TORONTO -- Those officials who call the game strictly by the book are not neccessarily those picked for the most ultimate and lucrative assignment, the Stanley Cup final.
Of course, NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom is looking for the best interpreters of the league's obstruction standards, but he also has chosen four referees and four linesmen he believes won't get too hot under the helmet in the most critical games of the year.
The league is expected to name Paul Devorski, Bill McCreary, Dan O'Halloran and Brad Watson as referees for next week's Ottawa-Anaheim series, and Shane Heyer, Scott Driscoll, Jean Morin and Jay Sharrers as linesmen.
"This is probably the most difficult job assignment of all to determine," Walkom said yesterday. "The playoffs are like a mountain and certain guys get to be in that small group that goes for the summit, while the rest have helped them from base camp.
"If you're not picked for the final, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. You have to look at what has been accomplished from back at our camp in September. None of those guys expect to be here at the start of the year, but I know they all want to see what it's like."
Walkom uses the same rating criteria as the regular season. From a regular-season pool of more than 70 referees and linesmen, he chose 20 from each stripe from the first round of playoffs. With some help from each series manager, he then pared that to 12 and 12 in the second round and eight and eight in the conference finals.
READ AND REACT
"A lot goes into the final decision," Walkom said. "The good thing about the playoffs at this stage is that I've had a chance to see everyone work up close.
"Most of the guys can skate at this level, but you also have to read and react, know how to defuse on-ice situations and support teammates, pre-game and post-game.
"On the ice, you're making decisions that make a big impact on our sport, decisions vital to its integrity."
But Walkom says the experience and travel is also to be savoured by the finalists. The eight could make around $50,000 US in bonus money for gettting this far.