Coyte: The issue with “Game Management” and the kinda-sorta firing of NHL referee Tim Peel

Say goodbye to the referee hot mic forever.

The NHL relieved referee Tim Peel of duties after he was caught on a hot mic while officiating the Predators-Red Wings game Tuesday.

“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a f****ing penalty against Nashville early…” said Peel before his mic was cut out.

This comment happened minutes after Peel had called a pretty weak penalty on Predators forward Victor Arvidsson and is likely what Peel was referring to in his quote.

Maybe not the best idea to let that one slip while you’re mic’ed up.

Now, you could probably say that this disciplinary action against Peel is basically a make-up call in itself for the fact that this is likely exactly how the league asks its officials to ref games. This type of game management has been a part of the NHL officiating experience forever. Kerry Fraser often referenced the practice in his writings.

The practice involves enforcing the game in a way that is more managerial, making sure that teams have equal opportunities, or that one team isn’t sandbagged by penalties (even if they deserve it).

This brings us to the difficulty of refereeing though. The league has its rule book that referees should use to make decisions on penalties, but then there’s the “real rules”.

How many times have we watched defenders get basically a free pass to cross-check any opposing forward within 5-feet of their goalie’s crease? Ask Taylor Hall’s face or Brendan Gallagher’s back. Refs don’t call this in the name of allowing defenders the opportunity to clear their net.

How many times has a close game become a Spartan death match because refs don’t want to influence the outcome of the game, instead of you know, just calling the rule book.

Now, will this excommunication of Peel solve the NHL’s issues with game management? Absolutely not. This issue is systemic in the NHL and has caused more issues than its solved.

For Peel, realistically this is of little consequence. He was set to retire at the end of this season, he hasn’t been officially fired, and he’ll get his pension (which he deserves, he’s been a referee forever). But the league is clearly trying to use Peel as a scapegoat.

Sidebar

I refereed for five years from the ages of 13 to 18 in Calgary, mostly handling Pee-Wee and Bantam levels.

While I won’t get into every single story I have because frankly every referee has enough stories to fill a book with, I will share some of my favourite bullet points.

  • A mom once blocked the door to the ref room because she heard that I took a bribe to kick her son out of the game. This was a low-level exhibition Pee-Wee game (apparently laughing is not the correct response to this accusation).
  • A coach once grabbed me by the scruff of the neck because they felt like I missed a penalty that cost them a playoff game. I was a 14-year-oldlinesman…on the other side of the ice.
  • The captain of a Bantam team once came to talk to me to argue a penalty, was calm throughout the whole interaction, respectful, etc. When I had finished explaining my process in calling that penalty, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I guess that’s why your parents don’t love you” and skated away. I was cackling the rest of the game.
  • Ejected a parent from the stands for yelling extremely personal insults at my 13-year-old linesman (I was 17 at the time).
  • Got a water bottle thrown at me, got a stick thrown at me, got a puck shot at me. Basically any and all hockey paraphernalia has been tossed at me.
  • Had a parent meet me in the parking lot after a game and threatened to fight me. I was 15 years old.
  • As a linesman, the head referee ejected a player for “looking at him wrong”. He then called 10 more penalties in the first period. Needless to say that ended up being the start of a terrible game that ended with both coaches, the fans and the players uniting against us.

All fun stories, I had a great time.

Follow me on Twitter @Matthew_Coyte

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