NHL referees and the idea of "game management" is in the spotlight following a Tuesday night incident where veteran official Tim Peel was caught on a hot mic as the Nashville Predators broadcast was breaking to commercial.
"It wasn't much, but I wanted to get a (expletive) penalty against Nashville early in the," the ref was heard saying before it was cut.
The penalty in question was given to Viktor Arvidsson about five minutes into the second period. At the time of the call, the Predators held a 1-0 lead thanks to a first period power play goal. To that point, the Red Wings had been handed one penalty and the Predators none.
That's when Arvidsson was given a tripping minor on this play:
The Predators killed the penalty and went on to win the game 2-0. Afterwards the NHL said it was reviewing the incident and on Wednesday morning it announced that Peel would no longer be working games for the league. He was due to retire next month after 22 years.
Predators centre Matt Duchene had a front row seat to the incident. Speaking on 102.5 The Game in Nashville Wednesday morning, he shared his opinion on the incident and the idea of even up calls.
"He's a veteran ref," Duchene said. "It's his last year anyway so I think that's maybe why they let him go rather than maybe suspending him or fining him. The crazy thing is he was talking to Filip Forsberg in that clip and he told our bench that. Really bizarre. I just think that can't happen.
"Imagine the scenario where they score on that power play, we lose the game and we miss the playoffs by a point? Imagine that scenario. That could happen. That is not out of the realm of possibility. I don't think there's a place in hockey for that. You gotta call the game. I've always been frustrated when I see even up calls or something like that. If one team is earning power plays you can't punish them because the other team is not. That call was not a good call on Arvi. We were watching and were like 'what the heck was that, that wasn't even close to a penalty.' It was bizarre. I hope that's not something that goes on with most officials, but there's definitely nights when you're skeptical of it for sure.
ICYMI: @Matt9Duchene was asked this morning about the breaking news of Tim Peel no longer officiating NHL games following last night's hot mic incident in the #Preds game.
Here was his response w/ @RStanleyNHL & @joerexrode pic.twitter.com/idaVaMOlOc
— ESPN 102.5 The Game (@1025TheGame) March 24, 2021
The fact is, game management and even up calls aren't new and shouldn't be shocking, but hearing a referee discuss it so openly is jarring and leaves us questioning its place in the game. Why should teams that don't earn penalties be given one to either keep the advantages relatively even, or make up for a missed call earlier in the game? At the end of Tuesday's game Nashville was given four penalties and Detroit three.
Peel is gone, but even up calls weren't a one-referee issue. Will, and should, the NHL use this as a watershed moment to consider overhauling its officiating standards?
"I could tell you just from the course of my conversations with all kinds of people around hockey, I sense there's more frustration this year with the refereeing than certainly any other time I've encountered in my career," Chris Johnston said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Wednesday. "I don't know if that's a sign that refereeing itself has gotten worse or maybe the tolerance for what's accepted is changing or what it is. But I do think that we're gonna see more pressure put on the league and maybe the league itself is feeling the same way."
It's not the first time the league's officiating standards have been in the spotlight this season either. On opening night, the constant cross-checks by Montreal defencemen to Auston Matthews in front of the net led to a discussion about on-ice abuse of star players and if the league should focus on protecting its top assets better, which was heightened when Matthews' agent tweeted about his frustration of the standard.