What players, coaches say about referees, game management, make up calls

Elliotte Friedman has a different perspective on why the NHL came down hard on referee Tim Peel.

The Tim Peel incident from Tuesday night is the hot button (mic?) topic right now, and for good reason. It's a terrible look for the NHL to have one of its on-ice officials audibly note his desire to give one team a penalty, no matter the context. Especially with legalized gambling on the horizon, it could become problematic.

But there does seem to be some confusion over what the core issue is. The terms "game management" and "make up calls" have been thrown around almost interchangeably when, in fact, they are not necessarily the same thing.

It's no secret that game management is a referee strategy, and not just at the NHL level. It's taught and encouraged. But game management should mostly be about communication and keeping things under control. Former NHL referee Paul Stewart talked a bit about this with Mark Spector today in his piece. It should be game dependent, too. If there are a couple emotional and physical teams going at it, game management should be aimed to make sure the situation doesn't spiral out of control, while at the same time acknowledging that in a game where both teams are playing it hard, perhaps the standard for a low end penalty shifts somewhat.

More important than setting a strict season-long standard, perhaps, is sticking to a standard within a game or within a playoff series and not changing course halfway through. That does nothing but confuse and frustrate players.

Some games might not need managing at all. Tuesday's Detroit-Nashville game looked like it should have been one of those. There was nothing to manage. Only a single penalty was called in the first, there was no heightened emotion or risk. If the penalty that was called on Viktor Arvidsson was supposed to be game management, it sure looked closer to mismanagement -- though, again, we don't have a full view of the picture.

But on the surface at least, it didn't accomplish what "game management" should set out to.

"Let's talk about the calibre of the game, the potential calibre of the game," former NHL referee Bryan Lewis said on Writers Bloc. "Say the Rangers play the Islanders, or Philly plays Washington or Edmonton plays Calgary, games we can think of in advance that are going to be tough hockey games. I don't need (former ref) Scotty Morrison to call me saying 'Bryan you better be ready' -- I am. So my intensity goes up a bit. Therefore I'm looking for and want to maintain control from the moment I drop the puck until the last whistle is blown in the game. I don't sense this happened here. There's nothing to indicate it was a tough hockey game, nothing to indicate it was going to be a tough hockey game. Two teams that are not in the playoffs. It's one of those games you should enjoy."

What proper game management shouldn't be is forcing the issue to keep penalty calls even, or close to it, no matter the transgression.

Make-up calls are also a reality, and might follow a missed call, or a bad call. We all make mistakes, though, so why compound one miss with another? Innocent missed calls should even out over time due to human error and we live with that to some degree in every sport.

But aiming to call a penalty on one team just to keep the overall power play splits in the game even or close to it? Or calling a penalty to make up for a missed one earlier? That should not be how game management is defined or thought about. These two ideas should be separated, in a perfect world. Even up calls, in fact, shouldn't be a thing and, to me, is the real problem here.

"The key word here is marginal penalties," Lewis said. "We don't want marginal penalties in any game, the players don't want them."

This was the penalty at the centre of Tuesday's uproar, when Arvidsson was called for tripping.

It's all about how standards for management are set, directed and supported on a grand league-wide scale. Not every game needs to be called the exact same way for officials to be effective, but mistakes should be admitted to and moved on from. Not made up with two minutes later.

So with that in mind, various players and coaches around the league were asked for their takes on the Tuesday incident, game management and makeup calls. Here is some of what they said...


"I think if you look at every sport, we're probably the only sport really where games are managed. It's a tough job, those guys are in a tough spot. That's the biggest thing every player wants. We want consistency. If you're calling penalties consistently or if you're letting guys play I think that's what guys want. I don't think they want it to change from game to game, you want consistency night in night out."


"Watch the games. Watch what happens at the end of games. If a team's up, seems to get a power play for the team that's behind. I think it's just human nature. It's hard. I know they're not trying to do that. I don't believe that's how they go about it. It's just human nature to maybe look for the team that's down, but it seems to happen all the time."


"As far as standard and whatnot I think standards change from game to game sometimes and depending on the heat of the game. But if you're going to talk about standards in pre-season when you've got half the team's rookies and talking about Game 7 playing for a Stanley Cup, I don't think that's really gonna happen."


"Every game's different, every game is unique. Not just the same script every night. When it comes to officiating, I try not to look too far into it because they're trying to do a job... as a player you just hope when they make a call they stick with it, stick by it.

"For me with referees, I have a lot of respect for guys who own it. If there's something that happens in a game good, bad, or indifferent for your team and they own it, we're all human and we make mistakes... if there's a weak call or something like that, it happens, it's human nature. Does it warrant another one? That's not my decision to make. I think it's about game flow and how it's moving. They think things have gotten out of hand or getting away with a little too much then that happens. Game flow, game situation, as long as they own it it's cool by me."


"Honestly I've never heard it in my 14 years here. I've never heard anything like that. I think it's maybe unfortunate that it happened and came out that way, but at the same time the league had to do what it had to do."


"The black and white calls are all easy. But the entire game is a judgement call. What you're hoping for is an understandable standard and that's what we're all shooting for. But the game at least is viewed in the same kind of judgement band. You get some games called a little tighter, some a little looser, you get in a playoff series you're looking for that kind of standard. I think the referees have to have room for those judgements. That's what the whole thing is about.

"I think what we're talking about is that band of the standard that happens in a game as long as it stays consistent. We understand that sometimes that standard is slightly different. The idea we would get this consistent in 15 rinks a night, that's just not going to happen. You're just hopeful that what's a penalty early is a penalty late.

"As far as how they do it, they set an internal standard for a night that has to be in the NHL guidelines and we try and hold the referees to that standard."


"Refs have a really tough job. You're never going to make one side happy. A lot of calls, they vary obviously because it's a person making the call. I know it's human error, they're mistakes. I think the refs are doing the best they can. The NHL sets that standard and you just try to make the calls based on that standard. I don't know to speak to make up calls but it's a tough job to do.

"It happens in all sports. Look at the NFL. You had the pass interference stuff, and in baseball you have a strike zone where you can look at that. But I think the nature of reffing is there's going to be human error involved in it and you want people to be involved. You want to have refs. You don't want to have everything on review. There are complaints about reviews now! So I think no matter what, when you're in a competitive environment and it's heated and both teams want to win you're going to think you got the wrong end of the call sometimes and sometimes you'll be on the other end. It's the nature of competitive sports. When I say refs have a hard job it's the truth. They gotta stay the line and make it as even as possible. Some games you're going to get good calls and some games you're gonna get bad calls. In the end you hope it balances out."


Q: Are makeup calls just part of hockey?

"Probably a little bit, but it shouldn't be. It's unfortunate that something like this happens, but everybody does mistakes. Everybody is not perfect. He made a mistake but unfortunately you don't want make up calls to be part of the game. I don't think it's right. I think if it's an obvious one I don't think it should be made up for."


"I'd like to give a clear, easy answer but I think it's extremely difficult and the referees have a very tough job trying to manage all those things, applying a standard, keeping consistent, and also getting a feel for the game because I do think there's that element to it. The best way I feel about it is keeping the standard as consistent as possible, at least from start to finish. Some nights a little more gets let go, sometimes it's a little tighter. But when the standard's changing in-game so significantly that's when it can get so frustrating as a player because something happens to you or someone on your team and you feel a similar situation, same type of play, doesn't get called and maybe because the referee doesn't want to decide the game at that point, which I can understand. But from us competing out there those are the times you can get frustrated trying to understand. I know dealing with the referees they don't want to be the ones deciding the games. They want the two teams to be doing that.

"I think (calling the rulebook as it is) has to be at the top of the list, the absolute framework of the way the game's getting called and the way it's getting applied so I completely understand that. But I don't think anyone wants to see important games, important points, happen to be decided by a faceoff violation in the last two minutes of a great hockey game that's got a lot on the line. But at the same time we want to have the accountability... If sometimes things have a little bit of a different feel to them from night to night I can understand that a little bit personally, but it's when things shift so drastically through a game that's when it can be tough."

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