It’s been a while since we had a foot-in-mouth apology from Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean, but the venerable host felt it necessary to issue one after insinuating that French-Canadian referees would have the appearance of favoritism towards the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In case you missed it: Tampa Bay Lightning Coach Jon Cooper was “pissed” after their Game 3 loss because referee Francois Charron waved off an apparent goal due to goalie interference on forward Alex Killorn. “They deserved a better fate tonight,” he said of his players, before they were swept out of the playoffs in Game 4.
During Tuesday night’s Game 4 broadcast on CBC, MacLean suggested that there shouldn’t be a French-Canadian referee working that Lightning vs. Canadiens game because Cooper felt that one in the previous game jobbed his team.
The Game 4 officials were Chris Lee and Francois St. Laurent, who we believe is Italian … no, wait, check that, he’s totally French-Canadian.
(And also the guy who allowed Ray Emery to pummel Braden Holtby earlier this season.)
From the CBC, MacLean’s take on the matter:
MacLean said the fact the NHL assigned another French-Canadian referee to officiate Game 4 was meant to send a message to Cooper.
MacLean’s view was challenged by fellow Hockey Night in Canada commentator Elliotte Friedman, who said it was “unfair” to suggest French-Canadian referees were partial to Montreal.
“So you’re saying there should never be a French referee in Quebec,” Friedman eventually asked MacLean.
“Just this time, after what happened in Game 3,” MacLean replied.
So, for the record, it wasn’t like he was saying French-Canadian referees are in the tank for the Canadiens, he was just worried that Cooper and the Lightning would be upset with one in Game 4 because they believe French-Canadian referees are in the tank for the Canadiens.
And of course, MacLean would have said the same thing had the Lightning been playing Edmonton or Calgary and a referee from Alberta had made a controversial call, because who hasn’t heard tales of match-fixing from nefarious Albertan officials trying to push the Flames and Oilers to the Stanley Cup?
Wait, no one has? Oh …
Again, for the record: MacLean was worried about the perception of assigning a French-Canadian referee for the game immediately following one in which a French-Canadian referee made a controversial call. But it was just about Game 4. He’s TOTALLY cool with a French-Canadian referee working Game 5, 6 or 7, where we’re sure this issue wouldn’t come up at all if there was another controversial call.
Look, MacLean isn’t the first to believe the Canadiens get the benefit from French-Canadian referees. Please recall Peter Laviolette’s classic “Montreal Typical!” rant that was captured by “HBO 24/7”:
It’s always been out there. In a way, MacLean was simply parroting a theory others have shared in perpetuity. But if we’ve known anything about the CBC host, it’s that he’s in the referees’ bag more than a whistle, so naturally any inference that they’d play favorites would have to be redacted.
While we’re on the subject: Did we miss MacLean’s rant about the IIHF and the IOC assigning Canadian officials to the gold medal game against Sweden in Sochi?