They're stripes for the picking

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:08 PM ET


 TAMPA -- For the good of the game, Kerry Fraser and Brad Watson cannot have their whistles in Saturday night's Game 6 at the Saddledome.

 It has nothing to do with the job the referees did the other night in Calgary. Nothing to do with the five-on-three powerplay they handed the Lightning in the early going of Monday's 1-0 Flames loss.

 Definitely not because of the five-minute major -- and subsequent suspension -- given to Flames winger Ville Nieminen for his hit from behind on Tampa Bay Lightning centre Vincent Lecavalier.

 Fraser and Watson, two of the best zebras in the NHL, have to be left off the ice because of Flames fans.

 Not all fans, obviously, but the ones who pelted the ice with debris at the conclusion of that defeat.

 Sure, the Sea of Red is a sight to see.

 The boisterous cheering of "Go Flames Go!" resounding after the more than 19,000 help Heather Liscano belt out O Canada is a thing of beauty.

 Alas, the Saddledome would be a potential powderkeg should Fraser and Watson work the game -- and the consequences could damage the image of the city, its fans and the league.

 Don't kid yourself -- as soon as there's a questionable call that goes against the Flames, the lunkheads who insist on throwing garbage on the ice will be at it again.

 Just the sight of Fraser (the easiest official in the league to spot) before the puck drops will get fanatics on the verge of boiling over.

 Given a chance -- any chance -- to show their displeasure, those same morons will be screaming, yelling, flinging pops and beers and worse.

 It's a scene the league can do without and should ensure doesn't happen.

 As of yesterday, Fraser was under the impression he'd be calling the final Saddledome game of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs.

 That may change, according to league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

 "(Fraser) is supposed to work," Campbell said yesterday.

 "But if we have to, and we've done this in the past, we change assignments.

 "If we feel there has to be some jigging, we'll do it."

 Which means they may not get the chance to call a game they deserved to be part of, even if it's an undeserved punishment.

 Which, in Campbell's eyes, would be the case.

 "I don't think the game was poorly officiated," he said.

 "I don't know about the team itself and Darryl (Sutter) but I think the officials the other night made the correct calls and did a good game for the intensity of the Stanley Cup final."

 Certainly nothing's set in stone but rest assured the league is looking into all options and weighing what to do next.

 Bank on not seeing Fraser there -- a travesty, since being on the ice in what could be the finale to the season means as much to him as it does to a team readying to hoist the Stanley Cup.

 "I never said he's not going to work Game 6," Campbell said.

 "After Game 4, we take it all on a game-by-game basis but there's temporary schedules we put in as far as moving people around. But we haven't made that decision yet."

 Sadly, the fans of Calgary may do it for them.

 Shamefully.

 So much of what's transpired surrounding the Flames over the past nine weeks should make the city proud.

 What resulted the other night tarnished some of it.

 Given the chance, the NHL should prevent it from being tarnished any further.


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