Sweden earned its place in the gold-medal game by defeating Finland on Friday, set to face Canada in pursuit of the nation's second gold in the last three Olympics. You would think everybody in Sweden would be thrilled.
The Swedes probably were ... until they saw the officials assigned to Sunday's Olympic finale. The referees are Kelly Sutherland and Brad Meier. The linesemen are Derek Amell and Greg Devorski. What do these four all have in common? Strong ties to Canada.
Sutherland, Amell and Devorski are all Canadians by birth while Meier is an American who now lives in Calgary. Swedish hockey great Peter Forsberg has noticed this and he didn't really appareciate it very much as the Toronto Star notes.
"What a f---ing joke!" Forsberg reportedly said, also referring to it as "comedy at its highest level."
Others were not as bothered by it including Swedish coach Par Marts or Niklas Kronwall, who plays for the Red Wings in the NHL. Nor should they really be because for the NHLers to participate in these Games, they wanted NHL officials and fact is, they come almost exclusively from North America, leaving little option in the final.
With the stink being raised, the IIHF gave an update, explaining just how the officials are chosen for the medal games.
During the tournament the officials have been evaluated by officiating managers including Konstantin Komissarov (IIHF) and Terry Gregson, former Head of Officiating for the National Hockey League, and six others (four IIHF, three NHL). The process by which the officiating crews are selected for the playoff round is determined by their performance in the preliminary round. For the medal games, the officials chosen were judged to deserve these assignments based on their performance in the playoff round.
"The main factor of the selection of these officials has most of all to do with their experience officiating in high-level competitions," said Komissarov. "These include Stanley Cup playoffs, World Championship competitions, and Olympic competitions."
"Their nationalities aren't considered as factors nor should they be, we want the best officials working the medal games," he added. "We are fully confident that with their experience and professionalism these officials will do their job well and preserve the integrity of the game."
The decision was confirmed at the IIHF Directorate Meeting on 21 February, with team officials from all four teams present and in complete agreement with the selection.
Everybody's favorite Canadian hockey analyst, Don Cherry, even tried to turn it as a positive for Sweden, telling the Star "It's the biggest break [the Swedes] could have got. I guarantee you the first penalty [Sutherland] calls will be against a Canadian. Watch and see. And I'm never wrong."
We'd debate that last point but it would take a while and would be a bit off topic. For the rest we must admit that's an exceptional job of twisting so kudos to Cherry there. He's probably not far off point, though I'd wager the referees do what they're paid to do; call the game as well and as evenly as they can with no respect to national ties.
Here's a small consolation for Sweden though -- and Canada for that matter -- at least Tim Peel isn't one of the referees.