When Canada plays against Sweden in the gold medal game on Sunday, the contest will be officiated by three Canadian-born referees and one American who lives in Calgary.
“What a (bleep)ing joke,” retired NHL star and Swedish gold medalist Peter Forsberg said, according to the Toronto Star. He added that the Canadian-heavy referee selection was “comedy at its highest level.”
Not everyone shares his opinion on the matter though. Swedish captain Niklas Kronwall thinks the referee selection makes sense, given that the players on both sides are used to NHL referees.
In fact, the IIHF said that it was a condition of the NHL’s participation that the Olympics employ NHL officials for the big games, reports CBC’s Elliotte Friedman. The referees also had to be approved by both teams.
Even still, Forsberg isn’t the only one worried about the potential for bias. CBC’s Don Cherry thinks the referees will go to the other extreme to make it clear they’re not siding with Canada.
“It’s the biggest break (the Swedes) could have got,” said Cherry. “I guarantee you the first penalty (Canadian referee Kelly Sutherland) calls will be against a Canadian. Watch and see. And I’m never wrong.”
Swedish media were asking a few Canadian players about it today. Annnnnnnd they weren't biting.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 22, 2014
Update: The IIHF issued a statement to clarify their selection process for the gold medal game. Officials have been evaluated throughout the tournament and they were selected based on their previous performance. The nationalities of the officials weren’t used as factors when determining who would be assigned to the medal games.