the 2000-2001 season, Andrew Brunette, a star player and leading scorer
with the N.H.L.ís Minnesota Wild, was the recipient of a vicious elbow
to the head delivered by tough guy Brendon Witt of the Washington
"It was a close game with about three
minutes left. We were on a power play and down by a goal or two. The play
was getting a bit chippy and earlier one of our enforcers had hit one of
their top guns. The rule of hockey dictates that if one of your top
players is hit, then retaliation is likely to come," recalled Andrew
of the incident. "In situations like that, you always check to see
who is on the ice. If there is someone who is known for his goon tactics,
you make sure you know where he is at all times. I knew Witt was on the
ice, but let down my guard for a split second. The next thing I know - I
The elbow to the head resulted in a
concussion which sidelined Andrew for five games. It may also have cost
the club a playoff berth.
"There were four guys out there,"
explained Andrew, "and not one of them saw the hit."
Indeed, there was no penalty on the play
and when it was reviewed, they couldnít get a clean enough angle of the
shot on the game video tape to warrant a suspension.
"Itís times like that when you may
get a bit upset with the referees for missing an obvious infraction, but
that is hockey and for the most part, the referees do an excellent job on
Brunette has mixed feelings about the
two-man referee system now employed by the N.H.L. "It has certainly
removed a lot of the cheap shots behind the play," indicated Andrew.
"But Iím not too sure if we have the consistency we once had."
He went on to explain, "With the
old-fashioned one-man system, you always knew what kind of game to expect
from the referee. When you saw who the referee was for your game, you
sometimes had to adjust your style of play. Some referees call the game
really close, others let a lot go. If you didnít adjust, you suffered
the consequences. Now, you get two different personalities on the ice at a
time. One may call it close at one end of the rink and the other may let
more go. What you get away with at one end of the rink may be called a
penalty at the other. Itís hard to know what is acceptable
The biggest thing all players look for in a
referee is consistency and a professional approach to the game.
"The best way for a referee to earn
respect from the players is to show respect for the players and
demonstrate in real, observable ways that you care about being there as
much as the players," Andrew observed. "We have to see that you
love the game and have a professional approach to your responsibilities.
Sometimes players may forget it or take it for granted, but letís face
it - without the referees, there would be no game. A referee, therefore,
is the most important person on the ice."
Indeed, when referees and linesmen approach
each and every game as if they are key elements of the contest and can
show that they have a sincere interest in helping the players get the most
out of the game, they do earn the respect they need to excel at their job.
"The referees I respect the most are
the ones who are not afraid to admit when they have made a mistake,"
commented Brunette. "We all make mistakes. But if you are willing to
admit it and apologize, it shows that you have a lot of self-confidence
and are not trying to cover up. Players like that quality in an