OHL needs more refs, consistency

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

An old refrain rained down from the third level at the John Labatt Centre last night.

"Hey ref, you want my glasses?"

It should have been "Hey refs, you want my glasses?" but Sean McQuigge was the lone referee.

The OHL followed the NHL in introducing a new standard of rule enforcement this season, but it only has a chance of working when two referees handle every game.

One referee does not have eyes in the back of his head, nor can he keep up with the play. And McQuigge certainly couldn't be expected to catch everything that occurred in the third-period brawl between the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers.

The trouble with employing one referee with the new standard was never more evident than at the world junior championships. Fearing they might miss something, the Europeans called everything that moved, resulting in phantom penalties.

Some games get two OHL referees, but some get only one. It's been like that all season. If it's a matter of manpower, the league needs to hire more officials.

But two referees isn't a cure-all, either. Some officials don't call it by the new standard. Every referee must buy into the program or the league should bid adieu to them.

Knights general manager and co-owner Mark Hunter is on the OHL's referee committee. He must convince his 19 other league partners that all games need two referees.

"It's a lot for one referee to watch the whole game with the speed and every year it's getting a lot faster," Hunter said last night.

But what about when it's two referees, like Thursday at the JLC, and clearly one of them is not on the same page as the league wants?

"That's a good question, but that's not my decision," Hunter said. "That's up to (director of hockey operations and referee-in-chief) Ted Baker and (commissioner) Dave Branch."

Hunter does want to stay the course, however.

"It is a learning curve the first year and I think it's going to get better. It's like a hockey team and it's like a line -- both guys have got to work together."

Knights fifth-year forward Dylan Hunter said the players know which referees are going to call it by the book and the ones who won't.

They also know what it means to have just one referee.

"You have a mindset going into the game," the Knights captain said. "With one referee, you can tune in and know what he's going to call.

"With two, sometimes one likes to call more than the other and you have to be a little more careful and play a little more timid or at least try to."

The players know they can get away with things when it's one referee and they do take liberties, Dylan Hunter admitted.

He was careful not to use the word "inconsistent," but said it's been frustrating and moreso now with the playoff races heating up.

"You get in the mindset one game with one referee and then next night you get two and it's a totally different game," he said.

"There's a fine line -- a little tug, some referees will call it and some referees will let it go. That's frustrating. If they call it the same way the whole game, that's the way it should be. The most frustrating thing is when they let everything go and then call one."

Hunter, being wise, made sure to toss in a qualifier.

"It's just like us, they're going to make mistakes."

But some of those mistakes may be by choice. The OHL can do something about that.


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