The NHL’s track record with negotiating contracts with its players without locking them out over the past decade has been horrendous. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case with its on-ice officials. There hasn’t been a work stoppage with referees and linesemen since Doughnut-gate with Don Koharski in 1988 and there will not be one this season.
When the league opens the season with four games tonight, it will do so with labor harmony with its on-ice officials. Not that there was ever any doubt. For the past couple of months the league has been negotiating with its officials for a new deal and the talks were cordial and in good faith on both sides. And with the league and NHL Officials’ Association on the verge of signing a five-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, it is on the cusp of being official.
“It’s within a dot,” said a source with knowledge of the negotiations. “There might be one small thing here or there, but it’s really details. The basis for a deal has been settled and they’re very, very close. I think both sides want to make sure all the details are done before they make anything public.”
Monday was a busy day in the hockey world. With only two sleeps left until the start of the regular season, the Ryan Johansen signing and a couple of teams cutting loose their dancing bears, there was a lot of grist for the mill.
So it’s understandable that the league’s announcement that it would increase the distance between the hash marks for the offensive/defensive zone faceoff circles would fly under the radar a little bit. It’s not one of those sexy news items that allow people to jump to instant conclusions, such as declaring the enforcer in the NHL obsolete after seeing teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers go into the season with one on their rosters. Nice thought, but these guys seem to be the NHL’s version of the cockroach and I, for one, remain skeptical that we’ve seen the last of them. Read more
Although a new season brings challenges for everyone in the NHL, perhaps no clan will be tasked with a bigger mental hill to climb than the referees.
“Historically, our focus has been on the crease,” said director of officiating Stephen Walkom. “This season our guys will look at the activity happening around the blue paint and the secondary focus will be on the puck.”
Simply put, determining if the puck crossed the goal line is no longer that important for refs. There are cameras – very good cameras – that are better equipped to take care of that task. Instead, the officials want to make sure the goalies are allowed to do their jobs in the crease, and that’s just fine for the men behind the masks. Read more
NHL referees and linesmen aren’t always remembered or recognized. But then again, some of them are fan favorites who hold a big place in the game’s history.
Ray “Scampy” Scapinello, was a small, quick linesman who had the longest career of any official. Paul Stewart, the boisterous American, was known for his old-school attitude, being blunt and to the point. He shares some his his fascinating stories today. Kerry Fraser is as much remembered for his perfectly placed hair as he is reviled for the missed high stick call on Wayne Gretzky (by Toronto fans anyway). And there are many others who fans have some sort of attachment to or memory of, for better or worse.
Frank Udvari was an NHL referee in the 1950s and ’60s who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973. According to Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record, Udvari passed away at the age of 90 on Thursday.
Udvari is perhaps best known for being the referee in charge of the infamous game that eventually led to the Richard Riots in Montreal. On March 13, 1955, the Montreal Canadiens played the rival Boston Bruins on the road. During play, Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe caught Richard with a high-stick by the eye and Udvari put his arm in the air to call a penalty.
But Richard was ready to take the situation into his own hands. Read more
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
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
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.
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