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Would the NHL be better off with one less official on the ice?

Sep 24, 2010, 6:15 PM EDT

fourreferees.jpgBack when Brendan Shanahan organized a research and development camp this summer, there were all sorts of different experimental rule changes and tweaks being tested. One possible alteration included the interesting idea of taking a referee off the ice and placing that official on a platform overlooking the ice (to provide a different vantage point to call penalties and – perhaps – to open up a little more room).’s Mike Brophy brings up an idea that takes a zebra off the ice … altogether.

While the league and its officials continue in collective bargaining agreement talks in an effort to secure a new contract between the two groups before the 2010-11 season begins, there are some who believe the day is approaching when the league will go with two referees and just one linesman per game.

There has been no indication the league would use the elimination of one linesman as a bargaining tactic.

NHL hockey was traditionally officiated by one referee and two linesmen until the 2000-01 season when a second referee was added to the mix.

“Ten years ago if you talked about doing this it would be universally turned down,” one source told “But now, since the league took the centre red line out (in 2005-06) linesmen are doing less than they ever have. The NHL has tapes of at least eight games in which two referees and one linesman worked and those games were mistake free. Those games were officiated that way because of injury, illness or travel issues. One concern the NHL has is will players try to break the rules more knowing there are only three officials on the ice?”

I enjoy the feng shui*-friendly dynamic of opening up a little space on the ice, but my gut instinct is to think that less officials mean more blown calls. If anything, I want more eye balls on the kind of tomfoolery hockey players engage in, not two less.**

As far as opening up the ice, perhaps that research and development camp idea has some wisdom in moving a ref to a platform off the ice … or maybe the NHL could use new-fangled technology to buzz extra officiating advice into the ears of officials at crucial times? That’s probably a potentially lousy idea, but I’m just spit-balling here, kids.

Anyway, this is far from a confirmed idea – there’s no concrete word on discussions, let alone a vote on the changed rule by the Board of Governors/Competition Committee – but how would you feel about the idea of the NHL reverting back to its one referee, two linesmen setup? Let us know in the comments.

* – There is at least a 90 percent chance I used that term incorrectly. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of viewing my living quarters, you’d know that the lesson was lost on me either way. So let’s pretend I used it incorrectly for comedic purposes, OK?

** – Not to discriminate against one-eyed officials, naturally.

  1. R.Hannah - Sep 25, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    Stop screwing with the sanctity of the game and leave four officials on the ice. There are enough bad calls, blown calls, non-calls, etc. with four officials. Don’t exacerbate the problem by removing one from the ice. Bad idea guys. And while you’re at it, stop changing the rules every year….and get rid of that stupid trapezoid behind the goalie. Let them play hockey for God’s sake.

  2. A. Helsper - Sep 26, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    Thank You! Finally somebody understands.

  3. aaarrrggghhhh - Sep 26, 2010 at 10:21 PM

    I would like this explored a little more. the refs are in the way too often when teams are cycling the puck down low. one less person on the ice might be the way to go. its the way it used to be. also, let the linesman call penalties if they see them if you do go to a one ref system.

  4. Dan V - Sep 27, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    I think the platform is a very interesting idea. But in thinking about the logistics of it, anything overhanging from the edge would not only block fans’ views but create a blind spot below/behind the platform.
    But what if the platform were over center ice, whereas the official would have to use a catwalk and stairs to get down below the score clock?

  5. StakeX - Sep 28, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    Well to stick with the “sanctity” you talk about, the NHL would pretty much have to roll back everything its done in the last 10 years. Which by the way would mean removing one offical because as this article points out the two official system is only 10 years old. You’re post seemed to imply that 4 officials is how its always been… and thats not correct obviously.
    Basiclly hockey was played pretty much the same for decades… and has since been radicly changed in the last 6 years. I’m all for going back to the less restrictive NHL of the 90’s, because games were simply better when they didn’t have 15 penalties a game. Today the game is even slower IMO because there are so many stoppages, and it really sucks seeing games being won on phantom hooking calls…. especially in the playoffs. If you want to talk about leaving the sanctity of hockey alone, then all the post-lockout rule changes have to go. That won’t happen of course because the league needs to show off their poter child, and giving him a diver friendly environment works perfectly.

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