As the Sochi Olympics draw to an end, one gold medal remains to be awarded – for men’s ice hockey. There was controversy before the first puck was dropped, as the selection of the officials had some Swedes crying foul.
In a move that would likely be unheard of in most major sports, ice hockey's governing body, the #link:http://sochi2014.iihf.com/:IIHF# which is overseeing the men's Olympic tournament, announced on Saturday that three Canadians would be among the four officials for the gold medal game between Sweden and Canada.
Canada's Kelly Sutherland and US-born Brad Meier - who lives in Calgary - were named as the referees, with two other Canadians, Derek Amell and Greg Devorski, to be the linesmen.
Former Swedish star forward Peter Forsberg didn't mince his words when giving his opinion on the selection, describing it as a "joke," a word he preceded with a colorful expletive.
While the optics certainly aren't good, current Swedish players, most of whom play in North America's National Hockey League (NHL), seemed confident that since all four officials also ply their trade in the world's top league, it shouldn't be much of a problem.
"I think most referees over there are Canadian, too," Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators told Canadian broadcaster TSN. "They probably support Montreal or Toronto, but they don't make any difference there. I couldn't care less about what the referees do."
Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings expressed a similar sentiment.
"We are used to having referees from USA and Canada in the NHL," he said. "We know their standards so I think it's easier for us too if the referees are from there."
The gold-medal game is the last sporting event of the Sochi Games. Canada is looking to defend its gold medal won in Vancouver in 2010 - and win its first outside of North American in 62 years.
The Swedes are hoping for their third gold medal in ice hockey, to add to their title from the 2006 Games in Turin and the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer.
Canada earned their final berth by beating the United States 1-0 in their semi-final, while Sweden beat Finland 2-1.
Finland won the bronze medal after whitewashing the US 5-0 on Saturday.
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