“There wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a f***ing penalty against Nashville early”. Those words, spoken during last night’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings, are what got veteran NHL referee Tim Peel fired this morning after they were caught on a hot mic. About two and a half minutes prior, Peel had called a weak tripping penalty on Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson. Few understood it at the time, but now it all makes sense. You can find the NHL’s statement on the Peel firing below.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 24, 2021
Tim Peel, 53, planned to retire at the end of this season. His final game was scheduled for April 24th.
Player, Coach, and Former Referee Reactions to the Tim Peel Firing
It didn’t take long for news of this incident to spread. The Predators have declined to comment since news of the punishment broke, but one player (who is currently on the IR and did not play last night) spoke on his own this morning, and head coach John Hynes spoke last night. Numerous players, coaches, and even a former referee from around the league have commented on the incident as well. Here are a few of their reactions, via this article but The Athletic’s Adam Vingan.
Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators Forward: “Yeah, I saw that whole thing. He’s a veteran ref. It was 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 part is he was talking to (Predators forward Filip) Forsberg in that clip, and he told our bench that, so I mean, 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 one point. Imagine that scenario. That could happen, right? That is not out of the realm of possibility, right?”
“I don’t think there’s a place in hockey for that. You’ve got to call the game. I’ve always been frustrated when I see even-up calls or stuff like that. If one team is earning power plays, you can’t punish them because the other team is not, you know what I’m saying? That call was not a good call on (Arvidsson). We were watching and were like, ‘What the heck was that? That wasn’t even close to a penalty.’ That was bizarre. I hope that’s not something that goes on with more officials, but there’s definitely nights when you’re skeptical of it, for sure.”
Zach Hyman, Toronto Maple Leafs Forward: “It happens in all sports. I mean, look at the NFL. You had pass interference stuff. In baseball, you have a strike zone where you can look at that. I think that the nature of reffing is there’s going to be human error involved in it… no matter what, when you’re playing in a competitive environment, and it’s heated and both teams want to win, you’re going to think that you got the wrong end of a call sometimes. It’s just the nature of competitive sports.”
John Hynes, Head Coach of the Nashville Predators: “I think the situation is what it is. From our perspective, it probably doesn’t matter how I feel about it, in general; but the referees are employees of the league, and rather than me comment, I think it’s an issue that the league will have to take care of.”
Barry Trotz, Head Coach of the New York Islanders: “They’re human. There’s times when they’ll make mistakes, and they want to right the mistakes.”
Todd McLellan, Head Coach of the Los Angeles Kings: “There are probably no better officials than what we have in the NHL in comparison to any other sport, and I’m not discrediting any other sport. They officiate a very fast game. They manage it very well. Our staff, our players, our organization and the other ones I’ve been in have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They have a very tough job to do.”
Kerry Fraser, Retired NHL Referee: “There are so many hot mics around in a rink now that officials can’t have any sort of private conversation, because somebody’s always listening. As an officiating crew, and ever since we’ve gone to the two-referee system, there are times in a game when the two referees consult with one another about the flow of the game, the requirements that each game needs. No two games are alike. The good referees– the great referees– have a feel for the game.”
“There were times when, as a referee, I would want to have a penalty– not create one, but to have one happen for me that was a gift that I could make a call for one reason or the other to bring the temperature down in a game. There may be a time in a game where one team has committed a majority of infractions. I mean, last night, there were four penalties called against (the Predators) and three for the (Red Wings). It’s a balance. Referees aren’t accountants…when the infractions happen, you raise your arm, and you call a penalty.”
To say I have a lot of thoughts about this would be a massive understatement. I’m going to try to be as coherent as possible, but please bear with me.
This situation has me incredibly torn. In one respect, I completely understand and even agree with the punishment. This was a terrible look for the league, and they took swift action to fix it. By firing a veteran referee such as Peel, they are sending a very clear message that they have a zero-tolerance policy for these things. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the league for 22 years like Peel, or if you’re brand new: you are replaceable.
However, in another respect, these calls happen in nearly every game. This is far from an isolated incident, and Peel is far from the only one who has made such a call. In fact, they happen so often that we can practically count on them. I have a love-hate relationship with them: it’s fair to make a make-up call, but things do not always have to be fair, and human error will always be a part of the game, so calling them doesn’t do anything but mollify a team.
However, like it or not, these calls have been a part of games for a long time, and will likely always be. I think refs will be a lot more careful about making them for a little while, but eventually, I’m sure they’ll go back to because, as Trotz said, they’re humans who make mistakes and want to be able to correct them.
Last but not least, you also have the human element here. Peel has been in the league for a very long time (since 1999, to be exact). He had his retirement all planned out. Now, that’s been ripped away from him. That sucks, to put it nicely. I wish the league would’ve at least allowed him to ref that game on April 24th. He deserves to have some closure.
So, it’s conflicting. I agree with it to a point, but unless the NHL does something else (such as speak to all referees and tell them to stop making make-up calls, and instituting a punishment if they’re caught doing so), this will only change things in the short term. Plus, you have the human element of it, where whether or not you liked Tim Peel as a ref, you have to feel bad for him. He spent most of his life doing this, and now he doesn’t get any sort of closure.
What do you think about this situation? Let us know in the comments below or over on Twitter!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of Christian Peterson/Getty Images.