NHL Referees – The Quiet ‘Official’ NHL Flaw


No one is willing to say it.  Someone has to, and this time there’s no reading between the lines.

NHL referees are horrible.

“Part of the job is having thick enough skin to deal with criticism.  It comes with the territory. “

After watching  last night’s Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers it’s clearly evident.

The officials changed the course of the game completely.

At the point when the Capitals took the lead in the first period on an Alexander Ovechkin goal, play was rough but fair.  After that point the only fair call the Caps got was a non-call on a Brooks Orpik hit on Dan Boyle, though many will dispute that Orpik, who isn’t going to win a Lady Byng anytime soon, left his feet or targeted the head or . . . whatever else anyone can find wrong with the play.

Three successive power-plays on highly questionable calls at the start of the second period allowed the Rangers to tie the game.

Admittedly, this must sound like the rant of an angry Capitals fan.  It’s not.

It’s the rant of a hockey fan that is fed up with seeing mediocre officiating literally skate by without anyone being allowed to say anything about it.

This is simply the most frustrating and recent blunder to make an example of.

The big problem is it’s become a taboo of all sports – get mad at the officials during the game and boo, but don’t criticize or call them out.

So how are they supposed to get better or improve?  If the individual referees can’t see the mistakes their making (literally), who can point it out to them?  A few old officials and rule makers in Toronto?

Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings /

Los Angeles Kings

Speaking from personal knowledge of what it’s like to wear the stripes (not at an NHL level) it’s easy to admit, referees have a very difficult job.  And not all NHL officials are bad.  But a part of the job is having thick enough skin to deal with criticism.  It comes with the territory.

The other point of contention isn’t with the officials but the NHL.  The more and more calls are left up to review and the department of player safety the more power is taken away from officials.  The benefit of video review and these supplementary departments are to make sure we get the right call and that fairness, rules and proper play are being conducted.  The takeaway is that we’re stripping officials of their confidence that their calls are correct and mean business.

Officials are like athletes and the rest of us:  confidence is a big deal.  It means a lot in how all of us perform.  If you had someone (unfortunately like everyone else you probably do) over your shoulder constantly second guessing you and changing every decision you made how would you feel?  More importantly how would it affect your performance?

A better analogy is with Judges in a court of law.  There’s no video review or safety board over their shoulder that can change their calls or alter rulings.  Of course there are appellate and higher levels of court, but higher courts are run by higher justices who have “on ice” – in court experience.

Every fan disagrees with or hates officials in some games, loves them in others, and doesn’t notice them on most occasions.

That’s how it’s supposed to be.  We’re not supposed to notice the officials.  We’re not supposed to be having these discussions, but now it’s to the point we must.

Disagree all you want with the calls in last night’s Capitals-Rangers Game 7, but one thing we must agree on there’s a problem the NHL needs to address, and it’s how they attempt to rule the rink.

Next: Re-signing Tyler Toffoli Is A Priority

Apr 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) talks with referee Kelly Sutherland (11) after being knocked into the net after a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports