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NHL’s first European-trained referee retires

Jun 28, 2012, 12:13 PM EDT

Marcus Vinnerborg

Two years ago Marcus Vinnerborg was a trailblazer of sorts, becoming the only non-American or Canadian official in the National Hockey League.

Today, he’s calling it a career.

Vinnerborg, 39, is retiring after just two seasons in the NHL…and just 40 games called (more on that in a sec.)

“Two years ago I was given the opportunity by the NHL to live my dream of officiating professional hockey in North America,” Vinnerborg said in a statement. “My family supported me and thoroughly enjoyed their experience living here. It was a difficult choice, but we have decided as a family to move back to Sweden.”

Vinnerborg thanked NHL Director of Officiating Terry Gregson for giving him the opportunity and said he’ll return to Sweden “a more educated official.”

As mentioned earlier, Vinnerborg wasn’t getting a ton of assignments and the “40 games” number jumps off the page — though to be fair, it’s not entirely unusual. Jean Hebert, who also came on board in 2010, hasn’t reffed many games either.

Also, Vinnerborg was thought to be a pretty good official.

The only red flag came in his first year, when Detroit forward (and fellow Swede) Johan Franzen approached Vinnerborg after a game to congratulate him on becoming the NHL’s first European-trained referee.

As documented by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

Don’t believe for a second that referee Marcus Vinnerborg was biased in calling the Montreal-Detroit game. (The Canadiens were livid about a third-period non-call, and power plays were 6-1 for the Wings.) Do believe, however, shaking hands with Johan Franzen was bad optics. “He’s a good ref,” said another official. “But I’m sure (the league) will talk to him about that.”

Of course, Friedman followed that up with this:

Had the note last week about referee Marcus Vinnerborg shaking hands with Johan Franzen after Detroit beat Montreal. One league official thought that mention was unfair. Franzen came over, stuck out his hand and Vinnerborg was taken by surprise, not knowing what to do. He decided to be polite, but that won’t happen again.

Well, it certainly won’t now.

  1. nobandwagoners - Jun 28, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Too bad. Many non-North American players in the NHL; it’d be nice to see similar reflection in the officiating. And the handshake with Franzen – controversy? Really? That’s just a nice gesture and acknowledgment of the ref’s accomplishment and what it signified. Actually kind of nice that Franzen would do that.

    Personally, I’m fine with games in which one team has a greater number of power plays. It just depends on whether they were deserved. That should be the only factor in making calls. Not to artificially “balance” the calls out so that each team essentially has the same number of PPs. That’s ridiculous and calls the game’s integrity into question.

  2. hky15 - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Couldn’t agree with your (nobandwagoners) opinion more! You’re absolutely correct.
    Btw, his first NHL game was in Dallas, I was there and he did a good job.

  3. esracerx46 - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    The handshake from Franzen “controversy” only came about because of who the losing team was. The Habs. It’s like Idiot nation over there. I mean, they cant hire a coach unless he speaks French. No wonder they havent done anything lately. Wont Change. Good luck in the future Mr. Vinnerborg. I have no doubt this was purely based on your family and not the job you have done in the NHL, because you did a solid one.

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