Terry Gregson is a lot like Stephen Walkom in the sense that I can't recall having chanted the word "sucks" after either of their names from the cheap seats. Naturally then, it's Gregson who takes over for Walkom as the NHL's Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating.
Gregson was senior officiating manager under Walkom for four years, whom you'll recall left his gig to zebra-up again as an active official. Or at least that's what he said, as Sports Illustrated columnist Jim Kelley believes Walkom quit because he was fed up trying to enforce an unenforceable standard:
... Hockey ops director Colin Campbell made on-ice rulings that dialed back previous interference standards, and some supplementary discipline decisions that lowered penalties for hitting from behind, crashing the crease and blows to the head. It's uncertain whether Campbell ordered the changes or was ordered to make them. Nothing was "officially changed" regarding the rule book, but it's a given that teams recognized the new interpretations and are "bulking" up for the new season.
Stu Hackel of Slap Shot has more on the officiating standards. It's Gregson's headache now; so what do we know about his philosophy and approach to the game? (Hint: A little too much.)
There are a couple of interviews that give us a sense of what Gregson believes, one from the IIHF (via Hockey Forum) and a very interesting one from HockeyRefs.com after his retirement in 2004. Check out Gregson on rules changes:
"I'm a traditionalist. I don't want to see the red line removed at this level because I feel it would cut down on the amount of offense. Without the red line, the defensemen will play back. I would like to see automatic icing though. I don't want to see the nets made bigger, but I do want the width of the goalkeeper equipment to be made smaller. Also, I have always thought the goalie should be required to move the puck whenever the puck is shot from behind the blue line."
Interesting, if a little outside the scope of his job description. Then again, so is marketing the game, but Gregson's thoughts on that from the HockeyRefs.com chat were revealing:
"We're trying to grow the sport, but there comes a time when I don't think someone in Mobile, Alabama is worried about the sport. Is the marketing of the game more important than the actual game? If we look after the game itself, the game will attract fans. One thing I've never liked are the commercial timeouts. Last season I had an exhibition game that finished in 1 hr and 53 minutes because it had no commercials. If hockey would finish in less than two hours, we would attract a lot more fans. Unlike other sports, fans have to really concentrate on the game."
Sounds like he and Gary have something to talk about. What about his philosophy on the current state of officiating? From NHL.com:
"What we have now is more black and white," said Gregson, who officiated in eight Stanley Cup Final series. "When I refereed, we used to judge the degree of an action, whether the slash or the hold really affected play or changed control of the puck. We used to say 'Ah, that wasn't that bad.'
"Now, a player will be penalized. Now, we're not in the business of judging degrees. There is less gray than there used to be."
Can any fan who watches NHL hockey agree with the above statement? That penalties are called by the book and not within a referee's imagined narrative for a particular game? That calls aren't overlooked because they don't dramatically affect the play as a whole?
Not to fall back on a tired cliché, but are you blind, ref?