The NHL switched to a two-referee system back in 2000. Since then, all games — barring injury or travel issues — have been worked by a four-man crew.
On Sunday, it was old-school officiating when the Dallas Stars took on the St. Louis Blues.
Referee Rob Martell found himself as the lone man in the orange armbands for Sunday night’s tilt, as Brad Meier was unable to make it to the game.
A severe weather system that caused flash flooding and spawned nine tornadoes affected much of the Dallas area, with impacts as far as Illinois. As a result, Ohio native Brad Meier couldn’t complete his travel to the arena.
Ask any official and they’ll tell you that travel is one of the toughest parts of working in the NHL. Unlike teams, referees and linesmen fly commercial. Compounding the challenge is the fact that most officials travel alone, meeting up with new on-ice partners in each city. Former NHL referee Paul Stewart estimated that he traveled well over 100,000 miles per season.
Martell had worked the previous night in Nashville, making the trek to Dallas before the storms rolled in. Meier was scheduled to have worked his first game after the holiday break, likely traveling from home.
The two teams combined for 38 penalty minutes, including two fights just four seconds apart.
Some players hardly noticed the absence of an official. According to the Dallas News, Stars forward Patrick Sharp said he was unaware of the situation the entire game.
“You obviously can’t blame [Martell], but having two guys out there really catches everything,” Blues goaltender Brian Elliott told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “He can’t watch the whole ice. It’s probably both ways too. I’m not saying it was called one way or the other.”
Martell worked the game alongside linesmen Don Henderson and rookie Ryan Gibbons.