Don’t expect to see video review for goalie intereference anytime soon

Goalie interference

NEW YORK – Hockey fans looking for the NHL to take advantage of video technology to prevent the Dwight King-type goals from Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final from exploding into controversy will almost certainly be disappointed. With the NHL’s competition committee meeting Monday and the league’s GMs Wednesday, there appears to be little appetite for using video review to resolve issues involving goaltender interference.

That’s because the power brokers in the NHL have come to the conclusion that even with video evidence, there is no guarantee of certainty. Of course there isn’t. But isn’t there a better chance you’re going to get a call right if you have the benefit of watching it on super slow-motion several times? And even if there’s disagreement among those watching replays, isn’t that superior to having just one look at it in real time? Read more

Henrik Lundqvist must step up and be the best player in the final

Lundqvist

EN ROUTE TO NEW YORK – A couple of things are becoming painfully clear at this point in the Stanley Cup final. One of them is that referee Dan O’Halloran needs to have his eyes examined, because he either can’t see an obvious case of goaltender interference that is right there in front of him or he can’t make out the print that deals with Rule 69.1 in the NHL rulebook

Another is that the New York Rangers are going to have to begin to show some backbone if they’re going to even have a chance of getting back into this series. Any team that blows three two-goal leads over the course of two games has no business blaming a referee for its ills. The non-call on the Dwight King goal that narrowed the gap to 4-3 in the third period of Game 2 was a terrible mistake by the officiating staff, but teams that are serious about winning Stanley Cups are able to regroup quickly enough to put those setbacks behind them and continue with the task at hand. Read more

When Kerry Fraser went to war with Wayne Gretzky

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Focus On Sport)

In a recent interview for an article on even-up calls, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser reminisced about his legion of run-ins with players and coaches – from Jarome Iginla to Scotty Bowman to even Wayne Gretzky.

During our conversation, Fraser recalled a colorful encounter with The Great One, when Gretzky decided to try to dive his way to a much-needed Oilers power play.

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Referee-lobbying, Crosby insults and Perry’s antics drag down NHL playoffs

Sidney Crosby (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Let me preface today’s file by saying that, like millions of people, I’ve had a blast watching the first round of the NHL playoffs. Multiple overtime games, numerous comebacks and unexpected heroes have led to unforgettable thrills virtually every night of the post-season. But I wouldn’t be a crusty media type if there weren’t some things that were peeving me off. Here are a few things I’m sick and tired of seeing in the 2014 post-season:

1. Referee Lobbying Through The Press. I get that NHL referees have missed a few calls this post-season. (Okay, more than a few.) I do. But is there any bigger waste of air than NHL players and/or coaches and/or management members trying to goad officials into altering their approach to the way they call penalties?

Not for me, there’s not. The constant carping is a distraction from what we should be talking about at this time of year – teams and players that make plays, and teams and players that don’t – and the Bruins and Canadiens are the latest examples of this: after Boston coach Claude Julien complained about the officiating in Game 2 of their second round series Sunday, his Montreal counterpart Michel Therrien threw a verbal counterpunch.

“They try to influence referees,” Therrien said of the Bruins. “That’s the way they are. That’s not going to change. That’s the way they like to do their things, but for us, we’re not paying attention to those things.”

Although he tried to characterize himself as taking the high road when it came to refereeing, Therrien was engaged in indirect counter-lobbying of the officials. There seems to be no end to it, which is why I’d love to see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman really crack down on any coach or player who attempts, even vaguely, to gin up some sort of officiating controversy. Leave your excuses or conspiracy theories in the dressing room where they belong, hockey people. Nothing good can come of them. Read more

Ron MacLean was close in his referee criticism, but not correct

Francois-Charron-ref

Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean apologized for his careening remarks about Quebec-raised referee Francis Charron in the wake of Montreal’s Game 3 victory over Tampa, one in which the officiating certainly was on the dicey side. In bringing up Charron’s ethnicity, MacLean stepped into a hornet’s nest involving one of Canada’s distinct cultures – not to mention the only NHL team left in French-Canadian territory.

Was Charron’s goalie interference call, the one that nullified a Tampa Bay goal in a 1-1 contest, a poor one? Sure looked like it:

But this was not a matter of malice on the ref’s part. If anything, it was one of indecision – and that speaks to Charron’s inexperience, not his home province.

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Study: Referees prone to making even-up calls in the playoffs

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHL)

Playoff pressure. Players feel it. Coaches try to control it. Fans freak out over it. And according to a recent study, referees can crack under it.

Michael Lopez, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Brown University, and Kevin Snyder, an assistant professor of sport management at Southern New Hampshire University, assessed the frequency of even-up calls in their paper, “Biased Impartiality among National Hockey League Referees,” published in the International Journal of Sport Finance. Lopez and Snyder found that referees exhibit what they call “biased impartiality.” Meaning, referees subconsciously try to make games as balanced as possible to achieve a perception of fairness.

Nothing nefarious there. The problem is referees may make even-up calls that unfairly balance the number of penalties between teams, and this can actually affect who wins. So despite their best attempts otherwise, refs often have a huge impact on playoff games.

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The NHL is seeking new referees – and referee-hating blowhards ought to apply

Adam Proteau
Chris Rooney

Hey, you! Yes, you, referee-hating hockey fan! I have excellent news, via a TSN report: The NHL is looking to hire officials! Now’s your chance to put on the stripes yourself and show us all how easy it is to move from your couch to ice level and police the fastest game on the planet.

I’m serious. I realize the NHL will only allow applications from amateurs every other year – the first “NHL Exposure Combine” will be invitation-only and include graduating players from North American universities and colleges – but when they do allow anyone from anywhere to walk in off the street, I want (a) all the blowhards to come out like they do for American Idol cattle calls; and (b) the NHL to turn the audition and training process into a TV reality show.

I’m still serious. It would be great for the game and for fans to see exactly how an official is trained and how difficult – how impossible – it is to get every on-ice call correct. Although the officiating world is a tight-knit group that doesn’t seek out publicity, the humanizing effect a TV show would have on officials would only help our understanding of and appreciation for it. And it would lead us to where many people think we should already be: an NHL that acknowledges the game is simply too fast to officiate with the naked eye and welcomes more assistance from video replay. Read more

Is the Dead Puck Era alive and well in 2013-14?

Ken Campbell
Ovie and Crosby

Barring an injury, Sidney Crosby will score somewhere in the neighborhood of 108 points this season. And it will mark the third straight season in which there has been only one 100-point scorer – Martin St-Louis was the only one to score the equivalent of 100 in last year’s lockout shortened season – in the NHL.

It’s a far cry from the halcyon days after Lockout, Part II, isn’t it. In each of the two seasons that followed the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season and led to an unprecedented crackdown on obstruction fouls, there were seven players who scored 100 points or more.

As it stands today, Ryan Getzlaf is on pace to finish second in scoring with 89 points, while Phil Kessel is on target to finish third with just 87. The only player on pace to hit the 50-goal mark this season is Alex Ovechkin, compared to 2005-06 when five players scored 50 or more. Read more