**Please tell me somebody else got the joke in the title.
OK. I know “the incident” happened two days ago and that most people have moved on from it at this point. However, as both a Red Wings fan and a former official (albeit, a different sport), I wanted to take some time to let the entire situation sink in, as well as review all of the happenings and rules associated with the play. With that said, let’s break this puppy down.
First, let’s pull out the rule:
Rule 32.2: As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.
Combine this with the fact that, throughout this entire thing, we have heard all parties say that “when the ref loses sight of the puck, he should blow his whistle,” and you can make a pretty strong case that (gulp)…Watson called this one by the book and called it correctly.
Fine. But knowing the rules and calling according to the rule book is only one component to solid officiating, and Watson knows this. He’s an official who has been in the league for a number of years and has officiated playoff games -including Stanley Cup Final games – many times before. And he’s an official that darn well knows the importance of positioning when making a call. What do I mean? Take a look:
As you can see, our friend Brad is in a position where he probably cannot see the entire play in front of him. This is a result of the play changing direction very quickly, and is no fault of his. But this is also where things start to get messy. As you can also deduce, this is right before Hossa is going to jam the puck home to tie the game up. Watson is moving to go around Franzen, so that he can gather in the entire play in front of him, as well as have a clear view of the net. In the meantime, Hossa punches the goal in, but, for some reason, Watson decides that because he is out of position and can’t see the puck, he should blow the whistle.
Totally. Inexplicable. Why? Here’s why:
Look where Wes McCauley is. Any hockey fan that watches the game on a regular basis has seen refs do this almost every time there is a close play at the net. They get in close, even grab the cage, and get a close look at what is going on. Where was our boy Watson when he blew the play dead?
Yes, on the back wall. So from where we left him, Watson skated around the downed Franzen, blew his whistle as he rounded him, and waved the play dead with his ass on the back wall. Folks, this is what I meant by understanding positioning.
Let’s play out the hypothetical: If Watson comes around Franzen and swoops in on the net to take a closer look at the play before blowing his whistle, what he sees is a pile up heading into the net and Chris Pronger grabbing the puck and throwing it out of the goal. In that extra second or two, he has determined that, even though he didn’t clearly see it from his bad angle, the puck was not frozen and has made it into the net for the goal. Granted, Watson has no idea how the puck got into the net, but he’s ruled it a goal and can go upstairs to video replay to help him iron out if the puck was kicked or batted into the net.
Some folks will argue that he did nothing wrong in blowing the whistle early, but I have to disagree. As an official, we are told to let plays start, develop and finish. Watson found himself in a “bang-bang” situation, which started when the puck was turned over, developed as it moved past Hiller, and finished with a rush to the net (which Detroit has done all season) and a goal by Hossa. But the play never finished because Watson killed it during the development phase. This is a mistake.
Look, mistakes happen. But here’s the thing that really gets me. I’d be willing to bet that, if he could answer honestly, Watson would tell us that he would have liked to have been in better position before whistling that play dead. As an official, you always want to be in the best position possible, and he knows he wasn’t on that call. And I’d also bet on the fact that he – while “right” according to the rules – knows that his call directly impacted the outcome of the game, and that is something no official ever wants. Don’t believe me?
Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection.
-Ed Hochuli, NFL
Ed’s been there before. He cost a team a game on a quick whistle and he knew it. But here’s where the NHL should take a lesson from the NFL. Hochuli was the one who made the call and he explained himself to everyone. He humbled himself because he was accountable for the call – right or wrong – on the field and he took it upon himself, knowing full well that it was on him and only him to explain himself. But when it comes to the Watson situation, we didn’t get anything. We got to hear from E.J. McGuire, series manager and spokesman for officials, who was most definitely NOT on the ice making the call.
On a replay, it’s easy to make the correct call. The official was down along the goal line. He was moving forward toward the net to try to get a look at where the puck was. When he couldn’t see the puck, all referees’ instructions are to blow the whistle and blow the play dead. A combination of the black puck and the black pants may have been a factor. But when he didn’t see the puck, he blew the whistle.
He didn’t make a mistake. In hindsight, if he had a slow-motion camera to review it, he may not have blown the whistle. He did what all officials are instructed to do. Blow the whistle when they don’t see the puck. And he didn’t see the puck.
He said he talked to the players on the ice. It’s an emotional game. He wanted to explain to the players on the ice, as he saw it, the puck was out of sight and he blew the whistle. The assumption was that the puck was covered.
Wow. Poor Brad. He’s basically thrown under the bus by this guy, with no chance to back himself up. The opening line of this statement pretty much states that Watson didn’t get it right. Then, to make matters worse, he tries to speculate that Watson didn’t see the puck because it blended in with the Anaheim uniforms. However, it’s the entire last section that really gets me going. McGuire says that Watson was trying to tell the players that in an emotional, hard fought game, he made a call based on an assumption, from the wrong position on the ice.
I’d love to hear what B-Rad has to say about this. But something tells me that if he had a rule in place that allows for a replay of the situation, he would probably be in favor of it. Anything that helps officials get it right should be welcomed, as they are always striving for perfection.
Or maybe I’m just making an assumption call from the wrong position.