On Wednesday, the NHL announced referee Tim Peel will no longer officiate NHL games. This comes following a quote by Peel where he is caught on a hot mic saying, “It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a f***ing penalty against Nashville.” Now at first glimpse, this seems as if the NHL officiating system could be fixed and sets up for a whole new level of problems in this world, giving some Tim Donaghy flashbacks. Although, like most things in the media, this quote was taken far out of context.
Tim Peel officiated his first NHL game back in October of 1999, and has since refereed over 1,300 games. This includes over 90 playoff games, the 2012 all-star game, two winter classics, and the 2014 sochi Olympics. Peel is a respected NHL official with an established credibility which is why I was flat out shocked when I heard his punishment.
First off, I understand the NHL had their backs up against the wall and wanted to demonstrate a zero tolerance policy for these types of issues. Along with it being rumored Peel was due to retire at the end of the season at age 54. Although, this could clearly be a cover up to make the commissioner Gary Bettman help himself sleep at night.
Besides all that, I’m here to step up for the referees in this world. For decades all the blame has been placed on officials because they are the easy target. They may deserve it some of the time, but someone should defend them as it is an incredibly difficult job under a giant microscope of constant criticism.
This quote by Peel was taken severely out of context: It’s the second period of a game between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings. Peel says he “wanted to” give a penalty to the Preds because earlier on in the play there was a miscall in their favor. The “make-up” call is an inexcusable mistake but it’s something officials do more than you think. Peel did say there was enough for a penalty in the quote it was just a matter of it already being on his mind.
Now my idea which could have avoided the whole situation, would be to make refs do post game interviews.
This would allow for the refs to have a voice to explain themselves and for the public to see things from the refs point of view. This could help some people understand that ref’s are human too and that their logic and decision making can make sense sometimes.
First, in thinking of officials doing post game interviews would be referee Wes McCauley. This guy is an all time beauty. He has been the first official to truly try and make some enjoyment out of being the referee. He adds a little flair when making calls over the loudspeaker and has viral clips all over social media for his mic’d up moments. When McCauley is officiating the game, it makes you pay attention to the game a little more for the entertainment value he adds. He could bring some funny clips to the social media era we live in during post game interviews. In my opinion he could be the first official to get his number 4 retired in the rafters across all NHL buildings.
Sure refs make some disgraceful decisions sometimes. This clip of Noel Acciari getting tripped in game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final is straight nightmare fuel. Bozak literally throws his hands up as soon as it happens because he knows he is so guilty! Then to put the cherry on top it ends up in the back of the Bruins net in the third period of a pivotal fifth game. The flick of Accari chirping the ref with the Blues celebrating in the background is forever implanted in my head with utter disgust. B’s fans were throwing items on the ice in dismay at that horrible call. I doubt that ref would’ve had anything to say besides the simple fact he made a mistake. Maybe the fear of having to handle the media would make him focus better.
To be realistic, the pressure of being an official is one of the more underappreciated things in sports. It’s one of the few occupations in the world that expect perfection. The four guys out there are being hunted by two teams, and a crowd full of people ready to pounce at the very moment of the slightest mistake. Often time coaches and players will argue a call they know they are wrong on to try and gain some early real estate in the officials head.
It takes a serious amount of mental strength and discipline that most people don’t realize. You have to be able to take constructive criticism well, but not be afraid to put someone in their place. The other day in the NBA, official Tony Brothers gave out one of the most relaxed technical fouls ever. A quote from Brothers to describe this moment would be high quality interview content and help grow the overall following.
Finally, after all this time… the official can speak out. You never hear a public statement from the official because they don’t have the platform and haven’t been taught how to handle the media. Statements are made as a whole unit instead of individual officials. As people begin to listen to what officials have to say, fans could develop respect for them and develop connections for more viewership down the road.
Interviews don’t have to be after every single game, but if some members of the media have questions for the official to try and get a different perspective on a topic, I don’t see why not. I’m sure officials would rather deal with some members of the media than a screaming head coach arguing over an offsides call for the fourth time that night.
Peel would’ve had the platform to defend himself to the world about what he said. The backlash might not have been that bad and Peel could be reffing his next game tomorrow. The opportunity for ref post game interviews will lead to more interactions and views, creating more revenue in the money hungry environment we are embedded in. And maybe, just maybe, we’d all cut the refs a little bit of slack.