Has the Game Become Too Fast for Today's NHL Officials?

Mike MacDonaldCorrespondent IMay 7, 2010

BUFFALO, NY - APRIL 23: Lindy Ruff , head coach of the Buffalo Sabres talks to referee Tim Peel #20 during a tim out against the Boston Bruins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HSBC Arena on April 23, 2010  in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Lindy Ruff's face says it all.

You don't even need to know what the situation is. You don't even need to know when this took place. You don't even need to worry that this exchange of ideas will make a difference.

Has the game become too fast for today's NHL officials?

We have all had our own issues with referees. It's part of the game. Or is that something we keep telling ourselves?

The new rules are not so new anymore, various professional and junior leagues now employ the two-referee system and have similar rules in place that were originally designed and implemented by the NHL.

Time and time again we have witnessed the NHL standard of rules and how it's applied during games.

If you recall, we all went through a huge adjustment, players, coaches and certainly fans in educating ourselves on the do's and don'ts of hockey rules.

In the end we became well versed in the knowledge of these rules, likely more than ever, we now can be deemed as experts.

After my playing days were over I got involved with refereeing, more because I was always interested in their perspective of events.

In other words I wanted to see the game differently than a player. I wanted to not be so emotionally invested in the game. Was I ever wrong about that. You can't help but feel that you're going to effect the game in some shape or form.

I wanted to know how so much could be missed. I wanted to know why these people seem to care about their ego more than the game. I wanted to see if I could handle it. I really wanted to experience it. I certainly got a great view of the game without really seeing the game.

Game after game I saw things I never really paid attention too during a game before.

I was trying very hard to watch everything around the puck. The battles away from the puck and other nonsense that I would have only seen if I was on the bench as a player, now as a referee it all made my head spin around more that being in the movie "the exorcist" meets a bobble-head doll.

I realized as a player I watched what was effecting me or my team 100 percent of the time. As a referee I was trying to watch two teams and 40 players 100 percent of the time and it was all a blur.

Now I was trying to control a donnybrook, instead of trying to create them.

I was letting them play. I called penalties that created unfair advantages. I also had a few games where the referee-in-chief was present and he didn't like what he saw one bit. He said former players take a while to adjust to the pace of the action and it's hard to relate to the flow of the game.


Are you kidding me?

But in the end he was right. I found myself to be too lenient and when a player rubbed me the wrong way I gave him the old 10-minute misconduct or game misconduct and that ended that. Good night to you, sir.

I played in a time without the two ref system so I don't have any benchmark to draw from. While I can say I refereed for a while in junior hockey before moving onto coaching and managing, the experience is still as vivid today as it was then. I realized I wasn't a good referee, not even close.

Before the new rules a referee would "manage" a game and sometimes dictate the outcome. I didn't have the demeanor. NHL referees work hard to make it. They train in the offseason and have built up a good resume before they work in the NHL.

So we should be seeing the best referees in the best league, correct?

I am always amazed during the playoffs, how the refereeing changes. How players, coaches and fans go through more than 1,200 regular season games with a certain level of expectation and the playoffs being so much more relaxed.

In comparison, the Stanley Cup playoffs are only a mire percentage of those 1,200 games, should every series in every round go to seven games.

The impact of refereeing is monumental.

However the referees clearly seem to let things go, make bad calls and take away the momentum of the game. I'll pick on the poor linesman here by saying that they take forever to drop the puck in the playoffs, something that wasn't an issue in the regular season.

Taking my past experience and by no way comparing it to the intense Stanley Cup playoff pressure, I ask is the game too fast for these officials?

Is it just me?

Simply it seems that there is a huge problem with the way playoff games are called. The boundaries of the regular season are removed in the postseason. Sure the games are a lot more intense and meaningful, that's the appeal of Stanley Cup action.

In the end the referees are human and as humans we are all prone to mistakes and regrets, but I ask all of you what are your feelings on the refereeing in this postseason.

How can two referees be on the ice for the entire game only one makes the majority of the calls, why are they always huddling and talking about things more, why they feel they need to make gestures to players. Is it to get it right the first time?

The gesturing to players by referees is not a new thing, but since the new rule changes came into effect, the referees would explain the calls more as a way for the players and coaches to understand and learn. Now it seems that the referees take everything personally or show a clear lack of respect.

One example of a referee gesturing occurred in Game Four between Pittsburgh and Montreal.

Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens was cross checked after the whistle in the slot in front of the Pittsburgh net by Penguin Brooks Orpik. Gionta was knocked to his knees and slid forward looking at referee Paul Devorski. It seemed a late hit and a undisciplined play by Orpik.

Devorski was just a few feet away, watched the entire scenario unfold right in front of him, and then gestures to Gionta with both hands out to his sides while shaking his head.

There is no need for an NHL experienced referee to do that. Either make the call or not.

There is no room for editorializing by the referees, no opinions needed or required. That's what the NHL wanted from their referees. See an incident and make a decision and move on with the game.

Earlier in the game Sidney Crosby is slashed by Hal Gill, which breaks Crosby's stick. Sidney stops, spits out his mouth guard and holds his hands at his side outward towards the referee with his classic "come on ref!" gesture.

Is Crosby frustrated, you bet he is and that's his emotion showing. It's a player's right, but is a referee allowed to show his emotion so blatantly?

A few minutes after referee Devorski gestures to Gionta, Gionta lines up Orpik a few feet from the corner boards, hits him in the shoulder and pushes with his arms, sending Orpik hard into the boards.

Referee Devorski calls Gionta for boarding. Clear as day boarding, the result of  possible frustration from Gionta.

Devorski's attitude comes through the Bell Centre P.A. system as he announces the penalty. His mannerisms and dirty looks towards Gionta are unprofessional as Gionta makes his way toward the penalty box right in front of Devorski. I'm sure Gionta had words of encouragement for him.

I can tell you that being a referee is not easy, but if the NHL has the best referees in the world working for them then how come we have these issues.

Should the NHL go back to a one referee system? I don't know. I agree with the notion of letting the boys play, but maybe with the intensity of these playoffs and the upsets that have occurred the referees are in over their heads.

I thought two heads were supposed to better than one.


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