Tim Peel's career as an NHL referee is over after his voice was picked up by a TV microphone saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators.
The league on Wednesday announced Peel “no longer will be working NHL games now or in the future.” The 54-year-old Peel had already made plans to retire next month.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. “Tim Peel's conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand from our officials and that of our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve.”
The NHL determined it was Peel's voice that was heard on the TV broadcast of the Predators home game against the Detroit Red Wings after Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson was issued a minor tripping penalty five minutes into the second period.
“It wasn't much, but I wanted to get a (expletive) penalty against Nashville early in the,” the unidentified official was heard saying before the microphone was cut. Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland.
“There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or intention,” Campbell said.
The Predators won 2-0 and were called for four penalties, compared with the Red Wings' three. Nashville's Matt Duchene on a local radio appearance Wednesday wondered aloud what would have happened if Detroit scored on the power play, won the game and the Predators missed the playoffs by a point.
“The crazy part is he was talking to (teammate Filip) Forsberg in that clip, and he told our bench that. Really bizarre,” Duchene said. “I don’t think there’s a place in hockey for that. you’ve got to call the game. I’ve always been frustrated when I’ve seen even-up calls or stuff like that. If one team is earning power plays, you can't punish them because the other team is not.”
Duchene and other players around the league cast doubt on “make-up calls” being a regular part of hockey, though he acknowledged “there’s definitely nights where you’re skeptical of it.”
“Some of the good refs definitely have a feel for the game and they know the ebbs and flows and they know to try to keep the game as even as possible unless the play dictates otherwise," New York Rangers forward Ryan Strome said. ”But as players, all you can ask for is that they try to call it as fair as possible."
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, a 14-year veteran, said the incident was a first for him.
“I’ve never heard anything like that,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s maybe unfortunate that it happened and came out that way, but at the same time, the league had to do what they had to do.”
Most players and coaches expressed respect for on-ice officials and lamented how difficult their jobs are keeping track of the fast-paced game. Buffalo interim coach Don Granato said he has “full faith” in the people who work for the NHL.
“(Peel) made a mistake, but unfortunately you don’t want make-up calls to be part of the game,” Edmonton's Adam Larsson said. “I don't think it’s right. I think if it’s an obvious one I don’t think it should be made up for.”
AP freelance reporter Jim Diamond in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed.
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