Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean signals an interference call against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. ((Keith Srakocic/Associated Press))

Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean got a brief glimpse of what the average NHL referee goes through on Friday night.

MacLean served as a referee for the final two periods and overtime of the Buffalo Sabres' 4-3 pre-season win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

MacLean, a certified referee in the Canadian Hockey Association, called a tripping penalty on Pittsburgh veteran John LeClair with one minute left in regulation and the score tied.

"I was a little numb on that call, not that it had any bearing on the game, but that was the call that was most foreign to me because of my instincts," MacLean said. "But I was thinking about what we're trying to do with stick fouls.

"It's a far cry from Junior B in Southern Ontario. … The referee is so focused on the puck, that all the other things I took for granted like positioning … the general sense of where I am on the ice was shot. About 15 times I got caught in a position where I would never be."

MacLean has been an outspoken critic of the NHL's crackdown on obstruction in the past.

The popular HNIC broadcaster even criticized league vice president Colin Campbell face-to-face during the second intermission of Game 4 of last season's Stanley Cup finals for some of the calls and lack of calls made during the playoffs.

In the officials' room after Friday's game, Campbell gave MacLean a tongue-in-cheek critique of his performance.

"You can't call a penalty with a minute left in the game," Campbell jokingly told MacLean.

CBC Sports filmed MacLean's stint as an official and will air the footage as a feature during Hockey Night in Canada's season-opening broadcast next Thursday.

with files from Associated Press