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13 NHL officials chosen to work Olympics

Thursday, 12.03.2009 / 6:32 PM / All-Access Vancouver

NHL.com

Seven National Hockey League referees and six NHL linesmen were named on Thursday to work at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next February.

The referees are Paul Devorski, Mark Joannette, Dennis LaRue, Bill McCreary, Dan O'Halloran, Chris Rooney and Brad Watson. The linesmen include Shane Heyer, Jean Morin, Brian Murphy, Thor Nelson, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers.

"We had to look at experience and every other element to come up with the numbers we were told we could utilize," NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating Terry Gregson told NHL.com.

Gregson said the selection process involved more than just determining who was doing the best job this season.

"It's basically performance over a longer period of time," he said. "What we looked at was performance from the last couple of years and also how they've been performing this fall. The guys who have worked the Stanley Cup Final over the last couple of years have certainly done a good job this fall and certainly put themselves to the head of the class."

Gregson said the NHL officiating contingent will make up about half of the officials used at the Olympic tournament.

"It's pretty close to a 50-50 split," he said. "There's one referee from the bigger hockey nations -- Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic. I have a sense of them because I've been to some World Championships and World Juniors and watched them work, so I'm familiar with quite a few of them. The linesmen are from the various A Pool countries.

"There will be blended crews. There's an officiating selection committee, and they'll see who's working well and who works well together and try to match them up. I'm sure there will be games where there are international officials only, other games where they'll be blended and other games where there will be NHL-only (crews).

The 2010 Games are being played in NHL-sized rinks, which are narrower than the ice surfaces used in Europe and other international venues. But Gregson said the officials from outside North America shouldn't have too much difficulty adapting to the smaller surfaces because of some prior planning.

"The officials that they selected for the Olympics this year, they gave them the opportunity over the last two years -- several of them worked at the World Championships in Quebec City, and several of them came and worked at the World Juniors in Ottawa," he said. "I think that was to help them with the sense of not only the size of the rink but also the hockey culture in Canada. They’ve had experience on the smaller rink -- there's no question it increases the physicality of the game. That's something they'll have to get used to."

NHL officials have worked the last two gold-medal games -- McCreary did the U.S.-Canada game in 2002 and Devorski worked Sweden-Finland in 2006. Gregson said that, as in past years, assignments for later rounds will be awarded on merit.

"It's based on performance," he said. "That's the good thing about having professional referees -- they get out there and it's their livelihood, so they're expected to just go out there and do their job. There's always politics in these things, but I think you cut through that when you have the best performers out there."