With NHL ref Tim Peel's career over, hockey 'make-up' calls take centre stage

·6 min read

Canucks defenceman Nate Schmidt appreciates and respects an official willing to admit his mistake.

With 40 players and two coaching staffs on edge battling at high speeds in an ultra-competitive environment, errors are inevitable.

"If there's something that happens in a game and they own it ... we're all humans," Schmidt said. "We all make mistakes."

Whether or not two wrongs — in this case the idea of a referee blowing his whistle for a subsequent penalty that would have otherwise been ignored — make a right is another story entirely.

"Does it warrant another (infraction)?" mused the Vancouver blue-liner. "Not really my decision to make.

"It's their call."

The NHL made a call of its own Wednesday, announcing Tim Peel's career as a referee in the league is over after a TV microphone caught him saying he wanted to give the Nashville Predators a penalty, putting the notion of "make-up" calls in the spotlight.

"Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game," NHL vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. "Tim Peel's conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve."

The league said the 54-year-old from Hampton, N.B., who had already made plans to retire next month, will "no longer will be working NHL games now or in the future."

The incident sparked discussions across hockey on a topic that's been heated for generations — the application of the league's rule book.

The idea of "letting players decide" the outcome of a game is often bandied about by the side of the debate that would prefer to see referees put their whistles away in key moments, while the other corner argues a penalty in the season opener should be a penalty in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

In a vacuum, it makes sense on some level for officials to call every infraction to establish a standard for players and coaches to live by. But in reality, 10 power plays for each side every night, or one team getting seven and their opponent getting none, isn't what anyone wants either.

And there's also a difference between make-up calls and game management, which is more about referees looking to diffuse on-ice situations than correct previous officiating slip-ups.

With that in mind, Winnipeg Jets forward Nate Thompson said hockey is unique in how referees approach the game.

"We are probably the only sport where games are managed," he said. "We just want consistency, no matter what it is."

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said night-to-night difference isn't his issue. It's when things change period-to-period or even shift-to-shift.

"It can get frustrating because something happens to you or to someone on your team, and you feel similar situation — same type of call, same type of play — doesn't get called," he said. "Maybe the referee doesn't want to decide the game at that point, which I can understand, but from us competing out there, those are the times you can get a little bit frustrated.

"(Referees) don't want to be the ones deciding the games. They want the two teams to do that. It's not an easy spot to be in."

Jets forward Andrew Copp added "there's definitely a regular-season versus a playoff standard" when it comes to officiating.

"I don't really have a problem with that," he said. "Consistency across the board in-game is the biggest thing.

"That's what we look for as players."

The NHL determined it was Peel's voice on Tuesday's broadcast of the Predators game against the Detroit Red Wings after Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson was issued a tripping penalty five minutes into the second period.

"It wasn't much, but I wanted to get a (expletive) penalty against Nashville early in the," the unidentified official was heard saying before the audio cut off. Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland.

"There is no justification for his comments," Campbell said. "No matter the context or intention."

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said make-up calls were more common in the past.

"If they absolutely blow a call, I think the referees just leave it there and I don't think they bring it into the rest of the game," said Maurice, who's in his 23rd season as an NHL bench boss. "I haven't felt that they've felt he need to even it up. I think that was more true 20 years ago."

But Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis said he believes referees know almost immediately when there's been a blown call.

"There's screens, there's replays," he said. "They'll catch something that they maybe miss, so they know there's been a mistake made. And sometimes I'll look at something that I thought was a penalty.

"It's a tough job, things happen, but at the end of the day it has to be called fairly and the integrity needs to be maintained."

The Predators were whistled for four penalties in Tuesday's 2-0 victory compared with the Red Wings' three. Nashville forward Matt Duchene wondered aloud on a local radio station Wednesday what would have happened if Detroit scored on the power play, won the game and the Predators missed the playoffs by a point.

"I've always been frustrated when I've seen even-up calls," he said. "If one team is earning power plays, you can't punish them because the other team is not."

"You don't want make-up calls to be part of the game," Edmonton defenceman Adam Larsson said. "I don't think it's right."

Tavares said players want rules enforced, but in the same breath indicated there should be leeway depending on the situation.

"I don't think anyone wants to see important games ... decided by a faceoff violation in the last two minutes of a great hockey game that's got a lot on the line," he said.

The NHL Officials Association website says Peel has worked close to 1,400 regular-season games and 90 playoff contests since 1999. He also reffed the 2012 NHL all-star game in Ottawa, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and two Winter Classic outdoor games.

"It's so hard for the referees," Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. "I don't think there's ever going to be a perfect solution."

-With files from the Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press