ESPN’s Craig Custance and Pierre LeBrun did yeoman’s work earlier this week, asking NHL players a question near and dear to our hearts:
Who’s the NHL’s best referee?
“Honestly, I like the older guys,” said Minnesota’s Ryan Suter. “They’re more fun, you can talk to them and you’ve been around them longer. I like the older guys because you can give it to them back and forth, and there’s good communication. The young guys will get there, but they probably don’t feel as comfortable yet.”
Eric Staal and Mike Cammalleri also voiced their support for veterans, specifically naming Dan O’Halloran.
“[O’Halloran is] honest,” said Cammalleri. “He seems to call stuff — there’s always emotion involved, but you’re always like, I can see where he would call that, even if it’s against you. I would also say Kelly Sutherland, he probably gets a lot of nods.”
Communication is key to a strong on-ice relationship between officials and players. Players named Kelly Sutherland and Wes McCauley as standouts when it comes to communication.
“[Sutherland is] a guy who is really good at diffusing problems,” said Jason Chimera of the Islanders. “It’s an emotional game, he realizes that. He’ll come back and talk to you about different plays and what [he] saw. I really respect Kelly [for] that.
New Jersey’s Taylor Hall named referee Wes McCauley. “He’s a guy I find so personable. If he calls a penalty on me, I can’t yell at him. He’s so honest, you can really see he cares. When he’s out there reffing, you see he’s into the game, you can tell he loves hockey. Guys like that I respect a lot. Certainly, just the refs you can have a conversation with and guys who say, ‘Hey, chill out. That was a penalty.’
“I always love the ones that tell you, ‘You’re going down the wrong path, hey, you’re using your stick way too much tonight, next one you’re in trouble,'” said Toronto’s Connor Carrick. “It just sharpens you up, they’re letting you know that, ‘Hey, the play you made is a good hockey play, it was close by the rulebook and anything dicey like that again, now you’ve done it more than once in a game, you’ve had your one and you’re done.’ I appreciate those. The linesman, they’re pretty funny too. They’re by the benches more. They’re more willing to talk to you, they’re the guys under a little less heat. … They’ll say funny things. I ran into [Joe] Colborne in Colorado in open ice, guys were fired up about it and the ref was like, ‘Great hit! I love it!’ I love when they’re into it. They’re charged up.”