Why A Referee Should Never Admit a Wrong Call

NHL referee Kelly Sutherland #11 signals a penalty call on Ian Cole #28 of the Pittsburgh Penguins for interference in the second period against Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks during Game Two of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 1, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Sharks 2-1 in overtime. Credit: Dave Sandford / Getty Images

I'm not a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but I clearly remember the surge of anger that ran through me on the night in 1993 when Wayne Gretzky sheepishly skated away after so obviously high-sticking Doug Gilmore of the Toronto Maple Leafs, not getting a penalty for it, and then going on to score the game-winning goal seconds later. The series that Toronto would have won that night went to a game 7, the Los Angeles Kings won, ended up playing Montreal, and the Maple Leafs, one of the leagues oldest franchises and the hockey equivalent to the Chicago Cubs, had their Steve Bartman moment.

It's one of the most frustrating things, the messed up call. It can change the course of so many things and end so many dreams. Granted, we've come a long way with instant replay; the NHL instituted it two years before the Gretzky no-call, but in 2003 brought in off-ice officials to watch controversial calls like that. There's little doubt in my mind that if they’d been around in 1993, the outcome would have been very different.

Kerry Fraser, the referee who decided not to make the call, agrees with that. In a recent piece for The Players Tribune, Fraser wrote about the call, defending his decision or lack thereof, talking about the pressure of being on the ice, saying, "I was uncertain but thought I had it right. I'm sorry."

Far be it from anybody to be graceful and accept a person's apology, but it's a really unnecessary gesture. Fraser, who in the past has tried to make jokes about the call, would have been better off just not weighing in more than he has. There’s no use in publicly wishing you could hop into a DeLorean and fixing your mistake; it only rubs more salt into a wound that will be open until the Maple Leafs win a championship.

Sure, there's pressure on the players, coaches, and the refs in every sport, but that's what they get paid for. It's admirable that Fraser wants to make things right and clear his conscience, but it almost makes things worse even all these years later.