Imagine if Matt Cooke had scored the winner? Maybe it’s time for a referee in the press box

Jason Kay
Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild - Game Three

How could you not like the brilliant goal Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund scored to get the Wild back into their series with Colorado?

It was an outrageous display of effort and skill, punctuated by an-the-ice/falling down maneuver that makes any goal seem more dramatic.

And, most of all, it wasn’t scored by Matt Cooke.

The outcry about Cookie’s knee-on-knee hit to Tyson Barrie is loud and justified. If I’m an Avs fan, I’m livid that an effective, puck-moving defenseman was eliminated from the series (and maybe the entire playoffs), that I had to watch my team play with one fewer rearguard in a crucial game and that Colorado wasn’t awarded a five-minute major which could have turned the game in their favor.

I might also want to look at how my club was overwhelmed before the hit and how Jan Hejda (was he excessively bagged because the blueline was shorthanded?) played Granlund far too soft, but I digress.

Just imagine if Cooke had potted the winner or been instrumental in setting it up? The outrage we’re hearing now would have seemed like a whimper in the Alps. As it was, Cooke still made an impact beyond the Barrie infraction. He played with high energy, finished the night with a game-high six hits, had a shot on goal and saw 2:38 of penalty-kill time, tops on the Wild.

You might question how neither referee – Brad Watson nor Justin St. Pierre – thought Cooke’s transgression was a major foul. But they are indeed human. The rest of us had myriad chances to review video and talk amongst ourselves before drawing our conclusions.

And maybe that’s precisely what the NHL needs – the opportunity for someone to step back, look at the recorded evidence and alert the on-ice officials if more discussion is merited. In short, a third referee in the press box to help manage the fastest game in the world.

I’m loathe to add another layer of authority, but a changing game may demand it. When the stakes are so high and the play so rapid, it’s an idea the league needs to consider.

The concept isn’t a new one; it’s been floated for years by people in the league and media (including THN’s Adam Proteau): a third certified referee stationed upstairs, with access to alert the officials on the ice should he (or she) see something that requires further noodling. Maybe it’s something you just add for the playoffs, like MLB adds extra umps down the foul lines for their post-season.

The NFL, meantime, has automatic upstairs review in the last two minutes of halves to make sure they get critical calls correct.

It might not be a perfect solution – the time delays could become annoying – but the outcome would be better than the potentially horribly embarrassing alternative.