Response on Officials…

Andy, speaking of numbers, did our (mostly) five-on-three debacle against Tri Cities set any team records? Being shorthanded is one thing, but the frequency of five-on-three play and four-minute penalties has to be some kind of record! Now, I know you cannot comment regarding officiating, but is it true the WHL is a development league for refs, too? In that context, could you name any refs you consider fair and unbiased? Appreciate you and your expertise.

The above was a comment on my previous post and I thought instead of burying a long response in the comments, I’d throw it out here.

First off, I don’t know or think that any “records” had been set as far as power plays go in the game against Tri-City on Friday night.  And, yes, the WHL is a development league for officials as well as players.  Most officials in the WHL range in age from their early 20’s to mid 30’s and I would think it would be safe to say that a good majority would like to move on to the pro ranks as an official.  (And some already are working both WHL and minor pro games currently.)

But, lets get to the crux of the post…regarding fair and unbiased.  Well…I think it is impossible for any person to be 100% unbiased.  It is human nature to have a bias and there is no way that anyone can be 100% objective.  The officials in the WHL are not unfeeling, uncaring robots.   They can be influenced by any number of factors but I honestly believe that I don’t think any of them enter the ice before a game thinking “boy…can’t wait to screw over the home team tonight”.

As far as the “fair” part of your statement.  That is very subjective and hard to determine.  All I ask for from an official or pair of officials is that they are consistent in their calls.  A penalty on red would be called the same if a player in white made the same infraction or a penalty in the first period is a penalty in the third period or overtime.  I don’t always see that and that is usually the catalyst of my frustration with officials most nights.

I will preface what I’m saying by pointing out that prior to becoming a broadcaster, I was as vocal as anyone criticizing refs during games…just ask my family.   I spent many a game yelling insults as many fans do now.  That is a fans prerogative as they pay hard earned dollars to watch the game and I won’t ever discourage fans from expressing their frustrations as long as it is doesn’t go too far.  It was disappointing to see fans throwing debris on the ice on New Years Eve at the Rose Garden.  It is senseless…

Now that I’m a broadcaster, I still get frustrated and I try not to let that show, although it still does from time-to-time.  I’m human, too.  Fan and sometimes players, coaches and broadcasters focus too much on the guys wearing stripes.   That is human nature as well.  But to expect 100% fair and unbiased officiating is just not a reasonable expectation, IMO.

I welcome any differing thoughts in the comment section…just keep it in within the boundaries of good taste…



  1. It was the first game, in a LONG time, that I left early from…REAL early. As soon as the 50/50 was announced, I was out. No flow to the game at all with the constant calls.

    To be fair, for the most part, the refs in the WHL are OK. They all have off nights, just as the Hawks have presented us with a few stinkers this season in the Garden and MC. The only ref that makes me go ‘Oh boy’ when I see the lineup card is Nissen…other than that, they seem to be somewhat OK.

    I look at last Friday as an aberration (perhaps, hoping it was) and move on.

    But, Andy, you can hammer the refs now and then…its OK. Johnston did it after the game to Kerry Eggers…you can do it for us. ;-)

  2. Teams have bad or better saying off nights, and as the refs are also a team for that night I would expect them to be off as well, as with every home game I was there and yes I was frustrated with the calls but something had to make the refs make those calls ( I reference the mpvie slapshot) so I am sure we had some coaches and players say something they shouldn’t, as much as I dislike Tri Cities they are a well coached and some what better disiplined team ! I just hope we can play through calls and develope the character that will bring the Cup back to Portland ! Nobody likes the refs it’s our (the fans)duty to be frustrated with them but they have to hae a lot of guts and I admire them for the job they do!

  3. Andy…along the lines of the original comment – Which two refs would you like to work a Game 7 involving the Winterhawks? Just curious….

  4. Thanks, Andy, for this post! Good to get confirmation the WHL is a development league for the “zebras” as well as the players. Suffice to say, methinks one or two will be washouts. I was also stunned (to say the least) to see Andy Thiessen donning the orange armbands during the Memorial Cup a couple of years back. Made me wonder if the selection committee had viewed any of his live games. But, short of Mr. Thiessen, I shan’t name names. It is a rumor one of the current refs actually tried out for the Winterhawks on more than one occasion, but was sent home after training camp. I often wonder if that gave him a chip on his whistle when refereeing our boys.

    Agree with you: refs are a part of the game, and boo ’em or cheer ’em, we can’t have a game without ’em. And what a beauty of a game this is.

    Go Hawks! And try to stay out of the Sin Bin, eh!

  5. Hey Fax…how about Devin Klein and Derek Zalaski? They worked out OK in Game 7 in Spokane last year…


  6. Hey Andy,

    I couldn’t agree more, consistant is by far the best trait a ref can bring to the ice any given game. That said I find certain refs, whom I won’t name simply due to I feel I have raged about them enough, who either turn a blind eye, or just simply match up everything that happens after the whistle. Its a disturbing trend this year which leads to guys getting hot heads in the final stretch and can cause injuries and suspensions. And while new years eve still goes down as one of the worst experiences in calls I’ve had in a long time, it bears repeating, don’t disrespect your city and your team by throwing trash and such on the ice folks. EVER. Nuff said ;-)

    Thanks for everything,

  7. Ack! We missed the NYE game. Who was officiating?

  8. I find that I am more critical of the refs’ performance when there are two refs working the game instead of one. In particular when the ref out at center ice blows a penalty on a play that’s five feet away from the other official, who does NOT blow a penalty. It’s like having the third-base umpire making the calls at first base instead of the first-base ump. At any rate, I find the two-ref system results in more marginal and “ticky-tack” penalties being called, whereas the game seems to flow better when there is only one ref on the ice.

  9. Andy,

    This is a great post and a good topic of converstation. I have been a soccer referee for about 18 years and now do it at a high level. I remember as I moved up the ladder it became more and more difficult. There are so many factors that come into play before, during and even after the game. I guarentee these referees prepare very well before stepping on the ice both mentally and physically or they would not be there. I am sure that with the WHL program just like any other high level association there are other referees just waiting their turn for a shot at the next level. I am sure the pregame talk goes into detail about which players are the ones to watch for when it comes to extra curriculium and which players are the top level players that need to be given a little extra protection against those that might seek them out in a course of a game. Whether you think that it bias, unbiased or true or untrue it happens. These players are our future stars and it is the officials job to ensure the safety of all players. So pregame preparation is key.

    Moving onto the the game itself. I have not been or would never be a hockey official as I cannot skate but watching hockey over the last 29 years of my life it has to be one of the most difficult games to officiate just on the fact of how fast the game is. As an official as you rise up to the next level you become accustomed to that level of play and the level below it becomes very slow. When that happens the game becomes easier to officate from a speed perspective. Until a offical reaches that point it will be difficult for him or her. Not only are you dealing with speed of play you must be in the right position at the right time and be able to anticipate what is going to happen next. It took me a while to learn to be proactive as an official rather then reactive. And again everytime you take the next step in the course of your career your learning all over again. The fundamentals are same but the players, speed and the game is much different. So during the game yes there are some iffy calls made or not made and some that are just out right “what the heck did you see” but that happens. The game is so fast an official might just interpret a particular play based on the angle he has and the reaction of what happened. And he has to make that decision in a split second. The other point I want to make is that just like soccer most other sports have what is called the “spirit of the game” What that means is does a call “need” to be made with what is happening on the ice. Factors that play into that are “the type of game it is” (playoff, 1st vs 2nd, riveraly, is it a blowout etc) “the heat of the game itself” (is there cheap stuff going on or are the teams just playing real hard) I know some of you might think that the book is black and white and yes some of it is but you have to have a grey area or the game would be played and officiated by robots. It would not be fun!And lastly officials of all levels have bad games. It is the officials that can bounce back, watch tape of previous games and mistakes they made and then go out and have 4-5 great games in a row. Those turn out to be the best. I know as fans we don’t see all of that and we live in the moment but believe me these guys bust the rumps to get where they are and do take it hard when they screw up because its usually us fans that let them know it. I hope this provided some insight to an officials mind and you might agree and or disagree with some or all of it but like I said this is a great topic of conversation because officiating any sports is conterversial in itself.

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