NHL Playoffs Show Professional Referees Need More Accountability

Scott FitzsimmonsAnalyst IMay 6, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 04:  Referees Francois St-Laurent and Steve Kozari talking during a break in action between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders in a National Hockey League game at Nassau Coliseum on April 4, 2009 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

There are some thankless jobs in this world that make people question the sanity of those who actually choose to be in that profession. The worst of these has to be the job of the sports referee. It is often their decision that can uphold or significantly change the outcome of a game. No fan will like every referee, and no referee will be liked by everyone.


Fans will often make the life of a referee miserable, and will chastise even the best refs for the best calls. We as fans can be completely unreasonable, and love to throw reality out the window when arguing a call.


It’s hard to find good officials, and with the treatment referees have received in the past, leagues have taken distinct measures to protect them. Leagues have taken names off their jerseys, offered police escorts, and in order to keep a unified front, leagues have found private ways of disciplining their officials.


While I am a fan, and I have a tendency to let my emotions get the best of me in a game, I try to be as unbiased as possible when judging a referees call. It is hard to stay calm in many situations, especially when there is no consistency, or when the call seems to make no sense whatsoever.


I will draw your attention to a game that took place March 28, 2009. The Calgary Flames were hosting the Minnesota Wild. On a power play in the second period, the Flames appeared to score on a screened shot from Olli Jokinen, but referee Eric Furlatt called it off, saying Curtis Glencross interfered. Moments later, Glencross had his own goal called off for the same reason, even though the second one didn’t show Glencross had his foot in the crease at all.


Now to be fair, Furlatt was consistent in his calls. Although somebody should have told him it’s no longer 1998. He doesn’t have to call the foot in the crease anymore. Both goals called off would have given the Flames the lead, but lucky enough for them, Eric Nystrom scored the winning goal only moments later.


Now fast forward to Game One of the Flames' first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Mere seconds into overtime, Andrew Ladd was pushed into Miikka Kiprusoff interfering just enough to allow the puck to slip by, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 win and the pivotal first game in the series that Chicago eventually won.


I will admit that Ladd was pushed into Kiprusoff, so no penalty should have been called. I was mistaken that the goal was allowed by the same official who almost cost the Flames the game back in March. So my initial thoughts were frustration in the inconsistency. I have since learned that it was Mark Faucette.


After the anger, frustration and disappointment subsided, I had an epiphany. It is possible that the head of officials has corrected such calls. If this is the case, I am a hypocrite. I’ve been getting angry at refs for making a bad call, and then getting angry after correcting the problem. If that is the case, then I feel rather sheepish.

I do, however, feel that there should be more accountability for professional officials. The punishments are handed out secretly which allows for a stronger front from the officials side, but it doesn’t show the fans that anything is being done.

These are professional officials that get paid well for what they do. They should have tough enough skin that they can handle it. It will also make them more aware of the calls they are making, or not making for that matter. Nobody likes having their mistakes revealed to all the world, but it might just increase the level of officiating, and get a few fans off their backs...for a day or two.