NHL: Ref's call against Smith was "gutsy"
Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating, said the ruling that Lightning goaltender Mike Smith deliberately threw his stick to disrupt Milan Hejduk's shootout attempt on Thursday was the correct call.
"It was a very tough call. It was a gutsy call. It was a call that was made in an instant, and I support the call," Walkom said.
Walkom said the referees did it right by conferring amongst themselves to try to get the call correct. As for perhaps in the future expanding video replay to include such situations, Walkom said no because, "Where does it stop. It's a judgment call. You can watch this play 1,000 times, and the only thing you can say is the decision that was made you need to support.
"They're there," he said of the officials. "They have a sense of what really happened on the play. The video could argue it either way. At the end of the day, the guys on the ice make a judgment call and you have to support it. I don't think the video refutes it."
I'll have a lot more on this in the story in tomorrow's paper, including a pretty good blow by blow from Walkom about how the call was made, which referee was the ringleader, so to speak, and Walkom's concession that the referees could have handled better explaining to coach Rick Tocchet at the bench how the ruling was made.
In the meantime, here are some answers from the NHL as to the questions posed in Thursday's blog entry. These are excerpts from conversations with Walkom and NHL director of hockey operations Mike Murphy.
Was the call right?
Murphy: "It doesn't matter what i think. The call is made by the referees and I support their calls.
Walkom: "Just like Rick supports his team, I support the guys in the calls they make. This is hard. It leads to debate. But in the end, the referee on the play, viewing the play was 100 percent sure that is what (Smith) did. And he made that call in an instant. Not easy.
Should video replay be expanded?
Murphy: "Not with two referees on the ice and they do an unbelievable job. We don't need anyone refereeing from above, and that's what you can get."
Walkom: "Maybe this is a good example of how video really couldn't help you. ... I know it wouldn't change the result of this call. ... You can say you can watch this play 1,000 times, and the only thing you can say on this play is the decision that was made you need to support"
Has there ever been a discussion about expanding the video review?
Murphy: "They tried to expand video review and it hasn't been received well. Some general managers have put it on the agendas for a couple of meetings and it was not received well. Leave video review alone. It works and let's not expand it."
Why can't refs, generally, speak to reporters after controversial calls?
Murphy: "As I talked to both, they were wound tighter than a drum; very emotional. They were wound up as tight as the players. They had to deal with a lot of animosity from the bench and a lot of unhappiness. I don't want them even being approached even by someone like you who does not have an agenda. They might say or do the wrong thing and that's not what we want. The game is about the players. (Officials) are there to make sure the game is played on the ice and played fair."