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Brind'Amour's suggestion is interesting but problematic

May 29, 2023, 1:22 PM ET [8 Comments]
Paul Stewart
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I have a lot of respect for Rod Brind'Amour. I refereed many of his games with St. Louis, Philadelphia and Carolina. He was a hard-working, talented and complete player who stayed in outstanding physical condition. He was respectful to the officials but was also an outstanding competitor. I've only seen his coaching career from afar, but it's hard not to admire the job he's done with the Hurricanes.

Several people have asked me what I thought of Brind'Amour's interview with Elliotte Friedman -- if you haven't seen it, click here -- specifically, Rod's suggestion to only have one referee and one linesman on the ice and to have the other two off the ice to review goals and penalties.

Rod's comments were well-intentioned. However, I don't think they were fully thought through. As with any major change, one can't simply discuss why to do something. It's every bit as important to consider why NOT to do something. Here, I think the drawbacks would outweigh the benefits.

There are many aspects to consider. This about this: Only 2 guys on the ice, skating 200 feet to break up a schmozzle versus 10 to 40 feet. It's a recipe for disaster: a new chance to see a team target a player. Is a physically small ref going to break up a 6'6" guy from whacking a goalie? Tough to imagine.

The four-man system needs to be explained to all the players and all the coaches. Yes, it's doable. I do it all the time with my guys. I have a lengthy history with the four-man crew. After all, it was Kerry Fraser and me with Pat Dapuzzo and Kevin Collins that did the NHL's first game with two refs and two linesmen.

If the on-ice officials presently making very few mistakes, then enhance the ability of the 4 to eliminate the maybe 1 or 2 errors they do have. Replay, when used correctly, can get to that "right call". Now let's figure out how to make the usage even better and especially quicker.

I think the solution is in education and training. The League is trying to follow the Paul Stewart example: hire more ex players. I'm all for it because we need more people to try officiating. But we need to do a better job in training our officials -- including ex-players, who need guidance in making the needed adjustments and too often are fast-tracked without the necessary experience on the officiating side at various levels of the game. To me that's more important and more beneficial than taking two guys off the ice.

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A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of
being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
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