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Robin Short: Disregard for details put a ding in this year's Herder

Clarenville Caribous goaltender Jason Churchill talks with officials following the final whistle of the fifth and deciding game of the Herder Memorial Trophy final Sunday in Clarenville.
Clarenville Caribous goaltender Jason Churchill talks with officials following the final whistle of the fifth and deciding game of the Herder Memorial Trophy final Sunday in Clarenville.

Several years ago, maybe 10 or 15, I was invited to a rugby planning meeting by Pat Parfrey. I can’t quite recall what it was about, but I believe the local rugby crowd was staging a national or international event, and I was there in some kind of media role.

Parfrey controlled the meeting, of course, and I recall him directing the person taking minutes, who was scribbling furiously, to ensure there were “nice tablecloths” for dinner at the Swilers Rugby Club.

Rugby, I thought, leaves no stone unturned. They take into consideration the smallest of details.

Hockey not only neglected the tablecloths in Clarenville last weekend, but the tables and chairs, too.

Iain Hollett and Stephen Orr — unwilling central characters in the day following the biggest blunder in the history of Newfoundland sports — were getting killed Monday.

The referees who allowed the phantom goal in the dying minutes of 3-3 tie, in the deciding game of the Herder Memorial Trophy final, were condemned at every turn for allowing a shot from a Harbour Grace CeeBees player to count as a goal, although video shows the puck slipped under the side of the net.

It’s not their fault.

Hard as it is to believe, this final game of the Herder series was played without goal judges, and in the end, that negligence has forever put an asterisk to the 2017 provincial senior hockey championship, and taken some gloss off the CeeBees’ win.

Related stories:

Caribous GM says team filed official protest to Herder decision

Caribous fans furious over final goal

Herder 2017 ends with controversy

We don’t know if fault lies with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, or one or both of the Avalon East Senior Hockey League or Central West senior operation.

We do know, however, only crickets could be heard coming from the HNL home office in Grand Falls-Windsor Monday, silence replaced by the shrill of anguish from irate Clarenville Caribous supporters demanding their pound of flesh from a pair of referees left dangling by Hockey NL.

The refusal by hockey’s governing body to address the issue Monday is as astounding as it is shocking, and perhaps even reprehensible.

If you consider the replay — and like you, I’ve watched it umpteen times — you will see one of the referees in the corner opposite of the play in question. This official could not have witnessed — in any way, shape or form — the puck slide under the net.

The other ref is not in the picture, probably just outside the blueline in a two-man system. Again, watching the video, you see activity in front of Clarenville goalie Jason Churchill. While I am not a mindreader, I’m thinking this is capturing the trailing official’s attention, not the fairly innocuous play of an unchecked player emerging from the corner with the puck.
Of course, what you will also see behind the net is an empty space, where a goal judge usually sits. Had there been one, he/she would have had a perfect view of the goal/non-goal.

According to Hockey Canada’s Off-Ice Officials Manual, the role of the goal judge is to, “turn the goal light on if the entire puck has crossed the goal line between the

goal posts and below the cross bar, regardless of the situation, and leave the light

on for at least 5 seconds, or until acknowledged by the Referee.”

It goes on to say, “It is the responsibility of the Referee to ask the question to the goal judge and of the goal judge to respond to the questions as to how the play was viewed. In any dispute regarding a goal, the Referees decision is final.”

So either Hollett or Orr or both asks the goal judge — had there been someone assigned that duty — if it was a good goal. Goal judge says no, the puck slid under the net.

No goal. No story.

The Herder Memorial Trophy captures a significant amount of public interest, not to mention generating a sizeable amount of revenue.

It’s time Hockey NL imported a heightened amount of professionalism to the event.

It starts with, of course, ensuring all mandated officials — on- and off-ice — are in place. It extends to a video review system, which could be used as fallback option in the event of disputed goals or player safety issues.

And it could use a public relations enhancement, beginning with a dedicated contributor to its social media networks, and a tournament photographer posting to Instagram and Flickr.

Finding a score from the weekend games, if one wasn’t tuned into the Bell Aliant online streaming, was at best hit and miss.

This all costs a few extra dollars, but it’s about boosting the Herder’s professional appearance, putting a shine on the old trophy.

About making sure diners have nice tablecloths.

And in the case of adding a couple of goal judges, ensuring the embarrassment that was the 2017 Herder Memorial Trophy doesn’t happen again.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

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