In his latest C’mon Ref over at TSN, retired NHL referee Kerry Fraser talks about accountability:

The discipline that an official might receive is almost always done in-house and not held out as a public example for ridicule. Officials are fined for any misinterpretation of the playing rules. The fine goes to the charity of their choice. Conduct unbecoming of an official can also be met with some form of discipline.

Former NHL Referee Kerry Fraser

Referee Kerry Fraser (Image: Josh Smith)

I say that discipline is “almost always in-house” because last year we saw referee Tim Peel suspended for one regular-season game after an unauthorized interview and pictures were posted on social media. The reporter had been dogging the ref relentlessly and a clear-the-air meeting between the two was one that I would have personally endorsed or even arranged if I had been Peel’s boss. However, the meeting would have been done in a controlled environment with an objective to achieve a positive resolution of any differences the reporter might have with the ref; whom I would have fully supported.

Linesman Steve Miller missed a playoff round while the league investigated the missing 2010 Stanley Cup winning puck, scored in Game 6 by Patrick Kane when the Hawks defeated the Flyers. Miller was a linesman in that game. The puck was located and Miller went back to work and performed the task with his usual excellence. Both Tim Peel and Steve Miller are excellent officials and good people.

In the Bruins-Leafs game Saturday night young linesman Trent Knorr missed two offside calls. He knows that isn’t acceptable, so there is no reason to beat the kid up over it. He should be taken under an officiating coach’s wing and shown how to avoid a recurrence in the future. I saw an undesirable trend in both of those calls that the young man should be made aware of.

The job that all these men perform is very highly visible and each member of the staff does his very best to perform at the highest level of competence. The perfect game has yet to be officiated, so there is always room for improvement. The learning never stops.

The biggest form of accountability is found in the league’s subjective rating system that determines ranking and selection to highly coveted playoff assignments. Officials have been dropped from the rotation when a tough or controversial call was made; even sometimes when the correct call was made.

In terms of accountability, I’m troubled when I see the same errors being made on far too regular a basis. These range from improper positioning, standard of enforcement, game management, communication and building professional working relationships with players and coaches.

Management has to accept responsibility for this. The mission statement and objective must be to empower each member of the officiating staff to be the very best he can be and to create consistency through this process. There is more work to be done on all counts.

For Fraser’s thoughts on NHL officials’ communications – and a mea culpa of his own – read the full article at TSN.