The NHL should be able to shake off a swipe at its referees

Players open their abilities, effort, and attitudes to public criticism every time they take the field, floor, or ice. Coaches and managers? Even more so.

Then there are officials, known as referees, umpires or fat pigs. The latter refers to one of the most memorable moments in postgame history. 

Thirty-three years ago, New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld was not particularly happy with referee Don Koharski after a playoff loss to the Bruins. In the corridor connecting the rink to the locker rooms. Schoenfeld bumped into Koharski (figuratively, of course) as the ref, still in his skates, stumbled.”

“Have another doughnut, you fat pig,” Schoenfeld barked.

The video of that moment is readily available all over the Internet. It is still shown on television every time a coach vents his rhetorical wrath at an official.

It is the gold standard in blasting the men in striped shirts.

After the Bruins’ loss to the Islanders at the Garden on Monday night, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy criticized the officiating. Seeing his club fall in Game 5, at home no less, leaving it one game shy of elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he expressed his frustration.

In doing so he was calm, reasoned and almost apologetic in his approach.

“I think they sell a narrative over there that they’re more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders, that they play hard and they play the right way,’’ Cassidy said. “I feel we’re the same way and the exact calls that get called on us don’t get called on them. And I don’t know why.

“… These are very good officials. They’re at this point in the season for a reason.”

Lord, bust out the soap and make Cassidy chomp on it for an hour.

Instead, the NHL slapped Cassidy with a $25,000 fine. Roll up the newspaper and swat him across the snout.

Don’t do that!

The same would happen in any professional sport, particularly in the post-season spotlight. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would hang the offending coach on the rack in his Park Ave. office. The NBA has always been hyper-sensitive of salvos against its officiating crew, mostly because they know it includes a fair number of stiffs.

Major League Baseball? It depends on the given day.

The paranoia over such criticism does more to ruin the officials’ reputation than the harsh words themselves. 

If Tuuka Rask can withstand the fans’ heckling over his performance, the NHL should be able to shake off a swipe at its referees, particularly one that is punctuated with “These are very good officials.”

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