I’m a video replay proponent. After a life of playing, watching, coaching, writing, broadcasting and complaining about sports, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t anyone, anywhere, who can officiate any sporting event properly, at any time.
Can’t be done.
There are no good officials. They are all bad. It’s just that some are worse than others. When an official once asked me during a basketball game (he was pissed off, by the way), “What do you want? For all of us to go home so you’re left calling your own fouls?” My response was swift and to the point. “Yes. Save us all a lot of aggravation and get your ass out of here.”
Sadly, he wouldn’t leave.
Even in this world of performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals, I still believe most athletes are invariably honest while most officials either don’t have a clue or are just plain crooked. If you left it up to the athletes, they could could call the games themselves and be (a) a lot more accurate and (b) a lot more honest.
Case in point, Wednesday night in Dallas.
There was Red Wings’ agitator, Tomas Holmstrom, stationed where he always is, right in front of a goaltender, when Pavel Datsyuk ripped a shot past Marty Turco. It was clearly a goal, 1-0 Detroit.
But that’s when Kelly Sutherland decided that it was a good time to wave it off and say Holmstrom was in the crease.
There were blind people who saw it differently, but Sutherland stuck to his guns. It was, clearly, one of the worst calls in playoff history, but he was sticking to it. Of course, he could. You can’t use replay on an “in the crease” call.
Oh, how convenient. This call is based completely on a referee’s discretion. Period.
Interestingly, later in the game, there was little doubt Loui Eriksson was in the crease when Stephane Robidas shot the puck at Chris Osgood and Eriksson just changed places in the crease to pop in the rebound. This time, Sutherland let it go. In the old days of makeup calls, Sutherland would have disallowed both but in today’s NHL, two wrongs don’t make a right but a dozen or so, do.
“Kelly’s a good referee, he just blew the call. That’s life,” Wings coach Mike Babcock told the assembled media during the post-game news conference. “But make no mistake, these officials meet before games and talk about players. The fact it was Holmstrom near the crease meant at least one goal would be disallowed.”
I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say the fix was in. Frankly, I don’t care. But to say Sutherland allowed a pre-game meeting to get in the way of his good judgment is probably true. After all, Sutherland was as close as he could possibly be to Holmstrom without getting hit by Datsyuk’s shot. It was such an egregiously bad call that it shed a nasty light on the entire NHL. Can anyone say WWE?
There is now little question that “in the crease” calls need to be reviewed. If this one had been reviewed, it would have counted and Sutherland wouldn’t have looked like (a) an idiot, (b) Blind Pugh or (c) a fixer.
Fortunately, Sutherland’s call affected the outcome of only one game, not an entire series. The Wings should close this thing out on Saturday, anyway.
However, in such times as these calls become important (like overtime in Buffalo in 1999), it would be best if the NHL let replay — or better stated, the truth — decide the outcome.
Obviously when a bunch of guys in striped shirts — oh yes, guys who try to do the best they can — try to do it alone, it just doesn’t work.