The Toronto Maple Leafs were back on the ice this week. So were the AHL officials who took part in their scrimmages.
While the Leafs will play on, the stripes have been sent home.
The NHL objected to the club’s use of officials, with concerns around safety under the Phase 3 Return to Play Guidelines.
The #leafs have brought two referees and two linesmen on the ice while simulating special teams work on Day 2 of camp.
They're not scrimmaging; just running a series of power plays. pic.twitter.com/ddZ7RXpTen
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 14, 2020
The NHL’s Phase 3 Return to Play guidelines restrict those able to take part in training camp activities.
The minimum number of essential staff should be on-site to carry out the planned activities and have in-person interactions with Players. No other personnel should be involved in any Phase 3 activity.
Permitted Phase 3 Training Camp personnel include:
• Athletic Trainers
• Strength and Conditioning Coach(es)
• Equipment Managers
• Massage, chiropractic and other performance personnel
• One or two dressing room attendants (if different from Club-engaged cleaning crews)
• Club’s Physician(s) on an as-needed basis
• Video Coaches
• General & Assistant General Managers
• Hockey Operations Staff
These Phase 3 Training Camp personnel will be designated as “Player Access” Club personnel, and will be limited to a maximum of 20 persons.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe thought teams may be concerned about Toronto gaining a competitive advantage.
“Apparently people around the NHL are paying attention to our media reports here in Toronto,” said Keefe. “I think there were some people around the league that perhaps liked the idea that we had referees but didn’t like the idea that maybe they didn’t have the same available to them, so we had to make an adjustment and we’re perfectly fine doing that.”
Keefe brought in the officials to help prepare his players for the return to action by hoping to provide a more game-like atmosphere, along with the use of goal horns and music during stoppages.
“With the officials, frankly, we wanted to have them a part of the whole camp. They would’ve been here [Monday] but they had to get tested and do all the things, so that delayed it a day for us to have them involved,” said Keefe.
“Any time we’re doing any sort of scrimmaging, we’d like to have the officials involved,” Keefe added. “It adds a little bit of a game element to it. Certainly, the professionalism of the face-offs and the way things are called and just having them on the ice — just the fact that you’ve got four extra bodies out there, that in itself is different and I think it’s important.”
NHL teams have typically brought in officials to help work scrimmages during preseason training camps, pulling zebras from minor league or amateur levels to work the games. Of course, those instances were in a much different time, one free from the restrictive-yet-necessary requirements of the NHL’s Return to Play guidelines.
“We’re just trying to get up to speed to game feel and intensity and all those things as quickly as possible,” said Keefe. “We’ve got to take advantage of every day that we have.”
The Maple Leafs tapped Marlies head coach Greg Moore to step in as the lone on-ice official on Wednesday.
Toronto will face off against the Montreal Canadiens in an exhibition game on July 28. That game will feature NHL referees and linesmen, as will the Leafs’ best-of-five play-in series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, beginning August 2.