May 25, 2011
Mistakes making Memorial Cup memorable
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - Hockey officials are human beings.
That simple fact has led to a couple of embarrassing incidents at the 2011 Memorial Cup, but tournament executive members can't do much except plough ahead.
"Human nature is a common element in any sport where there is adjudicating and you can't discount that," Ontario Hockey League vice-president Ted Baker said. "It's never going to be eliminated."
In the first five games, two results were decided on plays during which the scoring team had a player offside. The latest occurred Tuesday night in overtime, giving the Kootenay Ice a 5-4 win against the Saint John Sea Dogs, a victory that kept the Ice from heading home.
Not surprisingly, the officiating has become a oft-discussed topic at the tournament.
"You are never happy in this profession with the officials," Mississauga St. Michael's Majors coach Dave Cameron said. "But the reality of it is that the speed of the game forces mistakes, for officials, coaches, players, everybody involved. You know that nobody is doing it intentionally. It's the nature of the game, nobody feels worse than those guys do."
Veteran linesman Kevin Hastings, who has worked four Memorial Cups, didn't make the right call during overtime on Tuesday. His view of the play might have been partially obstructed -- Kootenay's Max Reinhart stopped the puck outside the Saint John blueline and passed to Matt Fraser for the winning goal -- but that probably did not make him feel any better.
In the opening game of the tournament, Saint John scored the winner in regulation against St. Mike's on a play that was offside.
"Has it been overblown?" Baker said. "I don't think so. (Non-calls) resulted in a goal based on an error. You don't put your head in the sand, you don't shy away. You continue to challenges yourselves as to how to get better.
"You don't want to change black to white during the tournament, in fairness to the players, but if you see things creeping up (you address them)."
Every morning, the referees-in-chief from each of the three major junior leagues meet with all of the on-ice officials, which includes four referees (two from the OHL, one from the Western Hockey League and one from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and six linesmen, all from the OHL. Video from the previous night's game is reviewed.
The officials who perform at the highest level through the tournament are the ones who earn the right to work in the final on Sunday.
Baker acknowledged that officials "lose sleep" when calls are not made. The coaches at the Memorial Cup try to look ahead.
"Players will do things that are out of their nature as well and it changes the outcome," Attack coach Mark Reeds said. "It has some effect, but it's in the past and you move on."