I have a friend who is a Hockey East Referee

Submitted by WolverineBoston on March 29th, 2010 at 7:53 AM

Seriously, I do. I work with him. He's a good dude. He knows the ref from last night pretty well.

But here's his take on the call last night. This shows how completely fucked up a refs' opinion is on really important plays in a game. Should be like football. Wait until the play is dead to blow the goddamn whistle.

Me: "Gravellese cost Michigan the game in the 1st OT. Blew the whistle when the puck was loose under the goalie and a Mich player knocked it in a split second after the whistle. No goal. Miami wins in double OT. Literally the worst call I've ever seen.

Him: "Sounds like he lost sight of the puck... it happens."

The lesson, as always; Refs aren't humans.



March 29th, 2010 at 8:11 AM ^

What drives me nuts though is that Miami tied the game on a play that should have been blown dead. Hunwick had his right pad on top of the puck and stopped moving to make sure he tied it up, yet the ref let the play go. Fast forward to OT and Knapp is looking around over both shoulders and moving around the crease because he has no idea where the puck is, yet the ref blows the whistle even though the puck is clearly visible. I understand they make mistakes, but the consistency is the most aggravating.

Couple the blown call with how lopsided the penalty calls were on plays that both teams were making. If refs are going to call a tight game, fine but apply that level of scrutiny to both teams. That is the most aggravating part. If the OT goal had been the only gripe of the game then that is the way it goes sometimes (I'm a Philly fan and used to these kinds of days, especially in hockey). But the entire game was an abortion of a reffing job which makes the disallowed goal even more frustrating as it stole the game away from hardworking kids that left it all out on the ice. That is the biggest travesty of the whole thing.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:58 AM ^

Agree on the double standard thing.

My problem is that regardless of the whistle, the play should have been a goal. I don't think the whistle changed the outcome of the play, as it happened right in time with the puck crossing the line, at least that's how it seemed on the junky websteam last night. It isn't like Knapp gave up when he heard the whistle, and even if he had, he had no shot in stopping the shot anyway.

Blue In NC

March 29th, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

Exactly. This is what drives me so crazy. You let the play go for the tying goal when the puck was clearly covered yet you blow it dead when it not covered in OT. If anything, the refs should be letting it go longer in OT. Plus, I believe he was in bad position in the corner (not right next to the net).

Blue in Yarmouth

April 7th, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

I have played hockey my whole life and the only complaint I have about the game is that reffing is so damn subjective in the sport. More so than any sport I have ever watched or played, the officials play a huge role in almost every game of hockey.

The ambiguity of the rules makes it virtually impossible for the game to be played without blown calls. Couple that with the speed of the game and the fact that in most cases, there is one offical that can call penalties and it is a disatser waiting to happen.

The addition of more refs would be good, but the playing surface is cramped enough as it is. Maybe if linesmen could call penalties as well, I don't know. All I can say is that as much as I love the sport, it is the one with the worst reffing (which I don't think is all the refs fault).


March 29th, 2010 at 8:15 AM ^

I'm just as pissed about this as everyone else is but I think his response needs to be taken knowing Gravellese is his colleague in Hockey East and his friend. He's going to have his back and not throw him under the bus even if he doesn't really agree with the call.


March 29th, 2010 at 9:24 AM ^

What is it with referees? It is like they are above reproach when it comes to blown calls. Every time, they say that it's a part of the game and that there were still other opportunities to win. My dad referees high school basketball, so I've grown up listening to him defend some truly atrocious calls. My response, IT DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT!

In business, if you screw up, you get fired. In medicine, if you screw up, you get sued. In any job, if you don't perform at a high level, you are on the line. Why are officials the only individuals that are allowed to make egregious mistakes on the big stage and walk away unquestioned. If anything, I think that all of college and professional sports needs to adopt a more critical attitude of their paid employees.


March 29th, 2010 at 9:58 AM ^

Wrestling official. So first, the disclaimer. It doesn't make it right at all. A bad call is a bad call. The defense of fellow referees is necessary because coaches have made it so. I've seen a new guy come in, think he can change this, make a mistake, admit it, and watched a coach have to be restrained from hurting him. The coaches care about their kids and get very personally offended for them, as they should. The "black and white wall of silence" became necessary when all of a sudden coaches were willing to assault the officials.

That said, I've looked a coach in the eye and told him "I trust the judgment of my fellow ref" and then walked over to my fellow ref and said with a smile beaming across my face and my head nodding up and down "that was the worst f-ing call I've ever seen in my life and I will be making a note of it for the league to review. Next time try reading the rule book before you make a fool out of me and yourself."

And we do feel bad when we blow a call and it affects the outcome. It's only ever happened to me a couple of times, but it happens to all of us. I'm ANGRY about last night. I was there. It was probably the most tangible soul dong punch I've had in the past 2 years from Michigan sports. I doubled over in pain. And I'm sure when they get home, the NCAA will be calling and telling them just what a mess they made of the game while telling the press they "trust their judgment".


March 29th, 2010 at 8:20 AM ^

I understand that he may have lost sight of the puck but the goalie was still moving around...clearly looking for it himself The ref should have held off another second or two...it was a quick whistle and will now go down in infamy as an atrociously blown call.


March 29th, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

The referee in this case had the benefit of a replay. It seemed clear to me that the whistle blew sometime after the puck left Lynch's stick and before it hit the back of the net. I am nearly positive that the whistle did not blow before Lynch took the shot. During the replay review, the referee seemed to be trying to judge whether the puck had "broken the plane" of the goal line when the whistle was blown.

This approach evidences a slavishness to a "rule" that misses the entire point of the replay process - which is to get the call right. The replay shows that the puck was not covered (and therefore "dead", requiring a whistle) and that Miami didn't have control of the puck (and therefore "dead" because of the delayed penalty call).

The ref should have quickly seen that he made a mistake by blowing the whistle too early, that the play should have continued, and that a goal was scored. His very next question should have been whether anyone was prejudiced or put at risk by a whistle that was less than 0.1sec too quick - did Miami stop playing or did they have any chance to stop the goal?

The answer, of course, is no. The puck was already behind the goalie when Lynch took the shot. I can understand calling the play dead if the puck was in front of the goalie (on a shot from the point, for example) because the goalie might have a play on the puck. But that wasn't the case here. It was a bad whistle that was blown hundreths of a second too early. Miami didn't lose an opportunity because of it. The "right" call was to allow the goal.

Instead the ref took away the excellent opportunity created by Hagelin after he took a pretty intentional-looking slash to the head and the goal created by Lynch's hard work.

Hey, the whole point of the delayed penalty call is to let the play continue and give the attacking team additional opportunity because of the penalty - there's no way you should be blowing your whistle quickly under those circumstances - especially when there's that kind of action around the net.

It's difficult to understand the quick whistle to begin with - it's just a horrible job to confirm it after seeing that replay. I'm sure it can't be easy to be a referee and I can't blame someone too much for missing calls or making bad calls in the heat of the action. But I can blame someone for having the benefit of replay, using it, then missing the entire point of the replay process.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:23 AM ^

how calm officials can be about costing kids something for which they've worked so doggedly. I can take blown calls, because they really are always going to happen in most sports. What infuriates me most is the "ho hum, these things happen" attitude. Are you not aware that you've been directly involved in metaphorically ripping the hearts from the chests of some phenomenal athletes? Can't you at least feign some remorse?!!

Your lesson is spot on.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:32 AM ^

Yeah, that's exactly what I'm trying to get across. I mean, every ref blows calls. But there is a specific point in hockey to "swallow the whistle" near the end of games and especially in OT. These refs in theory know the importance of these late game situations. That's the point of the "let them play" mentality.

So how on earth does this jackass blow this whistle so quickly? Argh. I'm getting all worked up again.


March 29th, 2010 at 9:52 AM ^

The problem is, if a ref shows remorse or apologizes he is essentially admitting guilt. The "referee mentality" of ALWAYS justifying bad calls made by colleagues and the general "ho-hum" attitude also plays into this. Their mindset - "if we even hint at the possibility of being wrong it sheds doubt on all referees and all calls."

Is it right? HELL NO. But it isn't changing anytime soon either. Basically, if a ref admits a mistake or agrees that a colleague made a mistake, they think it dilutes the opinion of their profession.

There are MANY professions or companies w/ this same mentality. Expressing Guilt = Weakness


March 29th, 2010 at 10:38 AM ^

In dealing with many officials I have found that the ones who earn my respect generally say something along the lines of "I see what you're saying, I saw something different/interpreted it differently. I respect what you're saying, but my call remains". The ones who refuse to entertain the notion that they might have erred and want to turn a conversation into a pissing match give the whole profession a worse name.


March 29th, 2010 at 11:13 AM ^

This has been a great change in MLB. Baseball umps used to behave the exact same way but now--always stick up for the call that was made, no matter how bad it is; now if there's a questionable call, the umps get together, talk about it and figure out who saw what to do their best to make the right call. More often than not, I think it's probably the same ump who made the bad call and realizes he messed up, but you never know because it's a joint decision of all the umps.

It has resulted in a fair number of reversed calls, mostly going from wrong to right, and I don't think it has diluted the opinion of the umps, probably just the opposite.


March 29th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

Umps have been using the "ump conference" for generations. I used it when umpiring Rec Softball at M, usually when I knew I had made the wrong call. We'd meet, I'd say "I think I got that wrong, did you see it?" and if the other ump had, we would reverse it. If he hadn't seen it, the call would stand.

We got hollered at pretty bad by one team when we did this once when umping an A-level intramural game. Both teams were really good, but for a handful of girls on each squad who were fillers to reach their female quotas.

One of those girls was playing 2nd base, and the guys on the other team were stretching every single into a double to force her to make a play. Finally, she caught the ball and applied the tag on one of these, but it was on the runner's knee, and his foot had already reached the bag. I called "out!" more out of pity for the girl, in the moment, but I knew it was wrong. The runner instantly complained, I conferred with the other ump, who said he beat the ball, and I reversed the call.

The fielder's captain (and the girl's boyfriend, I thought) went nuts. He told me I had just ruined my credibility with him. I told him it was the right call, and in the end, what mattered most was what happened on the field.

You can't please everybody.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:17 PM ^

The historical note is not from personal experience--I'm too young--but that I swear every time I see it in the majors the announcers comment on how they never used to do that. Basing opinions off of announcers isn't always the best idea, so I'll defer to you on that.

I'm glad you use the conference to make the right call whenever possible--even in this case, where it's more of a cover for making what you already knew was the right call. Like you say, you can't please everybody, but if somebody's upset I'd rather it be the person who was actually wrong like the boyfriend in this case.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:55 AM ^

we're all lucky if the dude graduated High School.

If he were any good, he wouldn't be refereeing college hockey, he'd be in the NHL.

I guess you get what you pay for.


March 29th, 2010 at 9:01 AM ^

That's actually not true. College refs all have day jobs (unlike NHL refs) He works in finance and is a smart guy.

NHL refs have to take a different track. My friend went to NHL ref camp like 6 years ago and they told him he could start down that path, except you have to go ref the minors for years traveling all over the place.

He didn't want that life. So he works 50 hours a week and refs on weekends in and around New England. It's not a bad gig.


March 29th, 2010 at 10:32 AM ^

If your friend works 50 hours a week and refs part time as a hobby, then you get what you pay for. If your friend’s attitude is that it happens, then that’s just insane. It was a terrible call, made by a guy who either 1) does the job as a hobby or 2) isn’t very intelligent and decides that “If I can’t see it, I’ll just assume…”

Maybe for the tournament, the NCAA should use the professionals and not some part timer.


March 29th, 2010 at 10:49 AM ^

I'm betting your friend had to work pretty hard to get to that level as well.

Getting on refs for messing up a "puck in view" call is like ragging on a hitter for only reaching base safely three times out of ten.

This is just an impossible call. If you have ever been in front of the net when the puck gets there, you know the chaos. During this chaos, the ref must dodge through any players behind the net (on skates, remember) without interfering with them, and stick his head in close enough to see what's going on in the middle of the melee.

This isn't a strike zone. It isn't something you can really call with consistency. You can't wait 3 seconds after losing sight of the puck or anything. Sometimes you get lucky and you have a clear view of the puck loose under the goalie's side, and so long as you see it, and the puck isn't frozen there (or the hacking is becoming a safety issue), you can keep the play going. Afterall, it's the goalie's job to get possession, not just hide it from view.

If you watch Red Wings hockey, you are probably intimately familiar with some epically bad calls associated with "don't see the puck" calls.

Combined with the NHL's nefarious "intent to blow" rule,* you essentially have a rule that can arbitrarily disallow almost any score.

Fans have always been hard on referees when calls don't go the way the fans want them to. If you think we're harder on officiating today, you should have seen how turn-of-the-century baseball fans treated umpires ("...the umpire said 'Strike Two!' Fraud, cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered Fraud!," a line from Casey at the Bat, 1888). Television, Web-video, HDTVs and DVRs, however, make us better judges. They also raise expectations.

The problem with video review is it takes time. Time slows the game, and interrupts its flow. Under that paradigm, a quick and arbitrary call is perhaps more valuable to the game than a long but right call.

But in this case, we are talking about a potentially game-ending goal. If review isn't available, and the ref knows he lost sight of the puck too fast, he should keep the play moving at least for a second.

It's got to be the hardest thing to call in sports. It's not like Pass Interference or Holding, where it's so common that you can set a precedent, and screwups are considered part of the game. It's nigh impossible to get right every time. And since scoring is so rare in a hockey game, you are effectively weighing the game's fair outcome versus the safety of a prone player in a melee, every time you call it. Without a good few minutes of video review, it's almost impossible to get this completely right. Without video review, it's left to sticking to arbitrary whistles. It sucks. But if you can't review this and take the referee out of the equation, it's going to remain as much a part of hockey as bad ice, craggy boards, broken sticks, and any other ancillary malfunction that determines an outcome and isn't related to the actual play of the respective teams.

* This means that play stops at the moment that the ref thought about blowing his whistle, though since it is only ever involved in really bad calls, you could be forgiven if you thought this means the ref is simply announcing his attempt to blow a call.


March 29th, 2010 at 1:17 PM ^

Go to the box, and if the ref blew it dead and it wasn't, and the puck goes in, the goal counts. Why is this so hard? If the players keep jamming away after the whistle, but the goalie had/has control, the goal doesn't count.

I don't understand why all calls aren't reviewable (in any sport, not just hockey). If there's video, use it.


March 29th, 2010 at 1:41 PM ^

That's just like the pick-6 against NWU in '08. The ref blew the play dead and the TD was taken away when it shouldn't have. That's great if you have video and can review a play, but the officials still have to make a call that can be reversed.

Blue Bennie

March 29th, 2010 at 8:58 AM ^

Noun 1. guilt by association - the attribution of guilt (without proof) to individuals because the people they associate with are guilty
guilt, guiltiness - the state of having committed an offense


March 29th, 2010 at 9:20 AM ^

I didn't really pay much attention to the refereeing until the call in question (outside of the obscene number of fouls - but that's another story). After the play in question, twice when Knapp stopped a shot and the puck was on the ice in front of him, the ref blew the whistle AS he was dropping to cover it. Not WHEN he actually was on the puck, but AS he was attempting to cover it. It's like the anticipated foul in basketball.
I'm all for protecting the goalies, but it's a simple thing: WAIT UNTIL THE FREAKING PLAY IS OVER!!!


March 29th, 2010 at 9:24 AM ^

I'm actually sick of complaining. I'm sick of excuses, and blaming refs. True, the refs stole this game, but I wouldn't have cared if we won. I'm just sick of losing, is God testing me for something later in life?? Am I in training for something truly terrible that's going to happen to me?


March 29th, 2010 at 9:31 AM ^

I may well be wrong about this, but it seemed to be that the ref was also in a very poor position. Considering that play was crashing to the goal and ending up on the right side of the goalie, I would have thought that the ref would at least start to circle back a little bit towards or behind the goal. He was way out to the opposite side of the goal which made it drastically harder to get the correct call (though, as has been pointed out, it still should have been clear that the play was live).


March 29th, 2010 at 1:39 PM ^

i love how they don't admit the call was bs...and based on their description didn't even watch the replay. "poked" it over the red line? they make it sound like the puck was barely moving and he tapped it. f the ncaa

also love the comments by knapp admitting he got a lucky, and quick whistle...at least he's honest about it


March 29th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

as useless as tits on a bull. Three things about last night's game: a.) The rule regarding goals and quick whistles needs to cgange, b.) The NCAA will never change it, c.) Just another example of why the NCAA always has been, and will forever be, an absolutely useless organization.

Section 1

March 29th, 2010 at 2:16 PM ^

I just named the guy. (He's been named elsewhere, in at least a couple of other threads; I saw his name misspelled in one. I spelled it correctly.) I wanted to know who he was and what he did. Now I know. I just shared it. Now you know too. We have a name to go along with, "The shithead who blew the call on Michigan's game-winning goal."

The presumptive reason that he got called in on that episode of This Old House (those TOH guys are almost all Boston-area guys) is because they were doing a Lexington-area house. And John Gravallese is the local wallpaper guy. I don't expect he's any kind of a national expert on wallpaper.

And I'm reasonably certain he's no national expert on refereeing college hockey.


March 29th, 2010 at 2:57 PM ^

here is something I want to make clear to all of you who are not.

At no time should an official ever "justify" a bad call. At no time have I ever justified a bad call. I might give a quick "sorry coach" to the head coach but I do that just to let the coach know that I realized I did make a mistake. The coach should understand, as I do, that unless its a situation where the call can be reversed, then the call stands as is good or bad and no amount of apologies or arguing is going to change anything.

I, as an official, am not going to be overly remorseful for a blown call for a couple of reasons. I still have a job to do that requires I be able to let a blown call go and just continue on the best that I can, I cannot maintain any amount of respect or credibility if I let every little mistake become something bigger, no matter how good an official is he is bound to screw up sometime.


March 29th, 2010 at 2:59 PM ^

So how did he not lose sight when it was under hunwick's pads for two seconds? I know this happens, but the amount it's been happening lately to the wings and Michigan has been ludacris.


March 29th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

Well maybe. A poster above noted that the outcome of the play would not have been different had the whistle blown. In tennis take the following scenario, which is akin to what happened last night:

A player hits a shot, which is clearly going to be a winner (unreturned shot by your opponent) but the linesman calls it out. You challenge, and the linesman was wrong, the ball was in. They award you the point because your opponent could not have retruned that shot had it been called correctly.

Apply that to last night's game and because the whistle happened literally milliseconds before we scored, the whistle did not cause anyone to stop playing and it should have been a goal. I realize this brings into play more subjectivity in the ref's job, but if used in only obvious situations like last night could prevent situations like that from deciding a game.


March 29th, 2010 at 8:52 PM ^

Hats off to the Hockey Team for turning it all around and playing some of the best hockey in the country. Disappointing finish, but much better than we expected 2 weeks ago.