Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Players raise eyebrows at officiating

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THE conspiracy theories on NHL officiating and the Winnipeg Jets will be increasing, not dwindling, based on Monday night's happenings at the MTS Centre.

Not everything goes your way but most of the 15,004 Jets faithful attending the 5-4 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames had some reasonable questions about how the game was called or not called.

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"Well, I don't know," was how Jets coach Claude Noel reacted to that premise. "They wouldn't be alone, would they? What do you want me to tell you. They watched the game. I don't have a comment on it because I can't so I don't have a comment. What do you want me to tell you?"

The three most popular theories for this kind of night where it concerns the Jets are the following:

The officials simply had a bad night. It happens.

The officials feel it's easy to kick the Jets around since they are basically still the new kids of the NHL block. Nobody will mind all that much.

The officials have an intense dislike of Jets winger Evander Kane, who is rarely without an opinion or comment during the games, so Kane and his team just don't get the benefit of any doubt. One NHL official has privately expressed that sentiment to a Winnipeg reporter not that long ago but whether it's real or widespread can't really be verified.

All of that aside, Monday's incidents were more than interesting.

Calgary's Lance Bouma skated directly at Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien on a two-on-two and bowled him out of the way, an interference that provided Bouma's opening to score a short-handed goal.

The play became a virtual wash when Byfuglien scored a power-play goal a few seconds later.

In overtime, with the Jets a man short, Byfuglien was bopped and upended by Calgary goalie Reto Berra as he rounded the net. It was ignored.

And then at the end of overtime, Jets centre Bryan Little said all he did was shake his head at the officials. That earned him a misconduct and an important disqualification from the shootout.

Asked what feedback he had from the referees Monday, since a captain's job is to talk to them, Jets captain Andrew Ladd said this: "Yeah. I guess so. You know what, there are things you disagree with as a player. They make calls.

"It's tough losing one of our best shooters to a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the game over something that I didn't think was much. I guess I'll leave it at that."

Little said later he said nothing to the officials.

"Didn't say anything," he said.

"Every game, every time it's going to happen to a team. Some nights calls won't go your way, stuff that happens on the ice will be frustrating. Definitely it tested us tonight and I think we did a pretty good job not getting too carried away with it. Other than my 10, we were pretty good."

Jets veteran centre Olli Jokinen said it's better to look elsewhere for explanations for things that happen -- like Bouma's interference on Byfuglien -- as well as Monday's shootout loss.

"It wasn't a penalty," Jokinen said. "The referees, they try their best. Plays happen fast. You can't blame the refs. You shouldn't even put yourself in a position that it's two-on-two.

"We can debate. There are always plays like that happening. It looked like a penalty but it wasn't a penalty."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2013 D2

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