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:

Catherine Ward’s cross-checking penalty at 6:09 of OT
Good call. Ward extends her elbows/gloves to the face of USA player Anne Schleper.

Jocelyne Lamoureux’s slashing penalty at 6:15 of OT
Poor/weak. This penalty call was inconsistent with more severe swipes and jams that were properly judged as non-infractions at other times in the game.

Hilary Knight’s cross-checking penalty at 7:31 of OT
Hayley Wickenheiser was in the clear with no player to pass but the goalkeeper, in possession and control of the puck and as a result of leg to skate contact initiated by Hilary Knight (albeit unintentional, perhaps) was taken down from behind. There was no alternative for the referee but to call a penalty. While it may have appeared to the referee, as she chased the play from behind, that a shove/cross-check was delivered, the ref’s first impression demonstrated by the start of a “tripping signal” was accurate. Tripping was the call. Since Knight had not gained a position to the side of Wickenheiser, the foul took place from behind. As such, the most correct, by the book call would have been a penalty shot. I can understand and appreciate the referee’s decision to assess a minor penalty in this situation.

Big picture assessment
In the overall presentation of the ref’s good performance I wish she had avoided the urge to overreact on the marginal slash by Lamoureaux at 13:45 of overtime that ultimately created a power play for Canada.

Recommendation
A glaring recipe for controversy is the IIHF’s policy to utilize a one-referee, two-linesmen system at this level of competition. The women’s game is played at an extremely high level no differently than the men’s game. They are the best in the world and allow two-line passes through the neutral zone. With all things being equal, two refs are needed at this level of play. This referee was a good skater and in good physical condition, but showed some signs of fatigue as the game wound down. Fatigue can affect judgment as well as positioning sight lines. While she did an admirable job keeping up for most part, an unreasonable expectation is placed on any referee to continually gain the best sightline given the pace and pressure.