Sunday night's curious incidents at the Skydome deserve further reflection as they have implications for the discussion about inept officials in both football and ice hockey. Given that there are only eight teams in the Elite League, there is also a limited roster of officials, although it is not quite the Isles of Scilly football league where the same official faces the same two teams every week.
This particular referee strikes me as a professional fusspot, a phenomenon not unknown in football. Admittedly, the quality of the ice at Coventry has been criticised, but he is fond of getting the rink staff (most of whom look as if they are off a youth employment scheme) on to conduct running repairs while he halts the game. This mostly consists of some rather apathetic shovelling.
On Sunday, a Blaze player (Robinson) collided with a Viper. I do not think there was malicious intent, but simply a loss of control at speed. However, the upshot was that the Viper got a nose bleed. The sight of blood on the ice had some strange effect on the referee. Having already given hand signals to the timekeeper for two minutes in the sin bin, he stormed over, increased the penalty to five minutes and sent the player off. Red cards are unusual in hockey and usually follow a particularly nasty fight.
Needless to say, the Coventry bench were not pleased and it is possible that assistant coach and Hockey Locker manager Luc Chabot said something in French that was not the word invented by Quebeckers for a heavy snowfall. The next thing we saw was a far from happy referee off the ice and in among the Coventry bench. It looked as if it all might kick off not on the ice but off it.
The situation was clearly escalating and next we saw the referee going down the tunnel. This has now been officially explained as 'equipment failure' and while it is quite possible that the referee had a dodgy skate or helmet, this was really a case of a failure in his mental equipment.
The linos (who have a much greater role in hockey than their football counterparts) were nonplussed but when the referee did not re-emerge decided to carry on and Coventry scored two goals. (Remember that in hockey there are goal judges behind each goal, something which football seemingly can't afford). The moral of this is that getting good officials seems to be difficult in all sports (I don't follow egg chasing but I understand there have been some recent problesm there) and it is far from clear what the answer is.
With Coventry the No.1 hockey team in the UK, attendances are building well at the Skydome, but the 2,500 or so there are eclipsed by the 4,500 at Nottingham where there is a superior rink and a long tradition of quality hockey.
The absence of a hockey team in London remains a matter of concern. Indeed, after the Basingstoke Bisons went down to the EPL at the end of last season, there is no team south of Coventry. The nearest team to Charlton seems to be minor league outfit Gillingham Invicta.