It happens every year when a team falls behind in a game or a series or drops four out of seven. It’s silly, really, but there’s no avoiding it. And it becomes a deafening distraction from an exciting on-ice show.
I’m talking, of course, about the lunacy and convenience of conspiracy theories that blame referees for losses or suggest they favor certain teams.
So before the cacophony begins, let me be clear: If your team loses, it ain’t the referees’ fault.
While I doubt highly this will do anything to quell the desperate insanity of post-season finger pointing, I feel compelled to try anyway. The mere fact officials are professionals with an overflow of pride and integrity should be enough to put the biggest of whiners back in their seats. But again and again a minority of fans take on the part of sore loser and their actions and words roar louder than a more levelheaded majority. Social media does little to add coherent thought to such topics.
A hockey game is greatly impacted by the men in stripes who determine its flow and feel, but any suggestion they would intentionally throw a game in favor of one team is a coward’s way out. Referees are under the microscope, as they should be, with every call being judged and monitored by the league. All you can ask for is consistency and if that consistency means there are more liberal battles for position in front of the net or along the boards (something I thoroughly enjoy) you can’t complain about a “missed” cross-check minutes after the same non-call happened the other way.
Referees aren’t perfect with their calls. That’s not an excuse to let them off easy, but rather a clarifying statement explaining they are humans and will make a mistake from time to time, which is something that applies to every other walk of life.
Victory in the playoffs comes down to something this simple: Perseverance is the most important intangible to have. Whatever team-building philosophy you subscribe to – whether it’s based on skill, grit, experience, etc. – the determining factor always comes back to how your team reacts to a challenge.
The Bruins fell behind 2-0 in their opening round series to Montreal last season, couldn’t score a power play goal for the life of them and allowed a Game 7 game-tying goal with mere minutes left while shorthanded. We all know where the B’s were in June. Vancouver blew a 3-0 series lead against their nemesis from Chicago and had to kill off an Alex Burrows penalty in Game 7 overtime before Burrows put the Canucks in Round 2.
The difference between winners and losers in the post-season is the ability to overcome.
If your team allows a power play goal late in a tie game, it’s not the referee’s fault if they lose – they lost because of the scoring chance that was missed in the first period, the power play that wasn’t converted in the second or the plain-as-day fact the team didn’t step up and kill off that crucial shorthanded situation.
Winners endure and persevere. Losers find someone else to blame.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.