Thursday, May 24, 2012

Awesome and Infuriating

By Andrew McGilligan
SN Staff

Sportsnet’s coverage of Major Junior Hockey has produced one of the best extras in broadcasting while at the same time becoming one of the most infuriating.

The network gives fans a chance to listen in when the referees “go upstairs” on a questionable goal call. Instead of the replay being shown on an endless loop and broadcasters speculating – which can be tough air time to fill depending on the length of the call – fans get to hear exactly what’s being discussed.

This is the best addition to hockey broadcasting since the colour commentator between the benches. While it gives fans an added bonus watching the games, it’s produced two of the most infuriating moments of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.

When a referee goes upstairs, it’s to make sure the right call is made. Unfortunately, that’s not happening every time. Errors are still creeping into the equation far too much and at pivotal times in the game.

Take for instance the final round robin game between the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Shawinigan Cataractes, a 4-1 win for the Sea Dogs. Up 2-0, it appeared the Sea Dogs scored a third goal on a scramble in front of the Shawinigan goal. The referee decided to go upstairs. It was the right call because bodies were piling up in the scoring area, Cataractes goalie Gabriel Girard was down and referee’s view was obstructed.

This was a pivotal moment.

Going up 3-0 would have firmly placed the Sea Dogs boot on Shawinigan’s neck. The guys in the replay booth determined the puck crossed the line and told that to the referee. The only thing left to determine was when the official blew the whistle. Referee Nicolas Dutil said he had blown the play dead, so despite the puck crossing the line, it was no goal.

Fair enough.

Sometimes the referee loses sight and whistles the play down. The only problem in this case was as the puck crossed the line, Dutil circled all the way around the net before blowing the whistle.

The guys upstairs got their part right, but Dutil did not.

In the first game of the tournament between the Cataractes and Edmonton Oil Kings, Shawinigan had a goal reviewed as the referee had signaled no goal on the ice. After review, the replay judge said it came down to the original call on the ice. Despite having signaled no goal on the ice, the referee ignored his earlier call and counted the goal. Once again, this could have potentially ruined one team’s season.

Officiating is a tough job and not everyone has the combination of athleticism, knowledge and, let’s face it, enough thick skin to do it.

The referees at the Memorial Cup are there because they’re some of the best in major junior hockey.

That being said, if a referee goes upstairs because he’s unsure of the correct ruling, the video judge should make the definitive call.

The referee can be asked questions but the words goal or no goal should come from the replay official.
Otherwise why are they there?

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