Officiating And The Integrity Of The Game

There is a belief among some hockey fans, and most commentators, that referees are doing a great job under very difficult circumstances. After all, the refs are doing their best, at a thankless task, some might say. It’s hard to catch everything, even with two referees and two linesmen. The game is just so fast.

Is that good enough? I don’t believe it is. We are still witnessing blown calls, trivial calls, two different ways of calling games (playoff game and regular season game), and most of all a distinct lack of fairness in applying the rules.

If you have played the game and/or watched it enough, you will undoubtedly have heard that you should never retaliate because you will get the penalty. What this really says is that the original infraction often goes undetected, or is ignored. This appears to negate the benefit of the second on-ice official.

Consider this common scenario. The play is moving from one team’s zone into the other team’s zone. A couple of players are lagging behind. One guy slashes the other guy. The ref doesn’t see it. The original victim slashes back, but by that time the referee has looked back at them and only sees the retaliatory slash, and he calls a penalty on the second slash. This happens all too often. What should have been coincidental minors becomes a power play because one player was clever enough to slash first.

I would suggest that the second referee be taken off the ice and placed somewhere up in the stands at a strategic vantage point. Maybe even a third official up there would help. The ref(s) in the stands could easily communicate by radio with the on-ice officials.

This might help in applying rules equally throughout all games. More infractions would be seen and hopefully, more valid ones would be called, and non-penalties would not be called.

Calls should be allowed to be challenged. Video replay should be used in those circumstances. If a blown, or non-call is made, and everyone at home and in the arena can clearly see it’s a muffed call on replay, then there is no valid reason for not allowing teams to challenge these calls. It avoids the need for subsequent calls to make up for these blown calls.

The game can be faster still, certainly in terms of overall elapsed time. It’s faster than it was, but not as fast as it could be.

Here are some other changes that should be implemented, or done away with:

  • The NHL is not the Olympics. Do away with playing the national anthems. Each team could have their own theme song. Play a snippet of it when they come onto the ice at the beginning of each game. That should be enough.
  • Dumping the puck into the stands by a player in his own end should not be a penalty unless it is provably deliberate.
  • Stop calling penalties when a player’s glove is merely tapped. That tap should not be an infraction in any way. It does not physically hinder the player at all.
  • Stop calling infractions when a player breaks an opponent’s stick. The offending player is penalized for the poor condition or quality of his opponent’s stick.
  • Once the goalie leaves the crease, he is fair game. He should be treated as just another player, without special privileges. If he goes behind the net to play the puck, and gets checked, then so be it. If an opponent finishes his check on the goalie, same as he would on any other player, it should be allowed. No privileges outside the blue paint for netminders.
  • Allow the goalie to play the puck in the corners too. A goalie that has developed puck handling skills should not be penalized for it. Seconds of valuable playing time are wasted as the goalie watches and waits for one of his defensemen to come back and play the puck as he stands idly by.
  • It’s time for no-touch icing. Once again, valuable seconds of playing time are wasted waiting for a defenseman to go touch the puck after it’s dumped in by a team making a line change. If there are twenty icing calls during a game, each of them taking three seconds for a defenseman to touch the puck, that could mean a minute of valuable playing time gone. And that’s not including the obvious safety issues related to no-touch icing.

If there is an infraction, then make the call, and call it consistently. During the first game of the finals, at the four minute mark, Boston’s Krecji was called for cross-checking Hamhuis. Krejci’s actions were hardly a cross-check. It appeared he attempted to cross-check Hamhuis, but Hamhuis was sinking to the ice faster than Krejci could lay the lumber on him. Yet just prior to that there was a play behind the Boston net where a Bruin was mercilessly cross-checking a Canuck multiple times. On the replay CBC’s Glenn Healy was counting the cross-checks. The total was around ten cross-checks that connected solidly. How can ten cross-checks not be called, but a lame attempt immediately after those 10 cross-checks is called? It makes no discernible sense.

And finally there is the Burrows biting Bergeron incident. Right in front of the referee Bergeron facewashes Burrows, and puts his finger into Burrows’ mouth. Replays clearly show Burrows biting down on Bergeron’s finger, as the ref watches. The ref justifies the non-call on Burrows by saying that Bergeron put his finger in his mouth, as if that justifies not calling a major intent to injure penalty. The NHL just let it go at that, with no subsequent suspension for Burrows, allowing him to be the Bruin-killer in a game he should not have been allowed to play in.

There needs to be better officiating. It appears that once again we are heading for a final outcome that is surely going to be determined by officiating that is not as good as it should be.

The integrity of the game should be more important than the reputation(s) of those involved. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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