By now, you’ve probably heard about it. One of the referees in last night’s game between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings was picked up on a “hot mic” making a statement that seemed to indicate he was looking for a penalty to call on Nashville:
Maybe if you're a mic'd up ref, you shouldn't express how you wanted to call a penalty against a team earlier in the game, changing how you ref the rest of the game.— Matt Best (@bestofmatt) March 24, 2021
"It wasn't much but I wanted to get a fuckin' penalty against Nashville early in the..."#Preds #LGRW pic.twitter.com/6fZImkdqLr
Though I was covering the game live from Bridgestone Arena and initially unaware, this quickly made it’s way to social media and became a part of the discussion on media row. After the game, Predators Head Coach John Hynes was asked about it twice. The first question was from an infamous local afternoon drive radio host and asked about how he felt about the integrity of the way the game was called. Hynes responded, “Obviously the situation is what it is. From our perspective it probably doesn’t matter how I feel about it general. But the referees are employees of the league and rather than me commenting, its an issue the league will have to take care of.” First, this is the right answer to the question. Taking a side on this just leaves Hynes and Predators open to having problems with the NHL. Granted, the Predators killed the penalty and the team won. Had the results been different, fans might have felt a different way.
But is it surprising? Not really. Referees giving teams “make-up calls” is a regular part of the hockey conversation on any given night. Maybe it’s a little surprising to hear it spoken of so brazenly, but I can’t imagine those discussions between officials aren’t happening in almost every game. While it was wise of Coach Hynes to remain neutral the first time he was asked about it, he was pressed about it again, this time by a member of the (inter)national hockey media, THN’s Ken Campbell. Campbell asked, again, about how Hynes felt about the integrity of the game, especially when the Predators are “fighting for [their] playoff lives”. Hynes didn’t take the bait, but chose to focus on his team instead:
“You always want to have things that are going to be fair for your players and for your team. One of the reasons why we’ve been able to have some success here, if you look at what our team’s gone through as of late—whether its injuries, guys in and out of the lineup, a sixteen-day road trip (the longest one in franchise history), a gauntlet of a schedule—there’s been no excuses. One of the things we talk about is that if that happens in a game, our job as the players and coaches in those situations, we’ve got to find a way to kill that penalty and only control what we can control. That’s also been a big reason why we’ve been able to get some wins and get ourselves right in the mix here. It’s always been “next man up” and when we’re involved in the games, you’re not so much worried about what’s going on in those situations as being ready to kill the penalty and being ready to play and that’s what I really liked about our team’s reaction to the situation.”
To me, this is what you want to see in a response. Any negative talk wouldn’t have yielded any positive results. More than likely, if anything happens as a result of the NHL “looking into it”, we won’t hear about it publicly. Is it a “black eye” for the league? Sure, but only because it proved something most fans were already aware of.
Hynes choosing to highlight the positives of how his team has been playing recently, the success they’ve had, and their ability to tackle adversity while getting a shot in the national spotlight was a great way to use the opportunity. This allows the NHL to do what it needs to do without having to also worry about levying fines due to snide remarks from a coach.
Updated at 8:40 AM:
I, for one, am shocked. Not just that something was done, but that the action was swift, final, and public. However, Tim Peel will no longer be working NHL games.