The Picton Pirates just had a win taken out of their sails.
Playing hockey means learning to live with the fact the referees make mistakes just the players and sometimes that affects the outcome of a game. If you want to debate the difference between a blown call that affects the course of a game and a misinterpretation of the rules that actually leads to do-over, drop by Miss Lily's Cafe in Picton, Ont., right down the rink from where the Junior C Pirates play.
On second thought, that might be a sore point for the next couple days in Picton. In a bizarre twist, the Ontario Hockey Association has ruled that its Schmalz Cup championship series between the Essex 73's and Picton Pirates is now 1-0 for Essex instead of being tied 1-1. Why? Because the referees failed to eject Picton's Evan Greer after he incurred his third stick infraction of the game during the second period. Greer went on to factor into the game's deciding goals.
Bizarre? You bet. But apparently there's a difference between a debatable judgement call and something procedural that is spelled out in the rulebook.
Here is the OHA's official explanation:
Game #1 was held in Picton on Saturday April 20th, with the final score 4-1 for Picton. The protest was filed by Essex the following day.
The protest centered on Picton player #19 Evan Greer. Greer received three separate minor penalties for stick infractions during the second period of the game. Under Hockey Canada rules, a player that receives three stick infraction penalties during the same game is issued an automatic game ejection penalty. Greer was not ejected from the game and counted one goal and three assists, including a goal and assist in the third period, following the serving of his third stick infraction penalty.
That has led the league to rule that everything that happened from the 13-second mark of the third period, when Greer got out of the penalty box but should have been in the dressing room, is null and void.
That means the teams have to finish the game when the series returns to Picton next week.
The league has decided the result from Game 1 will be wiped out and the game will be restarted in Picton on May 1st with 19:47 to play in the third period and Picton up 2-1.
Games 3 and 4 are to be played before that, in Essex this weekend.
If Essex win both of those games and lead 3-0 going back to Picton, the restart will be played after the scheduled game on May 1st, but if the series is 2-1 [for either team — Ed.] the restart will be played before that game. (Quinte News)
So Picton will be hosting Game 1 and Game 5 on the same night. Or Game 5 and Game 1.
The OHA's explanation seems fairly airtight. It is more black-and-white than a grey area, but it goes against the nature of being a fan to accept retroactive refereeing. It's possible the timekeepers didn't alert the on-ice officials, but when a player gets three penalties in one period, the referees should have been alert to the possibility.
Plus the complexion of the series is altered by the decision. Presumably Picton has spent the week preparing like it is tied 1-1 in the series as it shifts provincewide for games 3 and 4 at Essex. Now it is trailing. Ultimately, the OHA decided integrity was to admit its officials messed up. The explanation is logical.
"At the end of [the protest committee's] assessment, there is no question that the playing rules were not followed and that it had an impact on the outcome of this important game. The proper game ejection call was missed by all key people involved and the OHA accepts responsibility for the application of the rules of the game in this OHA Championship. As such, the committee ruled that it is in the best interest of the game, the series and the players that the game be decided by the players on the ice, playing within the proper rules and procedures. The process outlined by the committee in their ruling does that in the most logical fashion available."
One will not pretend to know who is the best team in this matchup. Should the Picton Pirates win the same game twice and go on to claim the Schmalz Cup, the victory would probably be that much sweeter.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.