Thursday, November 09, 2006

äsch nej!

As if Sundin's elbow injury wasn't enough, now Raycroft is out with a pulled groin and Kubina is catching a baby somewhere in the Czech Republic (oh, I've been to Prague)...sometimes I wonder what Toronto has done to so anger the Hockey Gods.

I also wonder if this team is going to need a three-goal buffer each night to stay in the win column...wasn't sure that the Buds were going to pull that one off tonight.

There certainly continues to be a lot of noise over Mick McGeough's blown call in the Edmonton-Dallas game a week ago (see here , here, here and here - for starters).

In terms of refs blowing it, the Sports Economist has offered up quite a few interesting posts and links on home-side bias in referees, the tendency for NHL refs to make even-up calls and the importance of accountability standards to keep sports from evolving (devolving?) into pro-wrestling.

When it comes to league response, I've always thought the NFL does a very good job of holding their officials accountable and owning up rather publicly to their mistakes - for example, issuing a league sanctioned statement whenever there is serious question about a call. The NFL even has a Monday night TV segment called Official Review to address refereeing issues.

Which brings me back to the good 'ol NHL.

While the NCAA has handed out one-game suspensions to officials and the NFL goes out of its way to maintain officiating standards and look into officiating shortcoming, the NHL's response to McGeough's blunder was seriously lacking. If you surf through their news archive there's a near identical CP story and AP story on the matter, but I couldn't find an official release or an official statement issued by the League.

I have seen my share of horrific calls and non-calls over the years, but I don't recall an NHL referee ever being suspended or called on the carpet by the NHL for any of them. It's too late now, but had the NHL stepped up to the plate, shown some accountability and dealt with this as the NFL does - maybe even suspending McGeough for a game - this wouldn't be hanging around like a Keith Primeau concussion.

Which makes me wonder, does anyone know if the NHL ever taken disciplinary action - fines, suspensions, complementary donuts - against one of their refs? I've never seen it, but I think it might be a good idea.


  1. Anonymous7:18 am

    Good blog, its nice to be able to read between the lines rather than just checking out the score. you need a thumbs up or down after every game, that would be great. in the meantime, here is a recipe for you. You may use Diet Coke instead if you are so inclined.

  2. The reason Toronto is experiencing bad luck is because the fan base began to collectively gloat about its prospects after the Buffalo victory.

    It's punishment for getting ahead of ourselves.

    I'm only half-joking. My friend is actually annoyed with me because I got too excited about the team this week. :(

  3. Anonymous6:09 pm

    I can't remember the NHL ever taking disciplinary action against a ref. And I'm not sure it would really change anything if they did. The refs in the NFL still blow calls despite the fact that the league is very quick to publicly shame them when they do so. Human error is simply part of sport, by players, coaches, and officials. It's one of the reasons it is so compelling.

    Hockey is a fast game where incidents happen in the blink of an eye. Yes, McGeough's call was clearly wrong, and that fact was immediately evident to everyone that saw the play live. He blew the call, which he later admitted. Would punishing him ensure that he, or another ref, gets the call right the next time? Probably not. At the time, McGeough felt he had made the right call based on his view of the play and his interpretation of the rules. Ultimately he was wrong but he felt he was right when he made the call. Punishment doesn't correct that type of call. Better training might, however, or, perhaps, contact lenses.

    Now, if he knew he was making the wrong call at the time but decided to make it anyway because he was favouring one team over another, or was trying to even up a bad call the other way earlier in the game, then a punishment would hopefully deter that kind of behaviour.

  4. Paul - excellent points, but being the noted ref baiter that I am, there's something that's just so satisfying about seeing refs get it from their league. Nothing like a little public humiliation in the morning.

    On a more serious note, I think a middle ground carrot and stick approach is likely more important for the refs, the sport and the league. Incent the good refs with performance bonuses and playoff work and in the case of really bad calls or non-calls (Kerry Fraser and Gilmour's chin anyone?) issue a formal statement from the league and consider supplementary disciplinary action.

    The NHL suspends players for careless acts. The careless acts often continue unabaited (Paging Mr. Avery) but I don't think we should conclude that suspensions should be made a thing of the past.

  5. Anonymous10:52 am

    I think the league does analyze regular season performance of officials in determining who will be working during the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if McGeough makes the cut this year.

    I don't know whether officials are paid by the game/series for the playoffs or if they really care about working those games. One would hope that professional pride would dictate that they do want to be involved in the playoffs, regardless of any financial benefit.

    While I don't think disciplinary action for one blown call is the answer, certainly if McGeough continues to blow calls like that he should be suspended or fired.