Forsberg livid Canadians will ref Olympic gold-medal game

Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg is none to pleased that three of the four officials scheduled...

Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg is none to pleased that three of the four officials scheduled to work the Olympic gold-medal hockey game are Canadian. (Reuters)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:44 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - A day before the Olympic gold-medal hockey game, one of Sweden's most prominent players was in an F-bomb launching foul mood.

Former NHLer Peter Forsberg told a Swedish newspaper that having three Canadian officials assigned to Sunday's finale between Sweden and Canada was a "bleeping joke."

And he didn’t say bleeping.

Nor did Forsberg stop there. In an email to a Swedish newspaper, Forsberg referred to the officiating assignments as “comedy at the highest level.”

As you might imagine, the Forsberg commentary caused quite a stir in the buildup to Sunday’s big game.

Never mind that NHL officials have been working games throughout the tournament, Forsberg ripped into the prospect of Canadian on-ice officials overseeing the clincher. In many games, an NHL official has been alongside a European ref.

Kelly Sutherland of Richmond, B.C., is one of the refs while linesmen Greg Devorski of Guelph, Ont., and Derek Amell of Port Colborne, Ont., will work the game as well.

NHL officials are part of the arrangement the league has with the IIHF for participation in the Games and the majority of those officials are Canadian or American.

Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry scoffed at Forsberg's rant, suggesting that the Swedes would actually be better off with a Canadian calling their game because he feels that officials from the Great White North over-react to appear on the up and up.

"The worst we can do is have a Canadian ref," Cherry told QMI Agency, referring to Team Canada. "Whenever we'd get a Canadian ref (in international play) it would be like 'oh no, don't tell me that.'

"It's because we in Canada don't have the guts. They'll bend over backwards to appear like they are fair. If there's any calls against Canada it would be (from) the Canadian one.

"The Swedes would get a break getting a Canadian referee. Tell Peter to watch the penalties tomorrow. I'll bet him the first one goes to a Canadian player."

After the Forsberg comments circulated around the Bolshoy Arena, the story began to take on a life of its own with Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson even getting in a subtle shot at some of the officiating back home.

“I think most referees (in the NHL) are Canadian too,” Karlsson said. “They probably support Montreal or Toronto, but they don’t make any difference there.

“I couldn’t care less about what the referees do. It’s nothing we can control and neither can Canada.”

The whole mess is laughable, really, considering that NHL officials handle games that the majority of players in the NHL see on a nightly basis. As veteran NHL ref Stephen Walkom told QMI colleague Chris Stevenson via email, they Olympics are getting top officials.

“The NHL is fortunate to have the best officials in the world and since 1998 have been asked to send NHL officials to the Olympics,” Walkom wrote. “We have complete confidence and support for all our guys selecte to work the (gold- and bronze-medal games.)

“In Torino (2006) when Sweden won the gold, an NHL official refereed the game and this year NHL officials have been selected again which is a testament to their work on the ice and not to the country they are from.”

QUICK HITS

Sweden and Canada will meet for the 17th time at the Olympics. The only teams that have met more at the Games are Canada and the U.S. (18) ... Bizarre Swedish Olympic stat – in their last six Olympic appearances, Sweden has either finished fifth or won the gold medal ... Karlsson on playing on the bigger European ice: “I prefer the ice surface back in North America. It’s more fun hockey to play. Obviously it’s different. It’s been fun here. I play with really skilled players.” ... Canada came to the Olympics as the pre-tournament betting favourite so fitting they have retained that status vs. the Swedes. Most betting shops have them listed as solid minus-150 favourites meaning you would need to wager $150 to profit $100. The over/under total for the gold-medal game was set at 4 1/2 goals.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/longleysunsport


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