Detroit Red Wings on hot-mic ref: For most part, officials do really good job

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Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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The hot-mic incident that made headlines in NHL circles this week took the Detroit Red Wings by surprise — and sympathy.

Their schedule this week included two games at the Nashville Predators, the first of which garnered attention not for anything either team did but for what an official did. The Wings didn’t find out until after Tuesday's 2-0 loss at Bridgestone Arena that referee Tim Peel had been caught on audio saying he deliberately called a penalty against the Predators in the second period.

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Wings forward Sam Gagner read on social media about the NHL's decision to ban Peel Wednesday while using an off-day to recover from the schedule's hectic pace.

Referee Tim Peel (20) won't officiate another NHL game after being caught on a hot mic during a game between the Red Wings and Predators on March 23, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Referee Tim Peel (20) won't officiate another NHL game after being caught on a hot mic during a game between the Red Wings and Predators on March 23, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Gagner said. “Tim has a lot of respect around the game, he’s been in the league a long time. It’s never great to see a guy go out that way. As a player, you never want that to happen.

“You kind of understand that game management is a thing that goes on. I’ve heard you’ve got to let the teams play, but part of that is, penalties tend to even out as the game goes on, and sometimes they probably shouldn’t. Things happen really fast for referees. It’s not a position I envy. It’s just unfortunate to see Tim go out that way, with the career he’s had.”

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Peel, 54, had planned to retire in April.

Coach Jeff Blashill echoed Gagner’s sympathy, saying, “I’ve got lots of respect for Tim Peel as a man. I think he’s been somebody I’ve respected from Day 1 in this league. So that part is unfortunate, because I think he’s a really good ref and a good man.”

Blashill is in his sixth season coaching the Wings. He often has talked about how hard it can be for referees to make the right call given the speed of the game. That’s something the league has addressed, enabling coaches to challenge when referees signal a goal. The Wings did so successfully Tuesday when replays showed Calle Jarnkrok clipped goaltender Thomas Greiss. In such a case, the decision comes from the Situation Room in Toronto.

“There’s zero doubt in my mind that we’ve got a great group of officials who ref this game with integrity,” Blashill said. “It means tons to them. I’ve had heated conversations with different refs at different times, and one thing I know for certain, is that they care about doing a great job. It’s their livelihood."

Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner (89) skates off the ice with an apparent injury March 10, 2020, during the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner (89) skates off the ice with an apparent injury March 10, 2020, during the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Gagner, whose nearly 900 NHL games included a stint with the Edmonton Oilers before a trade to Detroit, acknowledged how challenging an officials job is.

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“There are things that happen in a game that happen at a really fast pace,” he said. “You are going to make mistake. There are times when they probably feel, oh, I have to make up for that error. It’s a really tough thing. As players we kind of have control over how you play, over how the situation is going during the game. For referees, it’s based on how the game is going.

“I played with Connor McDavid last year, and … he generates so much offense with his speed, he gets hooked and held. He draws more penalties than anybody, but he could probably draw double.”

Gagner said he hopes "the league ends up getting better” for the incident. “Maybe it’s a good thing this happened and there’s a shift in the thought process behind calling games. But the referees, they have really hard job to make judgment calls at really high speeds. For the most part, they do a really good job of it.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings on hot-mic NHL ref: Officials do really good job