Bisons lose to Alberta

Canada West has overturned the result of a Bisons men’s hockey game after Alberta protested a call made by the on-ice officials in sudden-death overtime.
The protested call occurred in the second overtime period of a 1-1 tie game between the Manitoba Bisons and the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey teams played on Oct. 15, 2011. At 2:05 into the extra frame, Alberta forward Alex Rodgers scored what appeared to be the winning goal.

Bison head coach Mike Sirant offered his description of the questionable play as he watched from his spot on the Bison bench:
“Alberta was on the attack, and the extra player jumped on the attack way too early from when his teammate was coming off the ice. He immediately joined their attack and was the player who scored the goal.”

“It happened very quickly; it wasn’t that the play was going back and forth, back and forth. Two Alberta players were on the attack, the other Alberta player who was the “too many men on the ice” player jumped on the ice far too early, joined the attack and scored on the rebound. It all happened within four to five seconds.”

While the players lined up to shake hands, Bison captain Mike Hellyer and a Bison assistant captain met with the officials and protested that there were too many men on the ice. After the four on-ice officials conferenced, they concurred that the goal was scored with too many men on the ice and announced — much to the shock of the Alberta team and fans — that the goal would not count. Alberta was also charged with a two-minute penalty.

Play resumed with the score still tied, and Manitoba working with the man advantage. Just over a minute after the game was restarted, Manitoba’s Blair Macaulay scored the second game-winning goal of the game — this time in the Bisons’ favour.

Alberta went straight to Canada West conference and formally protested the call made by the officials.

The three-member committee formed by Canada West to review the protest apparently agreed, ruling that Alberta’s goal should have counted. Despite an appeal by Manitoba, a second review committee ruled that Alberta’s goal should have stood as the game-winning goal. Canada West officially announced the reversed decision on Oct. 24, officially awarding the Bears the victory and the extra points in the conference standings.

If the refs missed the initial call, Sirant believes they were acting justly when they tried to make the call right.

“I give [the on-ice officials] a lot of credit because it took a lot of courage to make that call,” said Sirant. “They showed integrity, in that they did the right thing. They admitted that they made a mistake in not blowing the “too many men” call down immediately, but they righted a wrong.”

According to the Bison coach, Alberta and Canada West contend that the penalty wasn’t technically called as it usually is. Sirant argues that regardless when the call was made, Alberta simply had too many men on the ice — a clear infraction according to the rules — which gave them a distinct advantage on their game-winning goal.

“To me, [Canada West] said they focused strictly on the technicality or procedure of the calling of the penalty, rather than the spirit of the rule,” he explained, “To me, it’s wrong. It’s the wrong perspective on what sport and the ethics in sports should be: making the correct call.

“I believe this sets a bad precedent. Now every time a referee makes a call, is that going to be subject to a protest — you can protest a game because you disagree with how the referee handled a situation?”

Actually, the precedent was already set last season by Canada West. On Nov. 12, 2010, the Bison womens’ hockey team appeared to score the game-winning shootout goal against the U of Calgary Dinos, but the Calgary head coach protested the referee’s call. Canada West reversed the official’s ruling and decided the shootout was to be resumed and completed before the two teams’ next matchup months later.

The protest worked out in Calgary’s favour, as they officially won the game in February and gained the extra point in the standings.

In the end, both protests created the same result: a W changed to an L on the Bison schedule, and a Canada West officiating controversy.