NHL officials have long been suspected of bias, but a former referee said Wednesday it's not just a conspiracy theory.
Kerry Fraser confirmed on his blog on TSN.ca that referees and linesmen have lists of players to watch out for and Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher is on it.
If there is an internal published list of players for the officials to watch for, it's a well-guarded secret at this point. Directives sent to the referees and linesmen originate from the desk of Stephen Walkom - V.P. of Officiating, or his counterpart in Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.
Regardless of whether a directive has been sent or not, based on what I have observed and previously commented on, Brendan Gallagher has earned a rightful place on the referee's "Ten Most Wanted" list.
The revelation came in response to a reader's question about a Gallagher holding penalty negating a goal in Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Fraser was asked who sends directives to monitor certain players if they are in fact issued.
The league's Hockey Operations department cracked down on embellishment prior to the start of this season, increasing the maximum fine to $5,000 and punishing the players' head coaches when applicable.
Fraser said these measures were taken to curb the growing number of diving incidents, and that while no formal list exists, the officials have more discreet means of conspiring.
Prior to my final season on the ice in 2009-10 there was a concerted effort by Hockey Operations and the referees to address the diving issue that was snowballing out of control. The NHLPA opposed Hockey Ops on the subject of sharing an internal list of offenders with the referees for fear of potential "targeting." A public list was totally out of the question for fear of any 'embarrassment' it might cause the player. For these reasons, we never received a specific list of known offenders. What the PA failed to recognize but Hockey Ops did, was three of the oldest forms of communication -telegraph, telephone and tell a Ref!
Fraser said officials shared their lists with each other while on the job.
Each member of the officiating staff had his own list of players that duped him or attempted to and wouldn't hold back on sharing the information around the pre-game lunch table or in the dressing room prior to a game. The adage, "Fool me once - good for you. Fool me twice - shame on me" was adopted by the core group and a "known offenders list" was mentally compiled and shared freely amongst the referees.
The notion of referees having grudges or agendas against certain players is often speculated upon but rarely corroborated, so an admission from a former senior referee of Fraser's caliber should certainly be taken seriously.
- With h/t to Habs Eyes on the Prize
Feature photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland / USA TODAY Sports