Clearly, Brett Gibson is paying a stiff price for his misdeed Friday night. He knows it.
“I cost our team a win”—in the deciding game of a playoff series, no less—he solemnly confessed later. A bench penalty he took with less than eight minutes remaining in the third period gave the McGill Redmen a power play they used to score the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 victory at the Memorial Centre.
Gibson said he will live with “something for the rest of my life that I’m going to regret.”
One wonders what referee Brad Moore, the official who called the penalty, will live with.
Perhaps he will live with the discomfort that he did something every official strives not to do—influence the outcome of a game—because, make no mistake, he did just that.
He should also have to live with whatever reprimand his superiors choose to deliver, because it says here he deserves to be disciplined for some dubious conduct.
Gibson’s side of the story is this: Upset at the penalty that led to the power play on which McGill scored the game-tying goal, the Queen’s coach said he yelled at the official, asking if he was pleased with himself for having made that call. He admits he dropped an expletive into the query.
At that point, the official, standing near the Queen’s bench waiting for the subsequent faceoff at centre ice, turned and signalled the penalty.
Gibson had turned his back and was walking away at this point, but the official followed him, asking if the coach had enough. Gibson says he responded, yes, he’d had enough of his (expletive) reffing.
Did Gibson deserve the penalty? In the first period, perhaps. Late in a game in the first half of the season, sure. An f-bomb is an f-bomb and officials shouldn’t be exposed to abuse, but you wonder, though. Might a referee not consider the circumstance—eight minutes to go in a tied playoff game that could potentially eliminate one of the teams—and give the coach a mulligan? A warning? Turn and skate away?
On this particular night, it was especially curious. In the first period, there was a non-call that had the McGill bench in an uproar. Across the Memorial Centre, it was plain to hear someone scream, ‘What the (expletive) was that!’ It’s one thing for officials to have thick skin but paying spectators shouldn’t have to put up with it. Lacing one’s displeasure with profanity loudly enough to be heard by spectators across a 3,000-seat arena needs to be punished.
It just so happened that during that part of the game, I was standing next to a former Ontario Hockey Association official. I posed that very question, and his response, essentially, was not for a one-off comment, and not in a playoff game.
So we have a double standard at work, perhaps a foreseeable consequence of having two referees on the ice. But even then, we’re left with questions about Moore’s conduct two periods later.
• What was he doing so close to the Queen’s bench? Many years ago, in a conversation with a Hall of Fame official, I had it explained to me that after a goal is scored, or a penalty given, officials are careful not to position themselves near the victimized team’s bench for the subsequent faceoff. You’re inviting abuse, he said, and it’s better to stand at the opposite side of the rink, and let the aggrieved team grumble away among themselves. Usually, they’ll get it off their collective chest and the official isn’t required to assess a penalty.
• Why did the official, after calling the penalty, skate after the coach as the coach walked away? Standing as I was, high on the Queen’s side of the ice, I couldn’t hear what Gibson was saying, but I could hear loud and clear what the referee was saying. It didn’t make any sense. The penalty had been called. What did he have to gain by pursuing the argument when Gibson was clearly walking away? I felt embarrassed for the official that he’d lost sufficient composure not to skate away. Baseball umpires have a tradition of jawing with managers; hockey referees do not.
• What were the other officials thinking? Seeing a colleague engaged in heated discussion with a coach should have been a sign to get in the vicinity quickly, to give support but also to verify their colleague’s account should it ever be called into question. You see it routinely in football and baseball—an official never goes it alone. There’s always someone there to overhear the conversation. The other stripes in this case stood at their posts. Perhaps they were puzzled at the sight of a colleague losing his religion, but in any case, that can’t be acceptable. Even if the other referee didn’t feel compelled to go to Moore at that point and say, ‘Uh, Brad, I let McGill get away with worse earlier; you might want to reconsider’—and if he’s not comfortable doing that, why do we have two referees?—the official is left with no one to corroborate his version of events. Now, if it ever does come up for discussion, we’re left with a he said/he said situation, and in a system where retired referees—often former colleagues, aka cronies—are the supervisors, who do you suppose would get the benefit of the doubt?
Regardless of whether you agree with the call, those mechanical faux pas should be addressed.
Did that penalty cost Queen’s the game? Gibson is to be commended for taking the blame but the reality is this: His players were in the process of giving up 58 shots on goal against the No. 6-ranked team in the land, one that had beaten Queen’s 28 games in a row. His team had managed to score one goal to that point in the game, just their eighth in five playoff contests, one of which had gone into an opponent’s empty net.
Clearly, the power play that arose from Gibson’s misdeed didn’t help, and indeed it did produce the game’s winning goal, but by then the odds were plenty long. Indeed, the ice had tilted in McGill’s favour long before then.
Gibson will have his cross to bear for some time, probably until the next time Queen’s wins a playoff series. Let’s hope at the same time that the OHA also gives Moore and his crew something to think about as well.
Whether Queen’s would have otherwise won the game is moot. That Moore had a profound influence on its outcome is undeniable. It didn’t have to happen, and it shouldn’t have.