Last Wednesday, veteran NHL referee Tim Peel was fired for conduct deemed to be a “direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials” after an exchange with a fellow official was caught on national television headed into a commercial break during a game between Nashville and Detroit the night before.
After calling Predators’ forward Victor Arvidsson for a trip five minutes into the second period, Peel remarked “It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get an (expletive) penalty against Nashville early…” before his mic was cut off.
This clear verbalization of the unspoken truth that is make-up calls, something that exists across all levels of hockey, sent the league into frenzy mode. It was the validation of a fact that everyone from the commissioner to the average fan already knew, but to have it plastered over the internet in such an official capacity put a gash in the picture perfect image that has been built around the referee position.
Let’s be clear, the league acted quickly in this matter in an attempt to salvage that flawless image, it wasn’t to curb the practice of make-up calls or the way that the game is officiated as a whole. If anything, keeping penalty numbers relatively equal keeps the game clean and honest to a certain extent, and they know this, but to avoid being eaten alive by the media, decisive action had to be taken, and they chose the easiest route available.
Peel was the perfect scapegoat. He was already scheduled to retire at the end of this coming month, so to fire him wouldn’t be to the detriment of his career, one which has spanned over 1300 games. But in doing so, they are able to claim to care about officiating against the rule book, so it was the best outcome of a disastrous situation.
Going forward, don’t expect to see a change in the dynamic of referees or how they approach their job, they only change to occur will likely the less frequent presence of hot mics near officials. In this industry, you’re only punished if you get caught, a truth that Tim Peel learned the hard way.