Admit it. There are times in the heat of the battle played out in front of your eyes while in the stands or on the couch, you’ve called one or more officials some word that begins with “Mother…”
You’re convinced the dudes in the stripes, and in particular the pair with the orange armbands, are conspiring against your favorite team.
But what about their side?
The recently-retired Kerry Fraser is doing an occasional series over at TSN.ca focusing on the wheres and whys of the NHL referee. He has a new one up today, and as a public service, Flyers Faithful will reprint the content here.
Today, I doubt what he has to say will allay your fears or squash your doubts about the internal machinations of calling games, especially when something is on the line.
Question is “make up calls.”
These get talked about all the time and certainly would appear to exist just by watching games and how the penalties are called. The latest example of one that seemed to be a make up would be the Weber call on Kesler in Game 3 OT, after they “missed” the boarding call on Bieksa (not sure if I agree with the miss but that is besides the point).
How much do these make up calls actually happen, and have you done, or at least been tempted to have a make up call when you know you have clearly missed a call?
Thanks for the “shout out.” This column provides a wonderful opportunity to share. You have picked a hot topic for sure.
Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” My hope is that after reading my answer, “you want us on that wall; you need us on that wall”; I mean ice. Here goes…
Publicly, every referee will say, “I don’t do make-up calls.” Let me tell you that it has and does happen on occasion. I’ve done it and I will tell when and why. First let me attempt to explain some of the unrealistic expectations that are placed on the referees without appearing defensive or excusatory.
Expectations and duties of the referee include:
- apply a consistent standard of enforcement of the playing rules as handed down by the Board of Governors/Rules Committee
- provide safety under the rules for participants & maintain the integrity of the game
- provide for an entertaining flow of the game. (starts to get dicey here and extends below)
Another expectation that is engrained in the official is to keep the game “FAIR”. Combine “fair” to the bullet points and some unrealistic expectations; even contradictions arise.
Rule 31-Referees, even refers to “a human factor” on blowing the whistle to stop play but could be included in all decisions made. “Human error” doesn’t appear anywhere in the book but we know it happens and isn’t limited to just hockey officiating. It occurs in all jobs and all walks of life. It can be enhanced when under pressure. At this point, half of you are probably saying, “C’mon Ref; just call the rules”; the other half are saying “let ‘em play.” No agreement or consensus will be found here.
I learned early in my career that two wrongs don’t make a right. The reputation and respect that every official works hard in developing with players and coaches can be quickly damaged when make-up calls are made. I found the best answer to a player or coach when a mistake was made is the honest one -”I’m sorry, I missed it.” You have good days and bad days at work.
In 1983, I worked a game in Chicago Stadium between the New York Islanders dynasty team coached by the legendary, Al Arbour. Discipline was the trademark of those Arbour-coached teams. Al seldom raised his voice. When he did, I knew I screwed up. Ten minutes into this game, I had given the normally disciplined Islanders four penalties. It wasn’t that they were playing poorly; it was just that I was that awful.
The fourth penalty put the Islanders two men short and Al stood in the open door of his players’ bench with his hand on his hips while I waited in the end zone for him to place three players on the ice. His icy glare drew a bead on me as he waived his arm at me and yelled, “Kerry, get over here!”
I had such respect for Al, I skated over upon his command and stood before him like a school kid in front of the principal. Al said, “Kerry, what the hell are you doing out here tonight?” With my eyes focused on my skates beneath me I replied, “I don’t know Al. I’m really struggling and don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Finally, I raised my eyes to see this coaching icon scratching his head and staring back at me. He pressed his lips together and said, “Well get the hell out there and try harder.” Like a little kid that was scolded by his father I responded, “Okay, Al, I’ll do my best.”
Each time I admitted making a mistake on a penalty call (which wasn’t all that often, gang) the player or captain would say, “You owe us one.” That was the expectation. My response was “I hope you kill it for us because two wrongs don’t make a right.” Those two minutes can be the worst in a referee’s game when he knows he erred.
When we first implemented the two referee system, there were some growing pains and kinks to work out. We had to blend two different judgments on the ice and there was certainly a discrepancy in the level of experience and player/coach acceptance.
I was the trailing referee with three minutes remaining of a tied game in the Boston Fleet Center (now TD Garden). I was standing directly in front of the Sabres bench when a Bruin forward was carrying the puck around the Buffalo goal with a defenseman in close pursuit.
My partner was on the opposite side of the net as the Bruin tried to cut hard to the front for a wrap around attempt when his skate hit the side of the net. The Boston forward did a toe pick and fell. My young partner raised his hand from an obstructed position on the other side of the net. The Sabres bench and I had a clear view of the fall. The bench groaned and Lindy appealed to me. I simply said, “Relax, he had a different look on the play from his vantage point.”
On the ensuing end zone faceoff, the Bruins won the draw back to the point. I was still the trailing referee at the blue line in front of the visitors’ bench. The inside Sabre forward started to skate to the point and was “touched” by the stick of a Bruin. I immediately raised my arm and called an interference penalty.
That, my friends was an even-up call. I felt horrible about making it but nobody yelled or complained about the penalty even though everyone knew what had just taken place.
Believe me when I tell you, “making up is hard to do.”