Take a moment to catch your breath before the Stanley Cup Final, with referee Kelly Sutherland mic’d up, the referees and linesmen working the Cup Final, the first female on-ice official enters the IIHF Hall of Fame, ECHL refs have an easy night, and the CHL looks at three major rule changes for the 2023-24 season — all around penalties and power plays!



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Episode Transcript #166

Scouting the Refs is an unscripted audio podcast, designed to be heard. It’s a whole lot more interesting to listen to the audio, but we’re happy to provide a transcription below. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain textual or typographical errors. 


Todd: So I know we’re all excited about the Stanley Cup final beginning and finally getting underway, Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights, but you know Josh? I’m thinking I want to start planning now. What we’re going to be doing in the next few weeks when there’s no games to watch, because no matter how much I prepare mentally at this point in time in the season, I always suffer from withdrawals after the Cup final is completed and the trophy is handed out.

Josh: It’s such a challenge, right? We go from the first round where you’ve got multiple games every night and just there’s something going on everywhere at every hour. And the NHL even figured out scheduling this year, so with the games spread out, we could watch a lot of the action. And then it dwindles down a little bit more and now we’ve had this break of days without hockey, at least at the NHL level, and now the most we’ll have is a game every other night. It’s starting to feel real, Todd. It’s starting to slip away a little bit. The hockey season is leaving us.

Todd: It is and that’s the hard part. I know the theory is that you start big and that it seems as though like you’re kind of being weaned off the drug but it doesn’t really work that way. You still suffer from the the withdrawals when it’s gone. 

Josh: And, you know, the warm temps outside don’t exactly help you. The weather’s warm. You want to be outdoors doing things, especially with these games on the weekend. You’re out and about it’s it’s hot outside. You’ve got shorts and a t-shirt on, and then you come back in to watch some ice hockey. Yeah, I I love the length of the season. I love that we have all these games, but when you start to get into June, especially the middle of June, it it feels like maybe we’ve gone too far.

Todd: You know, we’ll, we’ll get through it. We always do. And there will be the anticipation before long of the new season.

This is the Scouting the Refs Podcast. Please make sure you follow us on the social channels. Josh, of course can be found @scoutingtherefs on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll get me at @toddlewissports on Twitter and Instagram as well.

Coming up on this week’s episode: Kelly Sutherland mic’d up, who made the cut, a Hall of Fame career, and new rules the NHL should be considering. I am very excited to discuss this topic, Josh.

Josh: New rules are always interesting, sometimes they have unintended consequences, so you never know how it will play out, but it will be interesting to see.

Todd: Okay, so let’s get to some of the other stuff before we talk about the potential for for new rules. Four-star review for the video of the Western Conference Series game One. You hear from players, you hear from coaches, but most importantly you hear referee Kelly Sutherland at work out on the ice. We’ve seen these  videos pop up semi regularly. They provide great insight into what is happening on the ice during the games, and conveniently enough, the bad words are taken out for you. That’s why it takes a couple of days to get them out. So Kelly Sutherland, as you’ve perhaps seen before in some of these videos, is one of the most vocal referees out on the ice. He’s explaining to players what he sees after a play. He’s telling goaltenders that he’s watching for the goalie interference. He’s explaining to coaches what is happening out on this. It’s it’s as if he is a coach out on the ice at times. I think it’s a great job that he does.

Josh: Absolutely. It’s one of the reasons that when they’ve had the player polls in the past that Sutherland scores so highly as one of the league’s top officials. It’s not only about positioning and judgment and comportment and all of the things that go in from an officiating standpoint. But from the players point of view, here’s a guy who’s actually helping you understand where the line is, and he’s giving you advance notice before he’s calling the penalty. And as a player, that’s what you wanna have. You want to know where you stand and and when you’re getting too far over the line. And that’s what Sutherland does. I think one of his greatest strengths is the communication side of thing of warning guys and when they’re getting too close and putting pressure in the crease. Or when it’s a potential interference call and things he’s seeing out there, so he tries to set that up front and then stick with that standard the whole game. And it’s great when you have the mic’d up videos, because then we get to hear some of that dynamic and you see what goes into it before a penalty’s actually called. Because he might have been chatting about it for the whole first period, halfway through the second period and a guy keeps at it and now all of a sudden he’s blowing the whistle because he’s warned him and he’s had that conversation and it’s one of his strengths. And it’s really interesting to hear the types of things that go on. But you’re right, Todd, it’s almost like he’s the second coach out there advising these guys. So he’s not just enforcing the rules, but he’s he’s warning them he’s giving them a heads up. He’s reminding them of where the line is and when they’ve gone to far, that’s when he has to send them off to the box.

Todd: I I love it too. It’s not just after the play that he’s explaining calls, but as you mentioned, when two players are tied up, he’s telling one like, okay, let him go. You gotta let him go now otherwise. You get the interference call and it’s just like I don’t want to penalize you, but I’m going to have to pretty soon.

Josh: Yeah. And it’s great in this video, you can hear a nice exchange he has with Keegan Kolesar about a hit that happened and there was a cross checking why he didn’t call it and Kolesar’s great, super polite there. Just thanking him for it. ‘I appreciate it’ is what he says afterwards. So you might not always agree with it, but just giving that explanation and. Letting the guy understand why the call was or wasn’t made in a certain situation is immensely helpful. But I don’t know if you noticed, Todd, in the clip one of the coaches is on there saying, ‘Nice chat, Kelly.’ We don’t actually get the content of that conversation. So I don’t know if it was something they wanted to keep quiet, or if there were just too many four letter words to include it.

Todd: Yeah, that that sometimes the editing can be a little bit tricky on those. Again, I think it provides great insight and good job, I believe for putting those out even if it’s 3-4 days after because of all the all the approval that has to go through.

So with this video and hearing Kelly Sutherland at work, it is not surprising that he was one of the referees named to work in the Stanley Cup. Final he’ll be joined by Steve Kozari, Wes McCauley – no surprise there, Dan O’Rourke, and Chris Rooney. The linesmen are Steve Barton, Scott Cherrey, Brad Kovachik, Kiel Murchison, and Jonny Murray. Congratulations to all for reaching the final. There’s no real surprises with any of these names, is there?

Josh: No, everybody’s been here before, so I can’t say that any of them come as a total shock. You’ve got tons of veteran experience there, McCauley, Sutherland both working their 10th Stanley Cup Final, Rooney with six. Even Johnny Murray, with six. So everybody’s been here plenty of times. They all know what it’s like, what the pressure entails, what the big games mean. It was not a shock.   I was hoping that some of the younger guys might have made it. We saw Jean Hebert make the Cup Final last year, thought he might have a shot at returning this year, but he and Trevor Hanson, looking to make his Cup Final debut, both left off of the rosters. I thought either one of them could have made it, but who do you cut in their place? This is such a a challenge here. Figuring it out. So you think of – from an NHL standpoint – everything that goes into it and it’s your full season, it’s your mid season grade, it’s your season end evaluation and then it’s what you’ve done each round in the playoffs. So all of that leading up to it and I I think you know, we see and expect who’s going to make it. And I I’d say these are like you said, Todd, no surprises here on these crews.

Todd: Now, as you explained nicely in a piece on the scoutingtherefs.com website, the final works a little bit differently in that there’s not specifically a backup referee at each event and the whole procedure of pairing guys together works a little bit differently as well.

Josh: It’s interesting to see because all season long we get this rotation of refs. Everybody works the next game with a different partner, typically because of travel, maybe they’ll have a back-to-back together, but you’re typically working each game with an entirely different crew. Through the first few rounds of the playoffs, that changes a bit because we do see ref pairings and linesman pairings, and often we see that quartet move together through some games. We definitely saw in the conference final where Kelly Sutherland’s crew, the same four of them, worked together each game. Once you get to the Stanley Cup Final, they throw everybody back in the hat and basically draw numbers again. So you’ve got an odd number of referees, which means we’re no longer having that pairing; we’re having a rotation where the first two guys will work game one, the second two guys will work game two and then they’ll start to mix it up after that because of the odd number.

So your partner being a standard guy and and maybe at some of them that you’ve worked together the entire postseason up until now, now you’re gonna get a new partner every night. So back to how the regular season works with the rotation. Obviously you’re hoping these are your top officials. These are the best of the best. These guys have been consistent throughout the postseason, so it shouldn’t matter, but it definitely shakes things up a little bit, so it’ll be interesting to see how those tendencies translate when we see a guy where maybe two guys have worked together the entire postseason and now they get to work with different partners in the Stanley Cup Final.

Todd: One other note on the referees who are and are not working the Cup Final, and you and I were exchanging messages during this game. But for those that say there is no accountability for officials, yes, there is, because there was one particular game with the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, where not one, but two goals were overturned on offside challenges and those two linesmen are not working in the Stanley Cup Final. Now, they were so close. It was microscopic that they were offside plays, but this is the price that they’re paying.

Josh: Yeah,  and we don’t know. For sure if that happened to be the reason or the straw that broke the camel’s back, or if there are other contributing factors here in making that decision. But, certainly, it’s one of those things that you look at from an officiating management standpoint when you have guys that are frequently involved in coaches challenge or you have referees that maybe are calling major penalties, that they’re downgrading after review, maybe it makes you question their judgment a little bit. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong and and like you said, these are really close plays, so I’m not even going to point fingers at the officials or or find fault in how it worked out, but certainly the optics of having a call that had to be overturned on such a public stage and in such a critical juncture in a key moment for a goal to be scored or not, you can’t help but think that that did put the spotlight on them a little bit more and may have influenced Stephen Walkom’s decision.

Todd: A couple of non-NHL notes that we should mention as well. Congratulations to Sandra Dombrowski, who now goes by Sandra Frye. She has become the first female on ice official inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. Congratulations Sandra on a great international hockey career. 

Josh: Yeah. Very nice to see that honor there. The class of 2023 was inducted. We have lots of players from all over the place and another official making it in. And there’s very few in the IIHF Hall of Fame. Only eight now, with Dombrowski’s edition and mostly European, we don’t have an American or even a Canadian official that are yet in the IIHF Hall of Fame, so there’s there’s still boundaries to hit there, but nice to see Dombrowski get in. She broke plenty of boundaries coming in and making her way up. Even as a hockey player, when she was younger, she couldn’t find a team to play with as a woman, so she founded her own and it went from there and she was involved in a lot of firsts. The first unofficial women’s game at the World Championship and then the first woman referee of a Women’s World gold medal game. So nice to see her recognized for all the contributions to hockey, both as a player as an official and then coming off the ice, working as a supervisor and then part of the IIHF officiating committee. So she’s given a lot to hockey and nice to see them reciprocate and and give the honor of putting her into the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Todd: So the first North American referee that could go in potentially maybe a few years down the road, you know if that was Wes McCauley, I got to think that the acceptance speech is going to be out of this world because they they let them do that at the presentation, don’t they?

Josh: They do and they did, and Dombrowski gave a great speech. It was wonderful to hear from her and you could tell how much this meant to her; how much hockey means to her. So it was a great honor, but I just picture Wes being most comfortable with just want to give that speech with the mic on, at center ice in full uniform.

Todd: Five for fighting!

Josh: We’ve got an induction!

Todd: Perfect. Love it. Okay, also non-NHL-related. Congratulations to the Florida Everblades for their win over the Newfoundland Growlers. They win the Eastern Conference final in the ECHL. They’ll move on to play Idaho in the final. That series also opens up on Saturday, June the 3rd. Congrats to the Blades who are going for back-to-back titles. It is the second time these two teams have met. In 2004, it was the Idaho Steelheads that prevailed . It was an interesting game summary in this one. It was a double overtime game as I mentioned, but barely a whistle blown for a penalty.

Josh: Yeah, quiet one for the officials, which is —  It’s funny, we joked last week on the podcast about how things tighten up and saying that when you get into game six or game seven, we see fewer and fewer penalties and things really tighten up and I think it’s on both sides, right? I think it’s on the officials. Maybe I don’t wanna say pocketing the whistles, cause that becomes a a negative, but maybe calling that standard tightly and making sure everybody knows where it is. But we also see it on the players trying to be on their best behavior because they don’t want to be the person sitting in the box that’s responsible for a power play goal against, especially when goals are so critical. But this one, Todd, referee Sam Heideman and Alex Normandin called a clean game effectively because they didn’t hand out any power plays. They had some penalties. We had a holding minor that was accompanied by a diving penalty, so that washes out; we have no man advantage there. Only one other penalty in the game. And you can thank the linesman for it because it was a bench minor for too many men on the ice.

Todd: Now those of us that are familiar with the ECHL and have, you know, seen a few games, is this a first?

Josh: It’s a relatively well behaved game for these guys. Nice to see how well-mannered both clubs were. I got to watch part of the game didn’t see the whole thing, but you know it’s one of those things where you don’t want to be the guy who messes it up. You’re trying to keep it clean. You don’t wanna get whistled for anything. You’re kind of playing a little more careful, a little, a little safe there, especially in a game that spent a lot of the time tied. I mean from the second period on, the whole third period, the whole first over time, you’ve got a tie game there. So you definitely don’t want to be the guy who puts your team shorthanded.

Todd: I’ll just end by saying go Blades. That’s my hometown team.

Okay, now we talked about some potential rule changes that are going to take place. They are taking place in the Champions League in Europe and I think that there’s some some of these –  in fact, I like all of them – that could and should be considered by the National Hockey League. Okay, so let’s go through them one at a time.

First, being minor penalties dealt with the same as a major penalty in that a team that has caused a minor penalty will remain shorthanded, even if the opposing team scores a goal, so you’re serving the full two.

Josh: Yeah, not a radical change here. This is one of those ‘everything old is new again’ kind of moments because this is how it was in the National Hockey League up until 1956. You sat for the whole 2 minutes; you served your time. If they scored once, twice, three times, however many they score in that 2 minutes, you’re staying in the box. So I think the Champions League is looking to boost goal scoring here and they also say that they want to make sure punishments are consistent. So yeah, you did the crime you will do the time, no matter how many goals get scored during your sentence.

Todd: I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing. I know that we had an exceptional power play this year with the Edmonton Oilers, but it still was, what? Just over 30%. So it’s unlikely that you’re going to score two or three or four goals, but maybe that helps as a deterrent.

Josh:  It could because those penalties become a bit more valuable. And right now you’re looking at it as you’re either short handed for two minutes or you’ve given up a goal and then you’re back to even strength. Now you’re definitely going to be shorthanded for the whole 2 minutes, and you aren’t capped at just giving up one shorthanded goal, so it does put a little premium on those penalties, which hopefully doesn’t put more pressure on the refs when it comes to not wanting to decide the game or factor into the game. You need to call it the same way, it’s just that the each penalty call becomes a bit more impactful, potentially.

Todd: Okay, also with a delayed penalty, a minor penalty will be served even if a goal is scored while a delayed penalty is pending.

Josh: Yep, and I’m good with this one. This is one of those interesting situations where many of the leagues wipe out the goals on delayed penalties. NCAA College Hockey in the US actually has this rule currently where a goal scored on the delayed penalty does not wash out the penalty. If you score on the delayed call, you still get a power play afterwards and the player still serves his time, which now under this other rule will also be a full 2 minute power play coming out of that.

Todd: Right.

Josh: It’s it’s pretty interesting at the NHL level and others that penalty just disappears. It never happened. The the guy doesn’t have two minutes associated with any infraction. He doesn’t serve any time in the box; the entire penalty isn’t even recorded.  At the USA Hockey level, it is recorded but not served. So I think it’s interesting. I mean, I’ve rallied before in the past to say they should consider at least booking the guy for the two minutes and making him sit in the box even if you don’t give the team a man advantage, but I think this is the most honest way to do it. The delayed penalty isn’t a power play. It’s an opportunity where the other team can’t touch the puck, so it it definitely comes to a benefit to the attacking team. They get to pull the goaltender, they get to maintain possession. So there there’s definitely a benefit there, but I’ve always been amazed that it offsets the power play there. And again I think this is just try to keep balance and keep scoring down, but now you’re going to see more scoring because not only will you score on the delayed penalty… or if you do, you’ll still get a 2 minute power play.

Todd: I like it. I think it’s a a good idea and the other one that’s being implemented by the Champions League is that a short handed goal erases a current minor penalty. If the team shorthanded scores, then their minor penalty will come to an end. I’m okay with this. I guess it’s a bit of a ‘get out of jail’ free card. Well, even more of a bonus than that, but I think it will encourage teams to maybe try stuff on the penalty kill.

Josh: This is the most radical of them, right? Because everything up until now has been ‘Delayed penalty? You’re still going to serve the time’, ‘Other team scores? You’re still gonna serve the time.’ Well, your own team scores. Now you get out of jail free — so you worded it properly, Todd, I think that’s exactly what it is. And this one’s not looking at the change from a punishment standpoint. This is purely around goal scoring because you’re you’re hoping that you can get that team to stretch things out a little bit and think offensively, which could open scoring the other way and make those short handed teams a little less defensively conscious because now they want to score. They want to get that time back, especially if it’s late in the game, you’re trailing, you don’t wanna wait out the whole 2 minutes. If you can get this goal, you can get back to even strength.

So I think it’s an interesting move. I think it’s definitely the most radical of the ones that are coming in here and the one I’m curious to see what types of changes that makes to how teams approach being shorthanded and and what the power plays look like. And remember with those other changes, you will be shorthanded the entire time, so you’ve got that two minutes you can be scored on multiple times unless you do this to end your short handed situation by scoring a shorthanded goal. 

The combination of these three makes it really interesting. I feel like it’s gonna take some time for teams and coaches to adapt to what the strategy is here and how best to take advantage of this and and how to work it properly. So I’m glad the Champions Hockey League is putting these in place, since these are ones that we’ve talked about at the North American hockey level and it’s the right place to test it. It’s this the specialty league. They have limited scope, limited teams, 24 teams this year coming in from all over Europe. So because of the way they’re set up, I think it’s a great proving ground to see how are these going to work when we first put them in place and then by the end of the season, is it still doing what we thought it would? Or have we seen things change dramatically?  And you know what they then they take a break, they can change it for next year, but at least this is the right place where you can actually try that and see how it plays out before you implement it at a larger scale or at the AHL, ECHL, NHL level.

Todd: I have one more that’s been suggested, I think by a few people, but I think would be an interesting to be part of this experiment as well. If the team that has is getting the penalty has a choice between being on the man advantage for two minutes or taking a penalty shot.

Josh: That’s an interesting one. You know, we’ve, we’ve seen that come up before in discussions on especially late in game situations. Should it be a power play? Should it be a penalty shot?

Todd: Right.

Josh:  In the past you look at penalty shot, success rate versus power play success rate and it’s not that far off. I mean we’ve we’ve seen maybe the penalty shots are a little bit higher, but statistically speaking it’s not a huge difference where you see a big swing there, I think it’d be interesting to give teams that option, especially when you’ve got the full 2 minutes because now. Do you want 2 minutes on the power play where you can score multiple times, or do you want one shot at a breakaway? In this situation, you know if you’re trailing in the game, maybe that 2 minutes is valuable and you you’d rather have the penalty shot. Or maybe the opposite is true and you just wanna kill time off the clock and you’d rather have the two-minute power play. I think that’d be an interesting strategy driver there, too, Todd, on how do you approach it because now you’ve got a power play that could result in multiple goals, or you get to take the penalty shot, which is only one – uses no time on the clock – but do you think your team has a better chance on the penalty shot than on the power play?

Interesting dynamic there. Another one where I think it takes time. You you’d have to put that in and coaches would figure out how best to make it work for their team. You know, if you’re the Edmonton Oilers this past season, you’re taking the power play every time. Some teams with limited success or with a really strong breakaway scoring player there, you might want to take the penalty shot and I think that it just changes things up from a strategy standpoint.

Todd: Now you mentioned the downfall.  Coaches ruin everything.


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