Last night’s game had some questionable calls in it, like many NHL games. It got me thinking about the role of the NHL officials and the legacy they seem to leave. There always seems to be somebody somewhere that decries after a game something like:
“The referees cost us the game!”
“The NHL rigs games for (opposing team) to win and has a grudge against my team!”
“The officials are corrupt because they didn’t tilt the game in favor of my team!”
“I have absolutely no proof that the referees do anything but their absolute best every night, but I’m going to present them as lazy, crooked, unethical puppets!”
You know, something like that. I’m already dreading it and I’m writing this as a plea on behalf of reasonable hockey fans: give it a rest.
To start with, remember how difficult of a job the NHL official has. Hockey is absurdly fast and we often struggle to decide what’s a goal, where the puck disappeared to, or if a penalty occurred after several replays. These guys have to do it at full speed, and are expected to get it right every time. They’re paid significantly less than players and given cramped locker rooms, but expected to skate the entire game instead of 45-second shifts. The NHL official that is insane enough to accept the job is booed as soon as he touches the ice in almost every arena and opinions of him range from indifferent to borderline hatred. He’s not on a private jet, he’s sometimes left to provide his own transportation. If he does his job superbly, no one says ‘great officiating tonight’, but when one call is missed all hell breaks loose. The NHL official has a rough life.
Remember what you look like when you’re roasting this guy for not being absolutely perfect. We all hold a high standard for the officials sure, but the screaming and twitter-ing for a blown call is absolutely absurd. I know I’m not perfect at my job, but fortunately my boss doesn’t drunkenly scream at me when I do something wrong. Well, not yet at least. If I can’t do my job perfectly, it seems unreasonable to expect someone else to be able to do so. But when I worked retail and food service in college I learned people get upset at some pretty unreasonable things.
When you’re blaming a referee for your team losing, you’re basically expressing to the world that you don’t understand the sport well enough to comprehend the basics and you’re going for the simplest explanation. “Our goalie gives up an awful lot of rebounds” is more complex than “the NHL has it out for my team.” It takes a bit of reasoning to say “Our defense wasn’t covering for passes nearly enough” while it takes zero to say “We would have won the game were it not for that one call.
Do referees blow calls? Absolutely. It comes with the territory. It isn’t unreasonable to expect referees to be consistent, which they aren’t always. But to crucify a referee for calling a penalty against your team is both childish and moronic. Calls get blown, things get missed, but this isn’t exclusive to your team. Every team has calls go against them, or blown calls. So your team isn’t different from the other 29. Every team has to struggle against it, it’s part of the game. Your team will have calls go against them, and sometimes your team will get away with one, or have a call even go in your team’s favor. It all balances out in the end, and nothing proves this better than game 7 against the Blackhawks in the 2013 playoffs.
Watching it gets my blood boiling a bit, but everything does balance out in the end. And boy did it balance out for the Red Wings in the closing minutes of the third period, as a double-minor that probably should have been a penalty against the Wings (if any penalty at all) was called that cause play to stop seconds before Chicago scored the goal that would have won the game.
The game should have ended there but it didn’t. We all know Chicago won in overtime. Red Wings fans could all point to how the Blackhawks needed Andrew Shaw to injure a Red Wings player early in the game and even then they could only when in OT. Meanwhile, Blackhawks fans could all point out how the game should have ended there, and the Wings had three opportunities to eliminate the hawks and couldn’t pull it off. In the end, two blown calls balanced out and both teams benefited and both teams got screwed over at different points in the game.
Never forget that if your team plays to the point where a referee could decide the outcome, they probably didn’t play very well to begin with. Not to mention, sports are supposed to be fun for the fans. Hockey is the purest form of pleasure in my life, and watching it is great fun. I hardly know what to do with myself during the off-season because watching hits and goals and debating power-play strategies is delightful. I don’t understand how bemoaning officiating is enjoyable, nor have I ever understood how someone can enjoy screaming and cursing at referees at a game. I’d say to each his own, but this obnoxious stuff has got to stop.
To sum things up, every team has calls blown and every team has calls go in their favor. Teams will win some calls and lose some calls. The better teams will overcome inconsistent or down right mistaken officiating and come out with the win. And if your team has to rely on officiating to win a game, it probably isn’t a very good team. So don’t make your fan base look bad, don’t blame the refs for your team’s shortcomings.
Actually, everyone else go right ahead and do that. But Red Wings fans, remember you’re above that.