Marcus Vinnerborg

NHL’s first European-trained referee retires


Two years ago Marcus Vinnerborg was a trailblazer of sorts, becoming the only non-American or Canadian official in the National Hockey League.

Today, he’s calling it a career.

Vinnerborg, 39, is retiring after just two seasons in the NHL…and just 40 games called (more on that in a sec.)

“Two years ago I was given the opportunity by the NHL to live my dream of officiating professional hockey in North America,” Vinnerborg said in a statement. “My family supported me and thoroughly enjoyed their experience living here. It was a difficult choice, but we have decided as a family to move back to Sweden.”

Vinnerborg thanked NHL Director of Officiating Terry Gregson for giving him the opportunity and said he’ll return to Sweden “a more educated official.”

As mentioned earlier, Vinnerborg wasn’t getting a ton of assignments and the “40 games” number jumps off the page — though to be fair, it’s not entirely unusual. Jean Hebert, who also came on board in 2010, hasn’t reffed many games either.

Also, Vinnerborg was thought to be a pretty good official.

The only red flag came in his first year, when Detroit forward (and fellow Swede) Johan Franzen approached Vinnerborg after a game to congratulate him on becoming the NHL’s first European-trained referee.

As documented by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

Don’t believe for a second that referee Marcus Vinnerborg was biased in calling the Montreal-Detroit game. (The Canadiens were livid about a third-period non-call, and power plays were 6-1 for the Wings.) Do believe, however, shaking hands with Johan Franzen was bad optics. “He’s a good ref,” said another official. “But I’m sure (the league) will talk to him about that.”

Of course, Friedman followed that up with this:

Had the note last week about referee Marcus Vinnerborg shaking hands with Johan Franzen after Detroit beat Montreal. One league official thought that mention was unfair. Franzen came over, stuck out his hand and Vinnerborg was taken by surprise, not knowing what to do. He decided to be polite, but that won’t happen again.

Well, it certainly won’t now.

PHT Morning Skate: 10 years of Ovechkin; 10,000 days with Lamoriello

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Looking back at 10 years of Alex Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals, in case the above video made you want more. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

David Conte spent 10,000 days with Lou Lamoriello and lived to tell about it. (TSN)

Want to spot some contract year guys? Here are 32 pending restricted free agents. (Sportsnet)

NHL GMs are starting to sniff around with the 2015-16 season about to kick off. (Ottawa Sun)

Some backstory on Zack Kassian that was passed around on Twitter last evening. (Canucks website)

Hey, you can’t say Raffi Torres hasn’t literally paid for his ways:

This is some quality chirping between Jaromir Jagr and Matthew Barnaby:

Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Montreal Canadiens v Minnesota Wild

Does the NHL have a cocaine problem?

TSN caught up with deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who provided some fascinating insight:

“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.”


Daly said that he’d be surprised  “if we’re talking more than 20 guys” and then touched on something that may be a problem: they don’t test it in a “comprehensive way.”

As Katie Strang’s essential ESPN article about the Los Angeles Kings’ tough season explored in June, there are some challenges for testing for a drug like cocaine. That said, there are also some limitations that may raise some eyebrows.

For one, it metabolizes quickly. Michael McCabe, a Philadelphia-based toxicology expert who works for Robson Forensic, told that, generally speaking, cocaine filters out of the system in two to four days, making it relatively easy to avoid a flag in standard urine tests.

The NHL-NHLPA’s joint drug-testing program is not specifically designed to target recreational drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. The Performance Enhancing Substances Program is put into place to do exactly that — screen for performance-enhancing drugs.

So, are “party drugs” like cocaine and molly an issue for the NHL?

At the moment, the answer almost seems to be: “the league hopes not.”

Daly goes into plenty of detail on the issue, so read the full TSN article for more.