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KHL, hockey refereeing, league lost six referees, Hoffman, Franjo, Gribik, Odins, Ansons left Russia

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The referees fled to Europe. Will there be no one to referee KHL matches in the new season?

Sergey Emelyanov

A month and a half before the start of the season, the league lost five high-class referees at once. Another is injured and will miss the start of the regular season.

The profession of any sports referee is traditionally one of the most ungrateful in Russia. Almost every match in our football championship is at the center of another refereeing scandal, and often the game itself fades into the background, giving way to the topic of arbitration a key place in the discussions.

But overseas, the judicial topic is widely discussed in social networks. Suffice it to recall how, throughout almost the entire Stanley Cup, various refereeing scandals shook North America, and fans and club officials’ hair stood on end from some of the decisions of the best referees on the planet.




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Against this background, the problem of refereeing in the KHL has recently been not so acute. Yes, one can recall some very controversial decisions in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between Ak Bars and Avangard, but in general, Russian and European KHL referees kept the refereeing bar at a high level compared to the work of their colleagues in other championships. This is evidenced by the appointment of referees for international matches.

The final of the 2016 World Championship in Moscow between the national teams of Finland and Canada was judged by Roman Hoffman. Two years later, he was appointed to a match of a similar status between the national teams of Sweden and Switzerland. The final of the 2021 World Cup between the national teams of Finland and Canada was worked by two KHL referees – Czech Martin Frano and Russian Evgeny Romasko. All the same Romasko made it to the bronze medal match at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. It is quite possible that Evgeny could qualify for a match of a higher status, if not for the participation of the Russian team in the game for gold.

Evgeny Romasko

Photo: Yury Kuzmin, photo.khl.ru

Other KHL referees worked at the same tournaments, including Hoffman, Belarusian Maxim Sidorenko and Latvian Andris Ansons. League referees provided a fairly high level of work and did not interfere with watching hockey with their decisions. For all known political reasons, KHL referees were not allowed to work at the last World Championship. And an excellent visual aid of what the decisive games of world tournaments without KHL referees turn into is the 2022 World Cup final, which ended in a grand refereeing scandal. Two representatives of Sweden, Linus Elund and Mikael Nord, actually fused the Canadian team in the match with Finland, making a number of erroneous decisions that directly affected the outcome of the meeting.

“From the very first matches, I said that the level of refereeing in the KHL is an order of magnitude higher. Our best judges are much stronger than those who were at the World Championships. As for the final, I will say the following: if you do not consider the nuances, the arbitrators made two mistakes that affected the result. If you take it apart in detail, then this is, firstly, the moment with the club held high in the episode, when the Finn was knocked out and his club hit him in the face. Rules judges are not allowed to watch this episode on video, but they can cancel the suspension until the next face-off. They gathered in a circle of four, and no one took the responsibility to tell one of the main arbiters that he was mistaken. As a result, the Finns scored a very important goal. I don’t think that this is the bias of the judges, it’s just that such work speaks about the level of qualification of these people, ”the well-known functionary and expert Leonid Weisfeld told the Championship.




“The worst referees in the history of hockey. Shame on the World Cup! Canadians furious after defeat in final

However, in the new season of the KHL and the Russian league for the first time in many years, the risk of again facing the problem of refereeing. The thing is that a month before the start of the season, for various reasons, the league lost six high-class referees at once. Due to the political situation, two representatives of Latvia will not be able to continue working in the KHL – the aforementioned Ansons and one of the most charismatic referees in the league, Eduard Odins.

Eduard Odinsh

Photo: Pavel Tabarchuk, photo.khl.ru

Odins, 46, has officiated 733 KHL games in his career, 113 of which were in the Gagarin Cup. During this time, Eduard was recognized four times as the best referee in the KHL, but the current laws of Latvia exist not only for hockey players, but also for their referees.




In Latvia they rot their goalkeeper. Now he was banned from playing in the KHL

Two Czechs found themselves in a similar situation – Franjo and Jan Gribik. And if the loss of foreign referees was expected and predictable for the league office, then the decision to move to Europe and the Russian Hoffman was a real blow to the judiciary. It is not known for certain what prompted Roman to make such a decision – either the life situation and the desire to live in Europe now, or the hope to return to the international level through a foreign championship, or resentment at the KHL for never recognizing Hoffmann as the best referee in the league, but the fact remains that one of the most famous Russian judges will spend the next season in Germany.



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Another unpleasant surprise for the KHL was the injury of the league’s best referee at the end of the season before last, Viktor Gashilov. The 41-year-old Permian, who has reached the Gagarin Cup finals in five seasons in a row, has been out of action for three months and will not be able to serve matches for a significant part of the regular season. As a result, the league faced a big headache – who could replace so many top referees overnight?

Eduard Odins – 733 (620 in the regular season +113 in the playoffs) games in the KHL
Roman Hoffman – 670 (560+110)
Martin Frano – 358 (319+39)
Andris Ansons – 227 (220+7)
Jan Gribik – 153 (141+12)

Even if we leave out the injured Gashilov, in one summer the KHL lost referees who, in total, worked over two thousand matches. Given the increase in the number of meetings in the regular season, many young referees will be forced to get their chance, but how ready will they be to replace experienced colleagues in an emergency way? Out of the blue, the league has received another challenge that it will have to deal with next season.

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