The NHL announced that Tim Peel — a referee in the league since 1999 — had been fired on Wednesday morning after a live microphone captured him saying that he had been looking for a way to call an “early” penalty on the Nashville Predators in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a [expletive] penalty against Nashville early in,” Peel said before the microphone was cut off. The soundbite made it onto the television broadcast and went viral.
In the league’s statement, NHL executive Colin Campbell tried to separate Peel’s actions from those of other officials (as well as players and coaches).
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 24, 2021
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” said Campbell. “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 and all steps necessary to protect the integrity our game.”
But when the subject of Peel came up in a Wednesday press conference, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke more plainly about the realities of penalty calls in the NHL.
Cassidy was asked if he thinks there is a “make-up call aspect” in how referees sometimes make decisions.
“I think there are times [where] there is,” Cassidy admitted. “I mean I’ll say it. I think there are times where an official realizes maybe, ‘Boy, that wasn’t the best call.'”
“Call it make-up to me, you know, ticky-tack I’ll call it, or marginal. It’s like, ‘Oh I got one on that team, I better get one on the other team.’ I think it happens,” Cassidy explained. “I think it’s human nature, and then hopefully it’s done after that. Hey, one marginal call each way, let’s get back to getting the thing in balance. I’ve seen games where I thought there were some marginal calls where I think an official ends up chasing it. That’s what happens a little bit.”
“All of sudden the game starts to get away from them a little bit,” said Cassidy.
Still, he acknowledged the difficulty of the officials’ job, and the fact that it’s imperfect by nature.
“Listen, they have off nights just like players and coaches do,” Cassidy reasoned.
“Even the media every once in a while might have an off night,” added Cassidy before delivering his punchline. “That’s a little joke for you guys out there. Just checking to see anybody’s still listening. That’s all.”
As for Peel individually, Cassidy agreed with the league’s decision.
“It sounded like — and I only know what I saw on the highlights, the clip — almost like a personal thing, for some reason,” said Cassidy. “So you probably want to get the full story. It’s not acceptable anyway, but what motivated him to take that approach? And I guess in due time he may or may not have his say. But you don’t want that, obviously. I’ve had enough run-ins with officials where we disagree and sometimes bark each other at the bench. Typically a ref will come over after and say, ‘Hey, you’ve said your piece. Enough.’ I know it myself. Sometimes the staff will even say it, ‘OK Butch, time to calm down now.’
“Sometimes it’s done on purpose to protect your players, to motivate your players, to get the attention of whoever,” Cassidy added. “I think there’s different reasons for it. But this sounds like something that should not have obviously happened. The NHL dealt with it. I think Tim was retiring at the end of this year. I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with him, just between whistles and such and off ice if you were to bump into him, so it’s unfortunate, but they did what they had to do and took the appropriate action, obviously. That’s obviously just something an official shouldn’t do.”
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