“Flat burglary as ever was committed.”Perhaps this was the feeling of Laurier Golden Hawks coach Kelly Nobes this past Friday night after his No. 9 Hawks lost 10-4 at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Nobes was assessed a gross misconduct after the game as he was very unhappy with the officiating that night.
Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, Act IV, Sc. II
Here is an excerpt from a TBNewswatch article on what transpired after the game:
"Nobes, who could face a league-mandated suspension after stalking referee Andrew Brewer around the Fort William Gardens ice, seeking to give him a piece of his mind following the lopsided contest, said he’s sick and tired of getting a raw deal from the officiating in Thunder Bay.
" 'It’s unfortunate that the official absolutely discredits our league with that type of officiating,' said Nobes, reiterating later he wanted his comments published.
" 'The thing that I really struggle with is the double standard that he sets. On the ice, Lakehead is allowed to do one thing, Laurier is allowed to do another. And the penalties are called that way.'
Nobes wasn’t debating whether the calls against his team were right, rather that the Thunderwolves committed many of the same offences and skated away scott-free.
That doesn’t happen in southern Ontario, he said, angry that Brewer didn’t speak to him or his players about any of the calls he made, but in turn had no problem discussing other calls with Thunderwolves players and coaches.
At one point in the second period the Hawks were handed seven straight penalties, including three minors on one play midway through the stanza.
“I’m not saying they weren’t penalties. What I’m saying is there are ample calls the other way that are there that aren’t being called, and it’s the double standard that frustrates me, and it frustrates other guys in our league when we come up here. It’s embarrassing,” Nobes said.
Or this except from the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal:"Nobes said that although he wasn‘t happy with the way his team played, he was most upset with the officiating.So, I decided to see if there was anything to Coach Nobes assertions. To be honest; heading into this; I was skeptical but I thought that a little research couldn’t hurt.
" 'It's unfortunate that the official absolutely discredits our league with that type of officiating,' Nobes said.
" 'I'm not happy 100 per cent with the way my team played tonight, but at the same time, it‘s tough to go in and tell them they had a fair shot to win ... with the way it was officiated.
" 'Something needs to be done about it.' "
I wasn’t at the game that night so I can’t personally comment on that night’s events; but from reading the game report; the final penalties assessed were 13 against Laurier and 12 against Lakehead. However, it seems that the crucial second period when Laurier was assessed a string of penalties and the Wolves took over the game was the span that angered Nobes.
In Saturday’s rematch, Laurier won 7-4 and also were assessed seven minors to Lakehead’s four in a real snoozer of a game (except for the last 10 minutes and for the play of Laurier netminder Jeff MacDougald).
First, a little background. Nobes took over as bench boss of the Hawks in 2006-07 after being coach at RMC. He has done an excellent job with Laurier, turning them into a perennial contender in the OUA. His squad was a few minutes away from a CIS championship final in 2007 before the Hawks lost a doubleOT heartbreaker against Moncton in the semifinal.
During the first three years of Nobes' Laurier tenure, the Golden Hawks and Lakehead played in the OUA Far West until this year’s divisional restructuring made two larger OUA West and East divisions. The Wolves and the Hawks, along with the Western Mustangs and the Waterloo Warriors have developed probably the best four-team rivalry going in any CIS sport, with each team capable of beating the other on any given night.
Lakehead and Laurier have become heated rivals, with the teams meeting up in the playoffs each of Nobes' first three seasons at Laurier and his Hawks skating away with series wins twice. Laurier has the best record of any team against the Wolves during the Nobes Era and was also the team that ended Lakehead’s unbeaten home playoff streak in '06-07.
Thunder Bay is also the centre of one of Hockey Canada’s administrative branches, Hockey Northwestern Ontario (HNO). There are presently six referees in the region capable of calling CIS games (with one leaving this coming Christmas). The referee in question from last Friday’s game, Andrew Brewer, is the referee-in-chief for Hockey Northwestern Ontario.
To see if there was anything to Coach Nobes' assertions; I went over the game reports of every game played between the Thunderwolves and the Golden Hawks during the past three plus seasons (the Nobes Era) at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay. (I know, get a life; but I had a day off after getting dental work done).
To add a little balance; I also checked penalties assessed at game during this time span between the squads played at Laurier’s home rink; the Sunlife Financial Arena in Waterloo. (I did not count misconducts).
During Nobes' first season ('06-07); the Wolves and the Hawks met five times: four in Thunder Bay and once in Waterloo. The four games at the Gardens were two reg season matches, one tourney game, and one playoff game with the game at the Sun Life Arena being a playoff match.
Penalties during the reg season games at the Gardens were 19 against Lakehead and 18 against Laurier. In the Gardens tourney game, penalties were seven against Lakehead and 10 against Laurier while the Gardens playoff game penalty count was 6 Wolves and 7 Laurier. The playoff game penalty count in Waterloo was 13 against Lakehead and 7 to Laurier.
Penalty count on the season at the Gardens was 42 against Lakehead and 45 against Laurier and 13 against Lakehead and 7 against Laurier in Waterloo for a season total of 55 Lakehead and 52 Laurier. In the all important wins category; Laurier won all five games that season and, of course, the playoff series. In the four games at the Gardens, Laurier had more penalties than Lakehead on two occasions and won both games.
During the '07-08 season, the two teams met seven times; four times at the Gardens and three times at the Sun Life Arena. The four Gardens games were two reg season and two playoff while the Sun Life games were two reg season and one playoff game.
Penalty count at the two reg season Gardens games was 22 against Lakehead and 20 against Laurier. Penalty count at the two Gardens playoff matches was 25 against Lakehead and 18 against Laurier. Count at the two Sun Life reg season games was 19 Lakehead; 16 Laurier. The Sun Life playoff game count was 8 against the Wolves and 10 against the Hawks. Total season Gardens penalty count was 47 Lakehead and 38 Laurier while total season Sun Life count was 27 Lakehead and 26 Laurier.
Lakehead won 4-of-7 games that season and the playoff series. Lakehead won its four home games that season; but Laurier only had more penalties in one of those games. The one game that Lakehead won in Waterloo; they had 10 penalties to Laurier’s 6. In both of the Hawks home wins; they had more penalties than the Wolves.
In 2008-09, the two teams met eight times: four times in reg season, three times in the playoffs and once during n/c play with four games being played in each team’s home arena. The Gardens games were two reg season, one non-conference and one playoff game while the Sun Life games were two reg season and two playoff matches.
Penalty count at the two reg season Gardens games was 13 against Lakehead and 15 against Laurier. Penalty count at the Gardens non-conference game was 7 Lakehead and 8 Laurier and the Gardens playoff match count was 1 each. (Best game ever played between the two teams by the way). Count at the two Sun Life reg season games was 15 Lakehead and 14 Laurier while the two playoff games count was 14 Lakehead and 12 Laurier.
Penalty count on the season at the Gardens was 21 Lakehead and 24 Laurier. Penalty count at Sun Life was 29 Lakehead and 26 Laurier. The Hawks won five of eight games last season and the playoff series.
In the four games at the Gardens, Lakehead won three games. In two of those games, the team with more penalties won. Laurier lost one with more penalties and one was even at one penalty apiece (a Lakehead win). In the four games at the Sun Life Arena (all Laurier wins); Lakehead had one more penalty in each game and one game had the same number of penalties.
Yes, I know that was long, but now to summarize. Overall, during the Nobes Era, the Hawks are 13-9 against Lakehead, and have won 2-of-3 playoff series.
During the 14 games at the Gardens during Nobes tenure; the overall penalty count was 126 against Lakehead and 127 against Laurier; a difference of one penalty in 14 games over four seasons! The Hawks posted a 6-8 record at the Gardens; an excellent mark in one of the toughest barns in CIS.
At the 8 games at the Sun Life Arena; the penalty count was 69 against Lakehead and 59 against Laurier; a difference of 10 but also not much of a spread over games in three seasons. Laurier has been dominant at home against Lakehead during the Nobes’ Era; posting a 7-1 mark.
It seems that Coach Nobes' assertions about possible consistent refereeing bias in Thunder Bay don’t hold much water. After looking at the game reports in terms of numbers of penalties, games with more penalties, and also in terms of team success.
The numbers also seem to support that refereeing in Waterloo also seems pretty balanced which I think is reflective of the fact that the referees across the CIS do the best job possible and are fair and balanced in their game calling.
I am one of those people that actually like when coaches get animated and start shouting a little at CIS hockey and basketball games. Sometimes coaches go off on the referees to try to get their team fired up. I like the added theatre.
I wasn’t at the game Friday night; perhaps referee Brewer had a bad stretch in the second period, maybe even a bad game.
He’s only human and refereeing is a tough pressure-filled job.
Coaches, players, and fans get caught up in the emotions of a game; and often it’s the hardworking referees who bear the brunt of emotional outbursts and frustrations.
Nobes is a very successful coach and recruiter for Laurier; but I think there should always be respect between coaches, players, and officials; and there is a line, in terms of behaviour, that shouldn’t be crossed. Sometimes heated words are exchanged; but there should always be respect.
Nobes might have stepped over that line Friday night in Thunder Bay; first in his post-game behaviour and and second in implying that Hockey Canada HNO officials have in some way consistently been inferior to their Southern Ontario counterparts.
He's only human and coaching is a tough pressure-filled job.