Well it seems like I stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with my earlier post questioning if Stephen Walkom and the NHL were in conflict of interest because the referee had been a coach of Penguins’ owner Mario Lemieux’s daugther a few years ago.
First of all, I did not question the integrity of Stephen Walkom. I suggested that the argument should and could be made that his personal relationship with such an influential hockey person directly involved in this series should have resulted in a different official being assigned to work the series.
I was questioning the officiating in that particular game well before I became aware of the prior relationship between Walkom and Lemieux. This certainly isn’t the only case of questionable officiating this playoff season, but in my opinion it is one of the more extreme cases. The fact that Ottawa ended up winning the game is irrelevant and doesn’t mean that the Senators were not short-changed on calls. Again, that is my opinion. But I know I am not the only one who thinks that way.
I do question the wisdom of the league to assign that referee to this series. And I fully realize that the hockey community is tight-knit and such potential conflicts of interest are not going to be completely unavoidable. There are former players that are now officiating, who have probably played for coaches and played with players in the NHL. The fact is, the question arose and then the relationship came to light. I was not aware of it before the article I referred to earlier today was brought to my attention.
Perhaps I am reading too much into it. I am not saying that the personal relationship definitely affected his calling of the game. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But I do know that when I became a certified official and applied to officiate in a league a few years ago, one of the questions I was asked as part of the questionnaire for a COMMUNITY AMATEUR LEAGUE was something along the lines of “are there any teams in the league with which you have a potential conflict of interest?”.
Certainly with the stable of NHL officials the league has at its disposal, the assignments could be done a with a little more tact and common sense.
Again, a conflict of interest doesn’t mean there was any actual wrongdoing. It does mean that the potential exists and that was the question I was trying to raise. The inconsistency in that particular game raised a red flag for me and made me ask the question. Judging from the response, both from Sens fans and otherwise, it is a legitimate question. One that might not have an answer that satisfies anyone, but I am not going to apologize for asking the question.