Tuesday, March 23 was the final National Hockey League game for veteran referee Tim Peel. Despite his plan to hang up the whistle for good in April, early retirement came knocking by way of an order from the League.
Peel was caught during FOX’s live broadcast on open-mic admitting a mistake and providing an explanation of his ‘makeup call’ – a clip to which most within the hockey circles have now watched over and over.
Shortly after the announcement of his firing, the Winnipeg Jets held a pre-game skate in Vancouver ahead of the club’s 9:30 PM central matchup with the Canucks on Wednesday night. Both forwards Andrew Copp and Nate Thompson spoke of the incident, while head coach Paul Maurice also offered his thoughts on the more general scope of ‘game management’.
“I think the officials have a tough job; it’s a thankless job, right?,” Thompson said. “They are always in a pretty tough position. I think you see games where there are a lot of penalties called, and then there are games where they just let us play. But it really just depends on the official. I think Tim made a mistake, obviously he shouldn’t have said that. But at the same time, I think everyone makes mistakes. Do I think he should have lost his job over it? I don’t think so. But you know, that’s the league’s call. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time there is no place for that in the game.”
Thompson, a veteran of 787 games has had his fair share of opportunity to speak with Peel and his company. Although disagreeing with the League’s decision to can the longtime referee, Thompson did bring up the point of officially ensuring consistency in his calls.
“I’m not one to comment on how to officiate because, like I said, I think that’s a super hard job to have and a thankless job at that,” he said. “I don’t know. That’s a tough call because I think that you see that in games a lot where, you know, maybe they missed one and they make up for another. But, like I said, I guess that’s part of the consistency of the game and the consistency of officiating. If they’re going to call penalties, then call them and, if not, let us play. That’s kind of my take on it.”
Fellow Jets forward Andrew Copp also understands the importance of make-up calls but knows it won’t happen every game.
“The way I think about it is, these guys are human,” he said. “If you see a bad call, try not to absolutely berate these guys. There are going to be times, especially if you attack them personally or get into a screaming match with them, then why would they give you the benefit of the doubt afterwards? They’re human. Whether they’re against you or not, they’re definitely not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. The better you treat the refs, I feel the better they’ll treat you.”
Taking the more human approach, Copp spoke both of experience and of forgiveness in his assessment – something that he claims many may fail to remember when dealing with officials.
“These guys have been doing this for a long time a lot of them,” Copp added. “They have a lot of experience and know how to manage games a lot better than I do, personally, as a referee. I think I would just trust their judgement on make-up calls or what not. For me, like I said, in-game consistency and you’re not going to be able to change what the refs are going to call or what they’re going to do. You have to handle it and keep moving forward.”
Being able to hold themselves accountable for past calls in future decisions, refs, according to Paul Maurice, have one of the toughest jobs in the business.
“That’s a brutally difficult job to do under the scrutiny that we’ve put these men under,” Maurice said of the job of NHL referees. “And as far as how they do it in terms of a ledger, I think what we’re talking about is they set an internal standard for a night that it has to be within the NHL kind of guidelines and then we all try to hold those referees to that standard. You’re yelling for a call in the second period because of the call in the first period. I’m really, really glad it’s not my job.”
Although having experienced incidents of ‘makeup calls’ Maurice says that that mentality is likely something that has come to pass.
“The standard that’s kind of there is, if the first couple calls are tight then I think it stays tight,” he said. “I think they do a pretty good job of trying to stay within that standard and I don’t think that if they, it’s going to happen, man, there’s 1,200 games a year in a normal season, or whatever it is, so they’re going to miss a call. And I haven’t felt that they’ve felt the need to even it up. I think that was more true 20 years ago. I don’t think that happens now.”
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The other side of the coin is the fact that with play strictly being within divisions during the 2020-21 seasons, there are not as many officiating crews circulating the league. Most teams will see the same refs and linesmen multiple times a month – even a couple times a week.
“Familiarity has actually been a positive thing,” Maurice led on. “Some of that is just tactical. You can’t be hanging over the boards screaming at the ref because you may get this guy nine more times, and you just can’t get on the wrong side. You’re not going to put yourself in that position. So I’ve found there’s more communication (with) the referees and linesmen because lord knows we see some, the linesmen especially, we’ve had long runs with the same guys. Yeah, it’s an intense, heated environment, but it’s unusual. There is a sense more that we’re kind of all doing this together.”
According to Maurice, maintaining those relationships with the officials is paramount to future success… or failure.
“My experience has been that I’ve had probably more conversations through a mask than I did before. You’d see a referee, you’d get mad at him because you’re losing a game or you didn’t like the call and you wouldn’t see him for two months, and that’s what you would remember. And then they would come in and they’d remember that ass behind the bench yelling at him. So I think it’s been a positive in that it’s developed a better relationship with the officials.”