Thursday nights Canada - Norway match at the World Junior Championships featured one performer who received far too much air time on the world's television sets. That is if anyone was left to watch after the two hour and fourty five minute marathon.
Russian referee Rafail Kadyrov got more exposure than a beleaguered Liberal Party PR guy on Thursday, as he sent a steady parade of players to enjoy the confines of Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum penalty boxes. Kadyrov called 52 penalties on the night, many of them late in the third period as the game seemed to get completely away from his control, mainly due to his inconsistency in the previous two periods.
Kadyrov called fourteen penalties in the first period alone, making the game a long tedious drawn out affair that seemed to never come near its end. Things were so bad on the ice, that the Canadian fans began booing penalty calls against the Norwegians such was the state of play at the hands of the Russian official.
As for the actual play of the game itself, Canada which won the game 4-0, seemed to come out far too tentative in the first period, allowing the Norwegians to control blocks of the play. The Canadians got away from their crashing style, no doubt concerned about the refs constant admonishments and punishments. It proved to be frustrating for the Canadians, who were afraid to even look at a Norwegian lest they be banished from play. Regardless though, when Canada does not play its game, it does not look like a team that would be able to repeat it's Golden achievement of last year. Norway was shellacked by the USA in the tournament opener by a score of 11-2, to hold Canada to only four goals must have seemed like winning the Gold for them.
Canada will need to get their heads back into the proper frame of mind for the New Years Eve showdown with the USA, should they come out with the same tentative play, they will make quick work for an energetic and talented American squad.
Then again the entire play of that game could be dictated by the calls of the officials. It has long been a concern of hockey fans the rather haphazard approach to officiating taken by the IIHF, one game can bring the game to it's best potential the next makes it a most horrendous spectacle to view, one hardly inclined to win over old fans, let alone attract new ones.
Suffice to say, tapes of the Norway -Canada effort won't be used to sell the speed and offensive power of the game to the uninitiated.
The game is supposed to be about the players, young men playing at a high tempo, full of sharp passing, exciting scoring opportunities countered by stellar goaltending, featuring dominant defensive work and physical play. Nowhere has it been a sport designed to showcase the abilities to raise a hand and send a player off the ice over and over and apparently over again. Lets hope the rest of the tournament features a lot less of the officials and a lot more of the players.