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Old 11-05-2006, 09:45 AM   #420
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Default Stephen Walkom comments on mick

Human error happens, says head ref
Call for understanding makes sense, but offers little solace to Oilers fans
John MacKinnon, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, November 05, 2006

EDMONTON - At the end of a tough week for his offcials, especially Mick McGeough, Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating, deployed his sharp wit to try to defuse an inescapably bad situation.

Might McGeough be disciplined for whistling a non-existent hand pass by Shawn Horcoff, disallowing Ryan Smyth's apparent tying goal in the dying seconds of Edmonton's 3-2 loss to Dallas on Friday night?

"Well, I'll tell you, he's not getting a raise," Walkom said with a wry chuckle. "In all seriousness, he feels terrible right now. I think Mick answered it best. He didn't use good judgment.
NHL referee Mick McGeough admits he made a bad call during the dying seconds of Friday's Oilers game against Dallas at Rexall Place.View Larger
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"It would be very difficult for me, running a team of officials, to criticize my own guy. I actually want to praise him for taking ownership about making a mistake. It created a lot of controversy and may have cost a team a point or a game. I think it's big news because it rarely happens. And maybe that's a good thing."

Which doesn't do a damn thing for the Oilers, or their shellshocked fans, many of whom sat in stunned disbelief at Rexall Place after seeing their team apparently wipe out a 3-1 deficit with two straight goals with goalie Dwayne Roloson pulled for a sixth attacker.

An inspiring comeback wiped out by a glaring, inexplicable mistake. "Human error," Walkom called it, a term more commonly associated with horrible plane crashes or disasters at sea.

Oilers fan Jim Knutsen's response was to compose this simple message for the NHL big shots.

Dear NHL,

You owe the Edmonton Oilers one point. Your standings indicate that Dallas won the game 3-2, when in fact the Oilers tied the game with four seconds remaining. Please fix your error in the standings.

Thank you,

Jim Knutsen

Sorry, Jim.

Not going to happen.

McGeough and Walkom discussed the matter Saturday afternoon, but unlike Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who was fined $10,000 US for branding the call "retarded," or Atlanta Thrashers head man Bob Hartley, who was dinged a similar amount for verbal abuse of the officials after Atlanta beat Washington 4-3 Friday night, McGeough won't be disciplined. Although this can't possibly help his case to be included in the playoff rotation.

"He's the first guy to tell you that he'd like to roll back the clock and have that one back," Walkom said of McGeough, who will officiate in his 1,000th NHL game this season.

"It basically was a human error."

But once McGeough blew his whistle, the scoring play was moot, maddening as that may be for Oilers fans.

For all concerned, you hope this out-and-out flub has a short shelf life. You hope the Oilers, for example, don't miss out on the playoff tournament by a single point, not an unlikely event, given recent history.

In that doomsday scenario, a blown call in November would live in infamy forever -- fans' dreams shattered; millions in post-season revenue gone.

As it is, the league's officiating team took some verbal lumps this week, including some from Philadelphia sniper Peter Forsberg, who was upset about a non-call against Tampa and what he believed was an undeserved high-sticking call on him late in the Flyers' 5-3 loss to the Lightning on Thursday.

"When I hear Peter talk, I hear a frustrated star on a frustrated team that's losing a lot, costing his team a game with a penalty," said Walkom.

"That's tough to take responsibility for."

A bit more than one season removed from the lockout, when a broad cross-section of the NHL's stakeholders worked together to reshape the game, Walkom says he is not concerned about quality control slippage among his crew.
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"Once in a while, (teams) will lose a game because of a call that's made on the ice," Walkom said.

"In the crazy world of sport, that's almost part of the game.

"We're 200 games in -- that's one-sixth of the season -- and we're talking about one (high-sticking penalty) and one error that the official admitted was an error."

Replays showed Forsberg had committed the high-sticking infraction. And Hartley is a notorious referee-baiter, win or lose. But McGeough's gaffe was off the charts bad, softened only by the veteran's swift acknowledgment and solid reputation.

"I don't want to be in the paper every day about the officials and officiating," Walkom continued.

"But I'm not naive enough to think that it's never going to be in the paper. I've got full faith in (the officials). Our team is

actually better this year with the changes we've made. I do believe, though, that the expectation is even higher.

"The forgiveness for a missed call or an over-reaction is going to be less than last year. We are going to be expected to be better and we need to be better because the wiggle room is going to be smaller."

In Edmonton, from here on out, the wiggle room has shrunk to zero.
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