Fired referee calls infraction on NHL

Former official claims league fired him for union activity; NHL says he was just a bad ref
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 10/21/2009

The National Hockey League (NHL) fired a referee last year because of his vigorous union activity, the referee has claimed in a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Dean Warren was an NHL referee from 1999 to 2007 and a member of the NHL Officials’ Association executive who was a thorn in the side of some league higher-ups who wanted him gone, Warren alleged.

The NHL said Warren was fired for “substandard performance,” but Warren said that wasn’t the case. He pointed out the fact the league asked him to officiate playoff games in four out of five seasons before 2006, when he was elected to the executive of the officials’ union. He also said only one of 22 performance reviews before then was negative but the tone of his reviews became harsher after 2006.

In his complaint, Warren pointed to a series of emails between NHL vice-president Colin Campbell and director of officiating Stephen Walkom in 2006 and 2007 that discussed ways of getting rid of him.

However, some think Warren is kidding himself.

Current NHL referee Paul Devorski agrees with the league’s assessment of Warren’s skills.

“I’ll be frank: he was horse sh--,” Devorski told Sportsnet.ca. “He has no business being on NHL ice.”

Another referee, who asked to remain anonymous, said most officials agree with Devorski’s assessment.

“(Warren’s) assertion that this is tied somehow to his role on the executive?” the referee told Sportsnet.ca. “In the (officials’) room, guys consider it ludicrous.”

Warren did get support from another referee, Kerry Fraser, who said he was “a good ref.” Fraser will testify at the hearing in support of Warren.

Warren has asked the board to order the NHL to reinstate him.

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