A refereeing controversy broke out in the NHL on Tuesday night after a hot mic caught veteran official Tim Peel making a clear, and obvious call against the Nashville Predators, because he felt like it.
Warning: NSFW language.
Maybe if you’re a mic’d up ref, you shouldn’t express how you wanted to call a penalty against a team earlier in the game, changing how you ref the rest of the game.
— Matt Best (@bestofmatt) March 24, 2021
With 12:42 left in the second period, a mic’d up Peel was caught explaining a previous call to another official, saying:
“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a fuckin’ penalty against Nashville early in the …”
Prior to this, Predators winger Viktor Arvidsson was called for tripping, but it’s unclear if this is what Peel was referring to, or an earlier incident. Either way, fans were immediately furious. Here was a clear-cut incident of a referee subjectively applying the rules either to send a message to Nashville, or because of potential bias. It should be noted that the game itself was skewed very slightly in penalty minutes, with Nashville earning eight penalty minutes to Detroit’s six, but the damage was done regardless.
Following the game NHL Public Relations released a statement saying Peel would no longer be working games.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game. 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. There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any steps necessary to protect the integrity of our game.”
Despite the NHL’s quick response to the situation, a lot of lingering questions remain. Was this an isolated incident by one official, or a sign of a deeper trend in the NHL? How many “statement” calls are made by officials, either to set the tone, or admonish a team, even if they aren’t entirely warranted? At the very least the incident does raise questions about the fairness of officiating, and gives “proof” to anyone who thinks their team is unfairly targeted by referees.
In any event, pulling Peel from games is relatively minor, considering the situation. A veteran official, Peel was set to retire from the league on April 24. So in this case pulling him from games is just an early retirement. However, the damage is done and the lingering result of this hot mic incident will last long beyond one moment during a regular season game.