SOCHI, Russia – Peter Forsberg once defeated Team Canada to give Sweden the gold medal. Twenty years later, he’d like to see it happen again in the finale of the Sochi Olympics men’s hockey tournament – only he doesn’t exactly trust that the officiating will be balanced.
“What a [expletive] joke,” Forsberg wrote in a text message to Mats Wennerholm of Sportbladet, in reference to the all-NHL officiating crew that will oversee the game.
Kelly Sutherland (Richmond, British Columbia) and Brad Meier (American-born, but lives in Calgary) are the refs. Linesmen
"Canadian officials in the finals, also the supervisor plus reserves. Comedy at the highest level,” Forsberg wrote to the paper.
There are 14 referees in the Sochi Olympics men’s hockey tournament. Seven are from the NHL and North American born; seven are officials from other leagues around the world.
Throughout the tournament, referees of different nationalities worked together; in Sweden’s game against Finland in the tournament semifinals, Tim Peel of the U.S. worked with Konstantin Olenin of Russia.
The all-NHL ref crew working the gold-medal game has been condemned in the Swedish media, which has openly questioned why Swedish ref Marcus Vinnerborg wasn’t chosen to work the final; or why there isn’t an Olympic rule that referees from the nations involved in a gold-medal game should be prohibited from working the game.
The IIHF said in a statement that the officials have been evaluated throughout the tournament by Konstantin Komissarov (IIHF), Terry Gregson, former Head of Officiating for the National Hockey League, and six others (four IIHF, three NHL). The officials for the gold-medal game were chosen based on their performances in the medal round.
“Their nationalities aren’t considered as factors nor should they be; we want the best officials working the medal games,” said Komissarov. “We are fully confident that with their experience and professionalism these officials will do their job well and preserve the integrity of the game.”
The Swedish players themselves said they aren’t concerned about the nationality of the officials.
"I think most referees over [in the NHL] are Canadian, too. They probably support Montreal or Toronto but they don't make any difference there,” said defenseman Erik Karlsson.
"I couldn't care less about what the referees do. As you saw yesterday, we had two power plays, Finland had a lot, and we still won the game. It's nothing we can control and neither can Canada."
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall was happy to see two North American refs in the finale. "We are used to having referees from USA and Canada in the NHL. We know their standards so I think it's easier for us, too, if the referees are from there.”
Meier and Sutherland also worked Canada’s semifinal game against the USA, where the U.S. was given three power plays to Canada’s two. It marked the first time in the tournament that Canada had an all-NHL crew.
For the tournament, Canada has nine power plays in five games, the only team other than Slovakia to not have double digits in man advantages.
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