NHL Officials: Playoff Friend or Foe?

At some point every dedicated NHL hockey fan will provide feedback about the officiating in the National Hockey League.  On Monday, the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs started and during the first few days of the playoffs NHL officials have had their share of scrutiny. Just ask fan in Edmonton, Toronto and Dallas. Fact is there have been some inconsistent calls.  We all know that playoffs are a different beast, but the thought that there should be less calls in the playoffs really doesn’t make any sense.  There is a rule book, thus an infraction is an infraction isn’t it?

Let’s take game one of the Oilers / Kings series.  The Oilers held a 3-1 lead late in the third period when there were some calls (and non-calls) that entirely changed the complexion of the game.  Evan Bouchard with a cross check, yup that is definitely a penalty.  Anze Kopitar with a “trip and lift” on Leon Draisaitl no call.  The game heads to overtime, interference on Warren Foegele no call.  A trip on Blake Lazotte by Vincent Desharnais and a powerplay for the Kings. The Kings complete the comeback with an OT powerplay goal. Oilers fans are furious.

In game one between the Dallas Stars Matt Dumba’s hit on Joe Pavelski was originally a five minute major but was reviewed and later diminished to a two minute minor.  Dumba lined Pavelski up and finished his check on the veteran Pavelski who crashed to the ice face first in a scary play.  As Eric Duhatschek over at the Athletic describes it, “The major penalty was rescinded, and Dumba received only a minor for the melee that ensued. And to add insult to the Dallas injury, the Stars’ Max Domi was tagged with a minor and a misconduct in the resulting scrum, which meant the Stars didn’t even get a power play out of the exchange.”  Talk about a turn of events.

The point is that there is no question that the officiating in the NHL (and in any sport) has a direct impact on the game.  Calls (or non-calls) are made in real-time and let’s face it the officials are human, they make mistakes and don’t get it right all of the time. The Stanley Cup playoffs in the NHL is arguably one of the most intense tournaments in all of sports.  You want your senior people to officiate the games right?  Well just who are the most senior officials in the National Hockey League?  We took a look at which officials in the NHL have the most playoff experience. 

Top 10 NHL Officials with Playoff Experience

We reviewed the list of current NHL referees and linesmen to see who has the most post season experience.  We would expect these officials to be the most active in the NHL playoffs right?  Here is a look at the top ten NHL officials with Stanley Cup Playoff experience.

#10. Steve Kozari – with a collective sigh from Edmonton Oilers fans, Steve Kozari has been officiating in the National Hockey League since October 2005.  He has officiated in 123 NHL playoff games and been in three Stanley Cup finals. Kozari hails out of Penticton, BC. Oilers fans have a long history of dealing with Kozari as referenced here and here.  Bruins and Blues fans have also had a bit of a feud with Kozari.

#9. Steve Barton – Barton an NHL Linesman, has officiated in 129 games and participated in two Stanley Cup finals with the most recent being last season between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning.

#8. Scott Cherrey – Cherrey is an NHL linesman who has officiated in 130 NHL Playoff games and has participated in four Stanley Cup finals with this last one being in 2021 between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lighting. Cherrey was also an official in the 2022 NHL all-star game in Las Vegas.

#7. Chris Rooney – Promoted to a full time NHL referee status in the summer of 2002, Rooney has officiated in 142 NHL playoff games and in five Stanley Cup finals. Rooney’s last SCF action was last year between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

#6. Eric Furlatt – Furlatt has been an NHL official since October of 2001 when he did a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  He has officiated in 152 NHL playoff games and in one Stanley Cup final, the 2021 SCF between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.

#5. Marc Joannette – Joannette officiated his first NHL game in October of 1999.  Since then. he’s worked 172 NHL playoff games and has officiated in three Stanley Cup finals.  Joannette officiated his last game in the NHL on April 4th, 2023. It should be noted that retiring officials do not advance to the postseason, so technically Joannette will not be officiating any games in the 2023 NHL Playoffs.

#4. Dan O’Rourke – O’Rourke became a full time NHL linesman status in the summer of 2000. When the NHL switched over to the two-referee system he decided to switch over to being a referee.  Dan O’Rourke has officiated in 172 NHL playoff games and in five Stanley Cup finals.

#3. Wes McCauley – McCauley has officiated in over 1,250 NHL regular season games and prior to the start of the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs has officiated 186 NHL playoff games and called action in nine Stanley Cup finals. McCauley is actually a fan favorite with his animated play calls on penalties. However fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs do not feel the same way as apparently the Leafs are now 0-8 in playoff games reffed by Wes McCauley.  Could there be something to the game management by NHL officials? For the record, the Tampa Bay Lightning have not lost a game this season when McCauley has been one of the officials.

#2. Kevin Pollock – Pollock officiated nearly 1,500 regular season games in his career and has officiated 216 post season games and officiated in two Stanley Cup finals.

#1.  Kelly Sutherland – Sutherland has officiated over 1,400 NHL games and has officiated 216 NHL playoff games and called nine Stanley Cup Finals including the 2022 Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning.  In fact Sutherland has participated in the past five Stanley Cup Finals.

These are the NHL refs and linesman that have the most experience.  They’ve earned their right to make the odd mistake or bad call.  Hockey fans may still want to chirp them but these guys have more than enough experience to make sure a game is not decided by the guys in stripes.

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