The officials are set for Sunday’s Olympic Gold Medal game between Canada and Sweden. Working the game will be referees Brad Meier (USA) and Kelly Sutherland (CAN) alongside linesmen Derek Amell (CAN) and Greg Devorski (CAN).
All are NHL officials. Three are Canadian. The lone non-Canadian currently lives in Calgary.
Former NHLer and Team Sweden forward Peter Forsberg is not happy about that.
Forsberg called the assignment of the officials for the Olympic Gold Medal Game “a ******* joke” in speaking to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. He went on to say, “Canadian officials in the finals, also the supervisor plus reserves. Comedy at the highest level.”
The NHL and IIHF have an agreement that requires at least half of the Olympic officials come from the NHL. Obviously, the majority of those are Canadian.
Team Sweden Speaks
The Swedish Olympic team didn’t share Forberg’s opinion.
Swedish media were asking a few Canadian players about it today. Annnnnnnd they weren't biting.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 22, 2014
“I don’t care,” said Par Marts, the Swedish coach, as reported in The Star. “I hope [the officials] do their job. That’s all I can focus on. I can’t change it. No problem with that.”
“We are used to having referees from USA and Canada in the NHL,” said Swedish defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “We know their standards so I think it’s easier for us too if the referees are from there. We’re all used to NHL referees at this level. I think it’s the right decision.”
Erik Karlsson echoed those sentiments.
“I think most referees [in the National Hockey League] are Canadian, too,” said Karlsson. “They probably support Montreal or Toronto, but they don’t make any difference there. I couldn’t care less about what the referees do. As you saw yesterday, we had two power plays, Finland had a lot, and we still won the game. It’s nothing we can control and neither can Canada.”
Cherry’s Two Cents
Don Cherry saw the Canadian-heavy officiating crew as a benefit to the Swedes. From The Star:
“The worst [Team Canada] can do is have a Canadian ref. ,” Cherry told QMI Agency. “Whenever we’d get a Canadian ref [internationally], it would be like ‘Oh no, don’t tell me that.’ It’s because we in Canada don’t have the guts. They’ll bend over backwards to appear like they are fair. If there’s any calls against Canada it would be (from) the Canadian one. The Swedes would get a break getting a Canadian referee. Tell Peter to watch the penalties tomorrow. I’ll bet him the first one goes to a Canadian player.”
IIHF Official Selection Process
IIHF Officiating Manager Konstantin Komissarov addressed the issue on Saturday , speaking about the selection process:
“The main factor of the selection of these officials has most of all to do with their experience officiating in high-level competitions. These include Stanley Cup playoffs, World Championship competitions, and Olympic competitions.”
“Their nationalities aren’t considered as factors nor should they be, we want the best officials working the medal games. We are fully confident that with their experience and professionalism these officials will do their job well and preserve the integrity of the game.”
It should also be noted that the announcement of the officials for the medal round was presented to the competing teams on Friday. All approved of the officiating assignments; non voiced any concerns.
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the Gold Medal final is a cleanly-played, cleanly-officiated game. Brad Meier’s already had enough controversy for one Olympics.