Tuesday, 25 September 2012
What If the NHL Had Replacement Refs?
In the wake of the horrible ending between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks which saw the Seahawks snatch away victory from the Packers on a controversial hail mary pass that was incorrectly called by the NFL replacement refs. The players, coaches and fans are extremely fed up with the replacement refs, many insisting that commissioner Roger Goodell pay the referees so football can be officiated the right way. Some fans and players are even stating that with the level of officiating taking place over the first 2 weeks of the season the integrity of the NFL has been lost, wow! I'll post the video evidence and let you decide
To be honest I feel bad for the replacement referees. They were thrust into a role they weren't ready for nor are they capable of handling, a lose-lose situation.Their reward for stepping up? Coaches yelling at them all game long, analysts questioning their calls and blaming them for the outcome of games and most importantly the fact that once the NFL and the regular officials get a deal done, they'll be removed from the games and we may never hear about them again. Let's compare the NFL's situation to a 3 on 3 hockey tournament that consists of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos against three first year players from the OHL. It's not going to be a pretty picture, the OHLer's will be outmatched and things would quickly get out of hand.
After the turmoil that broke out on twitter last night one reader suggested I look at the NHL and see what would happen if the full time NHL referees went on strike.
Much like the NFL and Goodell I imagine Bettman would insist on using replacement referees until he could make peace with the regular ones. Both commissioners figure that fans will still buy tickets and the games will still be aired no matter who's refereeing,
after all you don't generally go to a game to watch the referees. The money Bettman could make and save by not having to pay the regular more expensive referees yet still have fans buying tickets would be too great for him to pass up.
Now that we've established the fact that Bettman would indeed play with replacement referees, we have to look at how it would effect the games. Compared to the large role the officials play each game in the NFL the role of a NHL official is far less significant. Yes we need them to control the safety of the game and call penalties but they aren't necessarily involved in every play. Where as in the NFL each drive can be effected by the referees call. If the ref throws a flag on the play the next drive is immediately effected, if the ref rules an incomplete pass play is immediately blown dead and the next drive starts.
The next thing we have to take into account is the penalties. While it is rarely beneficial for a player to take a penalty during a hockey game the effect of the penalty on his team may or may not be taken into account. Sure the offending team has to play with 4 skaters compared to the other teams 5, but if the opposition fails to score during the 2 minute penalty the offending team gets it's fifth skater back and the game goes on like the penalty never occurred. If a team has exceptionally good penalty killing the chances they are negatively effected by a penalty are less. Compared to the NFL where each "penalty" directly effects the offending team. Let's say the quarterback and the wide receiver hook up for a 40 yard reception. If the referee throws a flag on the play that 40 yard reception would be virtually erased and the team would have to start the drive again with one less "down" and further back from their original field placement. There is no chance for the team to defend or neutralize the penalty.
Since the referees are not as influential in determining the outcome of every single hockey game. Yes I know there have been some horrible calls which ended up turning the game around, more often than not the games are whether we want to believe it or not officiated fairly. Because of this I believe the NHL would survive with replacement referees. But in case you're not convinced here's 2 more reasons why the NHL would be fine.
1. Less Penalties
While penalties are a necessity to keep the games in order, the most entertaining games to watch are ones where the referees put away their whistles and just let the players play. The games are exciting, fast paced and usually move along quicker. Sure the odd holding call gets missed but who really cares?
As we've seen with the NFL replacement refs the newbie rookies are afraid to call penalties and most of the time are concerned about making a call that will influence the game. The referees will be a little shell shocked when they first step into the game, they'll be hesitant to make any calls and as a result will allow the players to just play.
2. It's Fun to chirp Officials
Hockey games are mostly decided by whichever team can score more goals than scored against. But fans and coaches love to blame officials as a reason why their team lost the game. It doesn't matter who's officiating the game there will always be questionable calls and always criticism of the referees. Eventually like with the NFL the poor officiating will become a joke, a joke that fans believe it or not will pay to see.
When it all comes down to it the referees are just human and to err is to be human. They're going to mess up things, sometimes it will cost a team the game but those things happen. The NHL may be a little better off with replacement referees than the NFL currently is as they don't play as big a part. It would be nice if everyone would stop fighting over money and allow the sports we all love to be played properly.