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

Proposed NHL rule changes: thumbs up or down?

Edward Fraser
Mike Smith (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

A quartet of concepts came out of Day 1 of the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., but none of them gained much traction. That’s too bad, because three of the four were solid ideas…

I do like the shootout – it’d actually be better if it featured five shooters per team, but it’s become far too commonplace. As calculated by The Canadian Press, 14 percent of games are now going to the skills competition and 40 percent of games that go past regulation aren’t resolved in the 4-on-4 session. That’s far too many. Anything that can be done to curb the number of shootouts, including the suggestion of doing a dry scrape before OT to improve the ice conditions or switching ends to create a long change during the extra session would be a good move.
Read more

Was women’s gold medal match botched by ref? Kerry Fraser says ‘no’, but feels game needs two-ref system

Jason Kay
Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 13 - Canada v United States

For Team USA in Sochi yesterday, there was no joy and too much Joy all at once.

The work of British referee Joy Tottman came under intense scrutiny after she called three penalties in overtime and Canada won the thriller on the power play.

Hilary Knight claimed the penalty call against her, the one that led to the golden goal, was “bogus.” She says she didn’t touch Hayley Wickenheiser, who had fallen to the ice on a breakaway.

It followed a slashing infraction whistled against Jocelyne Lamoureux, who tapped Shannon Szabados’ pads while Team USA was on a power play of its own.

The chain of events sparked controversy all over the world wide web and, for some, evoked memories of the gold medal women’s game in Salt Lake 12 years ago when referee Stacey Livingston called eight consecutive penalties against the Canadians.

We decided to turn to an expert for his take on what transpired in one of the most entertaining games you’ll ever witness. Here’s what former NHL ref Kerry Fraser had to say on:

Read more

THN in Sochi: Controversy in women’s hockey turns to refereeing

Ken Campbell
Joy Tottman

SOCHI – This much we know about Joy Tottman: She is the governance and compliance officer for the Sport and Recreation Alliance in Britain. She has refereed at the women’s level internationally for 15 years, including at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics and she does a fair bit of refereeing of men’s professional hockey in the English Premier League.

And depending upon what side you’re on, she either made a mockery of the women’s gold medal game at the Olympics or had the guts to make bold calls in overtime.

Much of the talk surrounding women’s hockey at the Olympics, before this game, centered around whether or not the sport is competitive enough world-wide to even belong in the Olympics at all. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel poured cold water on that notion when he declared it is not going anywhere. And don’t forget, Fasel is the winter sports representative on the executive board of the International Olympic Committee, so he holds a fair bit of sway.

Now the talk will be whether or not the refereeing needs to get better at this level. What will come under scrutiny will be two penalty calls Tottman made in overtime which led to a 5-on-3 power play, on which Canada scored in overtime. With Canada killing a penalty and creating a 4-on-3 during overtime, Tottman whistled Jocelyn Lamoureux for a controversial slashing penalty.

Then with Hayley Wickenheiser on a breakaway and Hilary Knight trying to catch her, Wickenheiser went down and Knight was called for crosschecking, of all things. When she made the call, Tottman pointed to center ice, which led everyone, including Canadian coach Kevin Dineen, to believe Wickenheiser would be awarded a penalty shot. Knight later said Tottman made “a bogus call,” and that she didn’t make contact with Wickenheiser and USA coach Katey Stone offered a stern, “No comment,” when asked what she thought of the call.

It’s difficult to fathom Wickenheiser would fall without there being at least some contact being made and it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest she took a dive. She was on a breakaway in overtime of the gold medal game and had the puck on her stick with the opportunity to end the game. Players don’t dive in those circumstances.

But the questions will continue to linger, on both the Lamoureux and Knight penalties. It’s hard to argue that Tottman was out of her element, given her history refereeing women’s hockey. And she was assigned the gold medal game, not because she’s from a neutral country, but because she earned it with her work in previous games in the tournament. But it does beg the question of whether the officiating at the highest level must improve.

“The game is growing in leaps and bounds,” Stone said. “The speed and pace of the game is tremendous and it’s a great, great product. We have to make sure that every part of the game operations and game management is developing at as a fast a rate as it possibly can.”

“Look at it from their shoes,” Dineen said. “I don’t know how much in-game preparation they get. You look on the men’s side…and they’re seeing 80, 100 games a year and they see a lot of scenarios play out. They get exposed to that, but on the women’s side, they don’t see all the things that play out. At the end of it, I think the game was decided on the ice.”

Nearly 20 years later, he finally got his day with the Stanley Cup

Ryan Kennedy

Mike Folga still remembers Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final. As the equipment manager for the New York Rangers, he had the ultimate insider’s experience to the madness and anticipation that ran through Madison Square Garden that night as the Blueshirts tried to win their first NHL title in more than 50 years.

“The noise was so thunderous, you had to shout to be heard,” he said. “And the vibrations in the building – it’s a wonder the ice didn’t crack.”

The series came down to one goal and the Rangers had to protect a 3-2 lead for one final faceoff in the defensive zone with Craig MacTavish taking the draw for the home team.

“I was thinking to myself,” Folga recalled, “thank God we’ve got someone out there that knows what they’re doing.”

As soon as the puck was dropped, MacTavish threw his body between the biscuit and Vancouver’s center, allowing time to expire without a final threat. Folga jumped up in jubilation, then sat back on the bench to reflect on all the hard work, all the late nights that had led to the championship.

One of the spoils of winning the Cup is getting the chance to spend a day with it. But back then, the process was unsupervised. Parties ran late, schedules got off kilter and despite making plans with family and friends, Folga’s day with the Cup never happened.

The Erie, Pa. native moved on and for the past 13 years, he has been the equipment manager and athletic trainer for his hometown Mercyhurst Lakers NCAA squad. One of those Lakers is defenseman Tyler Shiplo, who had a connection to Colin Campbell in the NHL’s head office. Shiplo got the ball rolling and the Mercyhurst student government raised the $5,000 needed to bring the Cup down to Erie over the weekend.

In front of the biggest crowd in Lakers history, Folga finally got to raise the Cup above his head, while other fans posed for pictures and raised money for the Wounded Warriors Project. To top it off, Mercyhurst beat the Bentley Falcons 4-1.

“Just to be able to share it with family and friends and everybody at Mercyhurst was great,” Folga said. “There is only one Stanley Cup and even if hockey isn’t the most popular sport in the United States, it’s the No. 1 trophy. Everybody knows the Stanley Cup.”

For a guy who did more blue-collar work for the Rangers than any grinder or enforcer could ever claim, Folga is humble about his role in New York’s victory and humbled by the memories his day with the Cup brought back.

“Maybe I did do my job,” he said. “Nobody lost an edge on their skate that night.”

The perils of NHL officiating: Referee Trevor Hanson takes puck to face

Rory Boylen
Trevor Hanson

Referees have the most thankless job in hockey. There’s no two ways about it. You get booed, you get called every name in the book, you used to get serenaded in the days when officials had names on the backs of their jerseys. Everyone thinks they can do a better job than you.

But, really, how many people would actually do this job?

There’s a lot to watch and judge while you anticipate the quick play to dodge bodies and pucks. But Thursday night there was an example of the real dangers referees encounter.

In the Buffalo-Phoenix game, referee Trevor Hanson was struck in the face by a puck that had ricocheted off the post. He had to leave the ice for repairs with about 2 and a half minutes left in the second period.

Hanson, who refereed his first NHL game this past October, returned to the game at the start of the third period, so it could have been much, much worse.

How much worse? Recall Don van Massenhoven’s incident, when he was struck between the eyes with a puck in a New Jersey-Florida game in 2005. That shot was also deflected and the injury described as “catastrophic.” He had to undergo eight hours of surgery, with seven plates and 35 screws put in his face to repair shattered orbital bones. Read more

Referees announced for 2014 Sochi Olympic tournament

Rory Boylen

The IIHF and the NHL have announced the officials who will work the 2014 Olympic tournament in Sochi. The group will be represented by seven NHL referees, seven international referees, six NHL linesmen and eight international linesmen.

The following are the NHL officials who will work the event:
Dave Jackson – Referee
Mike Leggo – Referee
Brad Meier – Referee
Tim Peel – Referee
Kevin Pollock – Referee
Kelly Sutherland – Referee
Ian Walsh – Referee
Derek Amel – Lines
Lonnie Cameron – Lines
Greg Devorski – Lines
Brad Kovachik – Lines
Andy Mcelman – Lines
Mark Wheler – Lines Read more