It’s a REF Life in the Hockey World

Referees are always at the root of MANY sports debates, and that is ever true in the game of hockey that is the NHL. Every call made on the ice will be questioned and analyzed by the fans. The refs are the guys on the ice everyone loves to hate…especially when it comes to the controversial calls. Be honest some nights, you want to scream (or maybe you do!) at the TV due to a call that was made or a call that should have been made.

It is true that special teams are vital to a team’s success and penalties set the tone for the game and help to settle both sides into the rhythm. Sometimes in setting that tone, the penalties take a one sided nature & I’m not saying that as bias, I watch games for all 30 teams and I have seen this play out against all of them in one game or another.

Some calls are obvious and easy to make and some fall in a grey area. Some calls that should made are completely missed. Some calls that should not be made are made and end up costing the game. Sometimes it is the right call and sometimes it is blatantly not the right call BUT more often than not it is not up for review.  Some calls seem like they wouldn’t have a big impact, but the truth is even an offside call or an icing call causes a stoppage in the play that halts the momentum for the game. Some calls lead to supplemental discipline and some that should lead to supplemental discipline go completely unnoticed.

The game is fast and constantly in motion [save for when the whistle blows!], and the certainty that we expect from the rules is thrown out the window when the refs arm goes up or does not go up. Some in-game decisions make us all shake our heads in this one from the 2013 playoff series featuring the Red Wings & the Blackhawks:

^That gaffe by the refs nearly cost Chicago the series. The hawks of course came back in OT and went on the win the Stanley Cup…but it could have been different had they not been able to get the OT goal thanks to the above call that was made by the refs.

There is of course also the calls or non-calls that involve players colliding and result in injuries. The most flabbergasting of all the calls and non-calls in recent history is the incredible amount of inconsistency within ONE game or from one game to the next. The same play will happen in two different games: both result in an injury but only results in a penalty and supplemental discipline. The questions begin: would the penalty have made any difference? Is the injury long-term? Was there an intent to injure the other player? Does the player in question have a disciplinary history? [Quick, stop me…I’m starting to sound like Brendan Shanahan!].

The question I have is will we ever see a level of consistency in the calls that involve a player being injured? If it’s called in one game it should be called in every game. If it results in supplemental discipline in one game, it should result in supplemental discipline every time.

No matter what the scoreboard says every single call will up for debate after every game. Some calls fans will happy with, some calls or calls that were missed will have fans livid. At the end of the day, 99% of the time the call on the ice stands regardless of fairness. There will be good calls made, calls that are missed, and the endlessly debated controversial game changing calls in all the games still to be played this year and in the years that will follow.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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