.”

The subtle translation to that is that a North American referee will allow the two teams to play a more robust game. Although there is technically no bodychecking allowed in women’s hockey, there is a fair bit of jostling along the boards and “incidental contact” and the North American teams believe one of their own has a better sense of what to let go and what to call as a penalty.

The two teams respect one another tremendously, but there is certainly no shortage of on-ice animosity between the two teams. In fact, in one of their six pre-tournament exhibition games this season, there was a dust-up, something almost never seen in women’s hockey.

“I think it just shows how much both teams care,” Davidson said. “It’s like the Stanley Cup final over and over again when they play each other. I think it’s tremendous for the game and I think it’s one of the best rival in sports, male or female.”

Ken Campbell is in Vancouver covering the Olympic hockey tournaments for THN.com. Read his other reports HERE.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.


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