The NHL Has an Officiating Problem: Wouldn’t You Agree?

As a hockey fan, I watch a lot of hockey.  I’d watch even more if my family let me.  So watching recent games I am seeing more and more missed calls from the officials.  Take the last 24 hours.  Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers were in Anaheim to play the Ducks in a rather chippy affair.  During the game Bobby Ryan nailed Oilers D-man Corey Potter with a blatant head shot.  The Oilers are seeking an explanation from the league on why Bobby Ryan escaped a penalty after he drilled Corey Potter in the head. The NHL’s department of safety reviewed the play but determined that there would be no supplementary discipline.   Are you kidding me?  Potter is not playing tonight as the Oilers take on the Kings in LA.  The hit looked pretty malicious to me.  Trying to get head shots out of  the game?  Well the officials need to wake up a little.  For the record there was an official close to the play when Ryan hit Potter.  Just another example of a brutal missed call.  In the first period of tonight’s game vs. the Kings, Oilers rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was controlling the puck in the Kings zone only to be clubbed (yes clubbed) in the head from the stick of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell.  You guessed it, no penalty on the play.  Was there a memo sent around to not make calls in favor of the Edmonton Oilers?

The Oilers Get No Respect

Getting back to the Bobby Ryan hit, earlier in the season Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton was suspended for 8 games for a lesser hit on Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche.  Granted it was Sutton’s second suspension of the season, the hit was not as hard as the Ryan hit.  Maybe it is just that the Edmonton Oilers do not get any respect.  I have already discussed how the rich get richer with hockey calls in the NHL.  As a fan of the Oilers these missed calls frustrate me to no end.  Watch the Oilers/Kings game tonight and pay attention to Edmonton coach Tom Renney’s reaction to all of the questionable calls or missed calls.  It must be tough being an NHL coach on some nights.  I don’t know how many of these missed calls have happened this season but there have been a number of them, and it is not just with the Oilers.

On any given night you can watch any two teams sqaure off and you are bound to see a number of marginal calls during the game.  The refs and officials need to be held accountable. You have no doubt seen footage of a recent games between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago BlackHawks where the Hawks Duncan Keith threw a vicious elbow on the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin.  Keith was eventually served with a five game suspension.  Not nearly enough in the opinion of many, myself included.  According to former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, the punishment levied against Duncan Keith didn’t fit the crime.

Fraser says the referees working the game, Dan O’Halloran and Francois St. Laurent, got the call wrong.

The deliberate elbow delivered by Duncan Keith directly to the head of Daniel Sedin was at bare minimum a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing. The best call would have been a match penalty under Rule 45.5 for deliberate attempt to injure under the elbowing rule!

Duncan Keith demonstrated absolutely no intent on playing the puck that flew off the glass and was well out of range of Sedin when contact was made. Instead, once the opportunity for a payback on Daniel’s non-penalized shoulder contact to Keith’s head six and a half minutes earlier reared its ugly head, Duncan Keith seized the moment in an open-ice assault.  

As Daniel turned to look up ice and follow the puck, Duncan Keith’s elbow was elevated, cocked and planted with force directly to the head of a surprised Daniel Sedin.

Figure it out people.  The game of hockey is faster.  The players are bigger, the equipment is like armor, the rink is smaller.  More needs to be done to protect the players.  The officials are in charge of enforcing the rules of the game.  When they fail to do this, the wrong message is being sent.  Every time the NHL refuses to make a call that goes against the officials the wrong message is being sent.  Every time the NHL fails to enforce the rules and allows a player to get away with an action that disrespects an opponent, the opposition, a coach or the game in general the league loses more and more respect.  The NHL should not be a “bush league”.  The NHL is supposed to feature the game’s greatest players and officials.  Lately I’m not so sure.  Even in tonight’s telecast Oiler’s announcer Louie DeBrusk quips “are you kidding me?” on another brutal call by the officials.  Fans are not the only ones who are noticing the inconsistency in the calls.

In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, the NHL has an officiating problem.  Don’t believe me?  Watch how enforcement of the rules change as we enter the playoffs.  Watch how favored teams (see Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins et al) get calls in their favor.  I have seen the officiating in the NHL deteriorate at an alarming rate over the past couple of years.  Whispers of officials holding grudges against players, rumors of officials targeting certain teams, and the sheer inconsistency of calling the rules as they should be called have turned the game into a bit of a joke at times.  Here is a recent quote that deserves merit:

“In too many situations witnessed this season, the officials have either missed the mark altogether or came up short by at least three minutes plus a game misconduct. The judgment of the referees needs to be collectively and immediately retooled by NHL V.P. of Officiating, Terry Gregson, to conform to a higher standard that is currently being maintained by the Player Safety Committee.”

Come on NHL do something already.