Officiating over the weekend at major midget Atlantics didn’t really get a positive review.
Spectators, players and teams were a little upset over how things went throughout the weekend. It wasn’t so much the calls being made – although that was the case sometimes – it was the ones that weren’t.
One of the standout calls of the weekend came during Sunday’s final when it appeared Saint John Vitos forward Jean-Michel Leblanc had tied the game 5-5 with the Halifax McDonalds. It was initially called a goal, but after a lengthy discussion they took it back.
Unfortunately this came with 3:51 left in regulation and the Vitos were unable to pot another goal as Halifax punched their ticket to the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw, Sask. from April 21-27.
Personally I was behind the play, so all I saw was Leblanc going towards the net, but the official on the goal-line called it a good goal. It was someone behind the play that helped call it back. That is where the issue comes. It would be like the second-base umpire in baseball calling someone out at home plate – it just doesn’t make sense.
Alas, that’s just the way it is sometimes in sport. We’re all human.
After the game, there were infuriated people off the ice that I’m sure would’ve loved to tell the referees what they thought with words that shouldn’t be printed, but when Leblanc had the chance to comment he didn’t.
Although there were a few other calls made that raised eyebrows, a few non-calls midway through the Weeks Major Midgets game against Halifax did the same. Connor MacLaughlin took two high hits directly in front of an official, the first of which caused him to stay down for roughly 30 seconds.
When he got back up he didn’t go looking for an official or a penalty. He simply got back into the play. Other players may have gone looking for the call, but he battled through it.
In a similar situation to Leblanc, he didn’t comment on the hits with regards to them being a penalty, simply that he just had to fight to get back into the play.
There seems to be a problem here. I understand the blurb the timekeeper reads before the game about the officials having the training and knowledge to do their job and the coaches are teaching the skills of the game to these players, but what that says to me is that we’re to trust these four men or women.
So, when MacLaughlin got hit in the head, that trust was shaken. Two officials on the ice, one five feet away and there was no call. Both he and his coaches trust the officials to protect the players on the ice.
Leblanc may have said it best, although most would not be so calm about it.
“It was the referee’s decision (calling his goal off) and they don’t always make the best decision, but they’re human,” he said in a report by the Telegraph-Journal.
Now there are two sides to the coin.
One is angry fans, parents or players yelling at these officials, which in some ways could be considered bullying. The other is that the officials very rarely have to answer for a call that is made or not made. I’ve tried to ask officials about calls over the years, but get the same response – they can’t or won’t comment.
Yes, there are debriefs with head officials after games, as there was Sunday following the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship final, but that’s where the discussion ends. There is rarely, if anything more, than what happens in those closed door meetings.
For instance, Sunday night in the Weeks Crushers game against the Truro Bearcats, the third goal given to the Bearcats never actually went past the goal-line. On the ice the official said it went in the net and came instantly back out.
Fans were irate, as were the Crushers players and staff. There was a lot of passion being shown by the spectators that night as it was, but that goal took things to another level.
Afterwards the officials took their exit quietly out of the facility, but didn’t have to answer for their decision on the ice. People are wrong from time-to-time and that’s fine because we’re all human, but when 10 Crusher 20-year-olds are left with a bad taste in their mouths knowing that helped end their season, it doesn’t help that nobody answers for their decision.
The system will never be perfect at this level, but there should to be a discussion about how it could work better. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last.
Both sides have their points.
The last thing a young official needs when he’s refereeing a atom or bantam game is a screaming parent telling him he’s a f---ing idiot and needs to open his eyes. You won’t have any officials in a few years if all the up and coming ones are scared off. In that regard, I don’t believe an official learning the game should have to answer to an upset parent.
That said, when a junior A team’s season or midget Atlantic championship has an official's call play a part in the outcome of it, there should be more said than what is behind a closed door.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.