Volume 93, Issue 2

Friday, May 21, 1999


Profiling the image of women in sports

New Stang coach set to grab the reins

Halftime: Androstenedione in U.S. athletics

Two heads not so better than one

Millenium Moment

Two heads not so better than one

Are two heads really better than one? In the case of the National Hockey League officiating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it does not appear that way.

The two referee system was designed to help the refs not miss any calls and to aid in the elimination of interference penalties which usually go unnoticed.

In the first few games of the playoffs both the teams and the media complained there were too many penalties being called. But now the problem has become what the referees are missing. The first example came in the Philadelphia Flyers/Toronto Maple Leafs series when the second ref missed an interference penalty as Toronto winger Derek King ran over the Flyers' centre Rod Brind'amour in neutral ice. This non-call allowed the Leafs to score the series ending goal on the power play.

Another referee goof occurred in the Toronto/Pittsburgh Penguin series with the phantom goal of game three. Each angle of the replays showed the puck never fully crossing the line and yet the goal judge called it a goal.

I know it is the common practice of the media, players and teams to criticize the referees and at times this criticism is not fair – the ref can only do and see so much on the ice. They try to do their best but they cannot see everything that is happening.

However, with two referees mistakes should either be eliminated or there should be very few of them. The whole point of adding a second referee was to catch calls which may be easily missed. Any present criticism is now founded because with the extra ref there should be no problems. Unfortunately there are.

The first problem with the system is teams will have to adjust to two different styles of officiating as each ref has their own style. Paul Stewart, for example, lets things get a little rough whereas Rob Schick calls every little minor infraction (at least against the Leafs).

Having these two referees on the ice will result in confusion among the players because at one end of the ice, holding may be called but at the other it is allowed. The system disrupts the flow of the game because players are not sure what one ref will call and what the other will not.

The second problem with the two ref system is that inexperienced refs who should not be officiating important games, such as the playoffs, often do. The old system only used the best officials, but now inexperienced refs are part of the biggest NHL games.

A ref who is not familiar with the playoff atmosphere could be swayed by the crowd and not want to make a call against the home team, or he could simply be nervous and miss a lot of things. As we get deeper into the playoffs this problem is eliminated because only a few refs get to go on, but those first round matches effect the rest of the playoffs. A bad ref in a game seven could change the whole face of the playoffs.

I understand an official's job is one of the hardest in the NHL and they are under a lot of pressure to call not only a good game but a fair game. However, hockey has survived for years with one ref, so why change a system that was already pretty good?

I think it is apparent the two ref system should not be used and the NHL should get the best officials on the ice rather than two subpar refs. All the NHL has done is open themselves up to a lot more criticism as they can no longer make excuses for the refs. After all, with two refs on the ice there should no longer be any problems, right?

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Copyright The Gazette 1999