Not media trained. Also, perfect at their jobs.
On Friday, when the Flyers lost to the Calgary Flames essentially due to a blown call in overtime by rookie official Ghislain Hebert, one of the major issues we had with the whole situation was that the officials had the arrogance to simply "decline comment" after the game.
99 percent of us thought it was a bad call, but personally, I could live with it. After all, bad calls happen. Part of the game and stuff. Ask Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers, who had a perfect game stolen away from him back in June thanks to a blown call. Far more egregious an error than anything the Flyers were subjected to this weekend, indeed.
But the difference between the Gallaraga situation and what happened here on Friday was simple. Jim Joyce, the umpire who made that terrible call, apologized in front of the media after the game. Hell, he cried in front of the media. There was accountability, and as a result, the black eye on him and on the league eventually evaporated.
Meanwhile, in Philly this weekend, there were 19,800-something people in the building that felt cheated out of their money, and 25-or-so hockey players that felt cheated out of what may become a vital point in the standings.
When one specific call swings a game in such a direction so violently, shouldn't the party responsible for that call be forced to discuss why he made it? Whether he defends the call or admits that he made a mistake is really a moot point. It's simply about accountability, and it was pretty frustrating that Hebert and his partner, veteran referee Don VanMassenhoven, were able to shuffle out of the Wells Fargo Center after Friday's game without even a peep.
Then again, this is the NHL, a league where criticism of officials is left only to private email correspondence. While MLB, the NBA and the NFL routinely hold their officials to a high, public standard, the NHL protects their striped law enforcement officers more than they do a goaltender who gets looked at the wrong way.
So of course, when the Inquirer got in touch with Terry Gregson, the boss of Ghislain, VanMassenhoven and the rest of the NHL's officials, this weekend, his comment on the subject was in the typical mold of protecting his own.
Gregson agreed with the NHL's policy not to make it mandatory for referees to explain controversial calls to the media after a game.
"They're not all public speakers and don't have media training," he said of the refs. "There's a more consistent answer" if it comes from the league at a later time.
Paraphrase: "We can't train them what to say, so we don't want them talking to you, and you might make them uncomfortable, so we don't want them talking. Instead, you can get the party line from us."
When was the last time that the "more consistent answer" from the NHL ever said that the official made the wrong call? Has that ever happened, and does that mean that officials never blow big calls? We all know that sure as hell isn't true. Give me a break, guys.