The Fischler Report: 7/5/21

We examine the NHL's Refereeing "issue." Will the NHL add advertisements on jerseys? University of Michigan skaters primed to headline the first round of the NHL Draft.

The toughest job in sports?

Take a guess.

And it isn't being a hockey goalie. That once was the case but the mask and Michelin Tire equipment has made puck-stopping a walk in Prospect Park.

No, the toughest job in sports -- by miles -- is being a National Hockey League referee. (And I kid you not.)

The zebras are in the all-time no-win situation and the Cup Final merely has accentuated the negative.

Everyone -- and everything -- is against them.

1. The Media: In case you didn't know, reporters never pay to see a game and never wore the black-and-white stripes.

2. The Fans: They do pay and usually know more than The Freebie Gang, otherwise known as The Press. 

3. The Battery of TV and Slow-Mo cameras: They review and review, taking all the time in the world that an on-ice ref does not have.

4. The Players: This is especially true when a celebrity such as Connor McDavid stilettos the zebra herd.

"I'd like to see more consistency," bleats Connor who becomes the 1,241,940 human to utter those six little words. 

I've got news for Mister McD.

Wise up!

There is no way to obtain that elusive "consistency" because every one of the NHL arbiters is different from the other. 

Sure, they have basic ground rules set by the league. And they do their best to adhere to the regulations. 

But the unassailable fact is that each ref sees things a bit -- even by very little -- different from his sidekick's eye, ear and mindset.

Hello, Connor. Fact of Life Department. Breaking News: These guys are human.

What's more the Striped Ones have just two eyes trying to keep pace with skaters who, these days, whiz by as if they have invisible Boeing jet engines propelling them up and down the pond.

Meanwhile, in the tv booth, the NHL War Room, and anyone's living room, the analysts have the luxury of viewing plays -- and reviewing them a thousand times over -- as if they were Madam Curie peering into her trusty electron microscope.

Of course, we all know that referee-baiting is sidebar for hockey-watching. I enjoyed it most years ago when my pal, Paul Stewart, toted his funny whistle.

Stewie later authored his autobiography, "Ya Wanna Go" that's overflowing with insightful ref tales. I recommend it to Connor after which he'll have a month to do his book report.

And, in case you didn't know, Paul's grandfather, Bill Stewart, not only was a legendary NHL ref but also piloted the 1938 Black Hawks -- that's how it was spelled then -- to a Stanley Cup.

But since Canada still is a free country, The Earl of Edmonton has every right to bleat about what he considers bum calls. 

That said, while Master McDavid is at it, I suggest two things: 

1. Try reffing a beer league game. I tried once at Sky Rink in Manhattan and nearly had a nervous breakdown as a result of the trauma.

2. Ask Commissioner Bettman to show you the letter he showed me over lunch a while back. Here's the rest of the tale.

The Commish read the letter; a harsh criticism of the whistle-blowers, from Word One to the last graf.

"Who do you think wrote it, Stan?" he asked with the slightest curl of a grin on his face.

 "It's gotta be Brian Burke." (BB then was running the Anaheim Ducks, circa 2006.)

Without further ado, Pal Gary handed me the letter.  "Please read it," said The Commish, "and notice the author's name."

It was scathing all right, but it wasn't written by Brian Burke in 2006.

The nasty note was typed by Lester (The Silver Fox) Patrick, then Rangers general manager-coach and one of the all-time most respected of hockey people.

It was mailed to NHL President Frank Calder in 1933.

Bottom Line; When it comes to officiating, nothing has changed.

"We have the best officials in the world," Bettman concludes.

(And if I might add; they're human and each one is his own man.)

As for McDavid's beef, take this advice from The Maven regarding his "inconsistent" refs: 



Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, is leading the campaign that would maximize team revenue. Tom The Bomb sees no need for the NHL to be timid about it. "If we look like Formula 1 or NASCAR," says Dundon, "that's fine with me." Based on my own observations, ads on jerseys is the next logical progression for the league. The only question revolves about size. I doubt that Bettman, Inc. will go the NASCAR route. Something a bit smaller will do the trick.


The Commissioner allows that his gig of presenting Stanley to the annual champ team is "a cool part" of his job. Although he would not admit to a "best moment" since becoming The Lord of Hockey, he did allow that he experiences a special feeling when handing the prize to a winning captain. "I love to see the player's expression. There's sheer ecstasy in his eyes."


Prior to every Lightning-Canadiens game in the Cup Final a unique parade takes place in Anahim Lake, B.C. A convoy of trucks bearing Canadiens flags rolls through town honoring hometown hero, Carey Price, a member of the Ulkatcho First Nation. Those among the celebrants happens to be one smiling woman, Lynn Price. She's not only Carey's mom but also Chief of First Nation.


THE JIVE: The Wolverines of Ann Arbor develop future big-leaguers the way General Motors pumps out Cadillacs. Right now the pair of favorites to go first and second in the Entry Draft are goliath defenseman Owen Power and center Matthew Berniers. Picking first, the Sabres figure to go with the Powerhouse. Prevailing opinion -- alias "The Insiders" -- has second-picker Ron Francis opting for Matty  to wind up skating for the Kraken. (And I'm not Kraken a joke either.) 

Both lads could return to Michigan and the Wolverines usual loaded sextet; unless, of course, respective NHL g.m.'s, Kevyn Adams and Francis, urge them to become NHL rookies. (Could happen.)


NHL award-winners and All-Star selections provide open season for nitpickers like Your's Truly. Now, I don't want to make a Federal case out of this but you can't tell me that the First All-Star defensemen, Adam Fox and Cale Makar, are better than the Lightning's dominant Victor Hedman. Kudos to Fox and Makar for playing so well but I notice a couple of things. 

1. Neither have the experience, the overall skill nor the 2020-21 season accomplishments to match Hedman. Fox didn't even skate for a playoff team and did zero for the Rangers in the Blueshirts' two most important games of the homestretch; both losses to the Islanders. Likewise, where was Makar when the chips were down for his Avs in the playoffs? Over and out! On the best day, Adam and Cale have had, neither could match the best of the backliner, Hedman. (In case you haven't noticed, victorious Victor could be sipping champagne any minute now. Adam and Cale will have to get back in line.


THE JIVE: Looking for some fresh hockey writing, I find Nicholas Emanuelli of The Hockey News very readable and insightful. His latest column is all about UFA goaltenders who might interest teams who have sieves masquerading as puck-stoppers. Nick The Quick heads his list with Tuukka Rask, who figures to opt out of Boston. Trouble is he won't be ready for the start of next season due to injury recovery issues. 

Right behind Rask is his Boston back-up, Jaroslav Halak who could play goal for me anytime. Ditto for third-placer Pekka Rinne. I'm not so sure about fourth-placer Henrik Lundqvist because of uncertainty as to a green light from physicians who kept him out of the crease this season. James Reimer (Hurricanes) and Brian Elliott (Flyers) round out the list. (After Halak, The Maven's choice would be Rinne who still hasn't decided whether he wants another NHL turn or not.)

Rob Taub’s Weekend Wrap

The Tampa Bay Lightning could enter rarified air on Monday if they complete their sweep of the Canadiens. Not only would they become just the third franchise to go back-to-back since 1992 — Penguins twice, Red Wings the other two — but they would have established their legacy as one of the best teams of all time. Head coach Jon Cooper: "You start throwing legacy around and a lot of these words that describe teams that, you know, you sit there and say, 'Jeez, they were a pretty [darn] good team,' but you really only get that moniker if you win Cup. I know we've won one, and nobody can take that away from us, but the determination on this group to get another one is … It's amazing to watch.

As if the Bolts’ performance in the Stanley Cup hasn’t been impressive enough, Victor Hedman’s play hasn’t received nearly the recognition it deserves. In his team’s Game 3 win on Friday, Hedman etched his name in to NHL history by becoming the first player ever to score a goal in all 12 months of a calendar year. That’s one feat that might never be broken.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin deserves a ton of credit for what his team accomplished this season, but his latest move might have already won him the offseason. Guerin inked stud forward Joel Eriksson Ek to an eight-year deal, a transaction which garner rave reviews from around the league. Said Eriksson Ek: "Them showing me the commitment and just the strides we took last year, I really liked. The team we have, I think we can build something really good. Of course I like it there and I like where our team is heading.”

The Viktor Arvidsson trade late last week was the first big deal to come of the summer. The Kings, who acquired the 28-year-old forward, were the clear winners of the deal. LA has been in a rebuild for a few seasons, but now with Arvidsson in the fold and him added to a strong core, they look primed to get back to the playoffs next year.

Share The Fischler Report