Don Sweeney calls out NHL for more transparency with officials


“You want full access and transparency? Then put the officials in front of the microphone to answer the question.”

General Manager of the Boston Bruins Don Sweeney talks to reporters during Media Day at Warrior Arena.
Don Sweeney is not happy with the lack of transparency from the NHL regarding calls on the ice. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

BEDFORD — Most of the questions directed toward Jim Montgomery, Jeremy Swayman, Charlie Coyle, and the rest of the Bruins on Sunday night followed a similar script.

With the Bruins pushed to the brink of elimination in a game where Sam Bennett’s controversial equalizing goal was upheld — despite cross-checking Coyle into Swayman —  it came as little surprise that officiating dominated the postgame inquiries from the press.

Such a steady stream of questions regarding the calls on the ice and the interpretation of the NHL rulebook didn’t sit well with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. At least in regards to whothe questions were directed toward.

“The overall premise I have, to be perfectly honest with you, is we should not be asking the coach after the game what they feel about the officiating and what happens,” Sweeney said before the Bruins’ flight to Florida from Hanscom Field. “You guys should really be focused on what we didn’t do well enough in the course of the game to win a hockey game. Those questions should either be directed at either the supervisor of officials, supervisor of the series, and/or the officials.”

“You want full access and transparency? Then put the officials in front of the microphone to answer the question. They’re the only ones that have the experience to be able to handle whatever interpretation they applied to Rule 69.”

Despite the momentum-shifting call made by the referees on the ice in Game 4 — along with the NHL Situation Room in Toronto that upheld Bennett’s goal upon review — the league offers few avenues for media to ask about controversial calls beyond the players on the ice and coaches on the bench.

Game 4 referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Francis Charron are not available for media inquiries, nor is media access granted to discuss calls with NHL series supervisor of officials Kay Whitmore or NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom.

The lone league response submitted after Game 4 came via the usual boilerplate statement released after video reviews. According to the NHL Situation Room, the shove by Bennett on Coyle and the subsequent contact made against Swayman was not enough to impede Boston’s goalie from moving over and getting in the way of Bennett’s rebound shot.

As expected, Swayman disagreed with the NHL’s interpretation of the play.

“I just want to stick to facts,” Swayman said Sunday night. “And the fact is that my own player was pushed into me by theirs. And I couldn’t play my position.”

The NHL’s stance also seemingly stands in direct contradiction with Rule 69 of the league’s rulebook in terms of goaltender interference:

If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.

Sweeney acknowledged that NHL GMs have brought up the topic of making referees and league officials available for questions during league meetings, but he stressed that it’s unclear how those proposals will actually turn into tangible action by the league.

During Monday’s availability, Sweeney also criticized the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for not issuing a statement regarding Sam Bennett’s sucker punch against Brad Marchand in Game 3. Bennett’s hit ruled Marchand out of Game 4, and it’s unclear if he’ll get the green light to play in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Sweeney added that the Bruins did not receive the camera angle of Bennett clearly punching Marchand until it was released to the public on Sunday evening. He did not know if the NHL had footage from that angle when determining if Bennett needed to face any supplemental discipline.

“The Department of Player Safety needs to make a statement on how they interpret that situation,” Sweeney said. “We’ve seen every angle you can possibly imagine. No different than when Brad himself has been called to the carpet and comparables are looked at. That’s their job, their responsibility to protect the players. We have to respect that, whatever their judgment is.”

Officiating and questionable hits have dominated the conversation so far in this heated second-round series between the Bruins and Panthers.

Until something changes, it will once again fall on Montgomery and the Bruins to field those questions.

“A player, a coach — every game, you guys win and ask them critical plays, good and bad. Fair? I don’t think it’s any different,” Sweeney said of questioning officials. “If you want full access, if you want transparency, and you want explanations, then the people that are making decisions should explain it.”

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