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An article in the current (April 8, 2008) issue of The Hockey News announced that certain officials may very well decline to work this year's playoffs.
"Some veterans, who are winding down their careers, are expected to take a pass on the playoffs to allow younger referees and linesmen to work the post-season."

Naturally, the league hasn't released the names of the officials in question. However, as the article states: "they weren't asked to step aside. Rather, they volunteered." The author, Mike Brophy, rightly points out that you'd never see a veteran player act likewise.

The league, in the person of Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom, characterizes this as a good thing:
"Guys who have worked the playoffs their whole career will let younger guys work ahead of them. They were not asked. They are doing it for the team. They are really helping us evolve as a team."

That's a lovely sentiment, to be sure, and--this is purely my own speculation--Walkom (whom I really like and respect, by the way) may be offering a positive take on an uncomfortable situation.

The idea of the league contendedly moving into its most critical time of the year--the Stanley Cup Playoffs--without putting its best officials on the ice is another example of how the NHL doesn't seem to get it these days. We've been told for years how the league takes a lot of time and effort to judge the officials throughout the season to assure that the most deserving (ie, best) of them call the biggest games of the year.

This is not the All-Star Game we're talking about here. If a few vets decide to skip that exhibition to rest up or spend time with family, it's unfortunate, but not earth-shattering. What we have here is the league openly accepting the idea that officials who, in its own estimation, didn't merit the responsibility of being in charge of playoff games will be receiving just that.

As for Walkom's assertion that it will be good for the "team" of officials a whole for younger (ie, less experienced) officials to gain playoff experience this way, I'd counter that they're supposed to earn the right to gain that experience. Again, the league office itself didn't deem them to be worthy of it based on their performance this year.

So now, in addition to questions about the quality of officiating in the playoffs--already a yearly hot-button issue--the NHL opens itself up to criticism on a larger basis for failing to assure that the best quality officials are even available in the first place and--more disturbingly--at least on the surface, seems just fine with that.


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Filed Under:   Walkom   playoffs   Stanley Cup   NHL   referees  
April 8, 2008 11:46 AM ET | Delete
Hopefully, as the playoffs progress, the league will keep the refs who are most proficient in the games and ask the lesser refs to stop working each round.I can dream, can't I?
April 8, 2008 11:48 AM ET | Delete
That's still their plan, Skippy, but if you're not starting with the best, you're rating a watered down version already.
April 8, 2008 11:49 AM ET | Delete
Interesting, 23. I hadn't heard about this situation. I agree that it is not in the teams' interest to have less qualified officials working in the playoffs. Officiating is bad enough, as it is!
April 8, 2008 11:57 AM ET | Delete
good piece 23...the officials who will bow out, are McGeough and Shick (who missed a lot of time this year due to injury)
April 8, 2008 11:58 AM ET | Delete
that's official btw...
April 8, 2008 12:08 PM ET | Delete
Well, I certainly won't miss McGeough or Shick! But, IMO, they shouldn't have been involved in the first place, but that's another blog.
April 8, 2008 12:24 PM ET | Delete
A. Stick (that has missed alot of time due to injury, and probably needs more time to heel) and McGeough (the one everyone hates (?) and might be getting ready to retire (?)) sounds like they dont want to go through the rigors of the playoffs. Remember, refs dont get line changes and dont have protection (i.e. pads shin guards) so they can get pretty beat up themselves. The newer guys have to jump in sometime to get playoff experience and if it is just 2 vets, does seem bad to me. As long as they pair them with ones that have playoff experience.B. I tend to agree with you 23...good blog
April 8, 2008 12:28 PM ET | Delete
If it's only those two refs (McGeough or Shick), then not a problem as far as I'm concerned. Especially McGeough, whose antics, posturing, and strange calls will not be missed by me. However, if this involves other veterans who are not retiring (or injured) then it is to the detriment of the league. BTW, what has happened to the Blog Contest?
April 8, 2008 12:30 PM ET | Delete
McGeough is retiring this year. Finally.
April 8, 2008 5:35 PM ET | Delete
Let's all hope Dave Jackson stays home.
April 8, 2008 7:06 PM ET | Delete
Jesus, The NHL strikes again!!!
April 8, 2008 8:26 PM ET | Delete
Good Blog I completely agreed
April 8, 2008 8:42 PM ET | Delete
Great. I can't wait for us to get killed in the refs by Bettman's newly adopted team as they join the Pens. It's so sad that they have to ruin other people's playoff chances just so he can get national tv to see Ovechkin because he's in such a small makret. Ridiculous.
April 9, 2008 4:08 PM ET | Delete
Great job #23.
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