Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson drew a penalty 4 minutes 56 seconds into the second period, even though replays appeared to show that Red Wings defenseman Jon Merrill embellished his fall to draw the tripping call on Arvidsson. After the call, one of the officials was overheard on the broadcast saying, “It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a (expletive) penalty against Nashville early in the …” before his microphone cut off.
Peel and Kelly Sutherland were the referees in the game, but the NHL singled out only the former in its statement Wednesday.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of the game,” Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said in the statement. “Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve. There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity of our game”
After the game, a 2-0 Nashville win, Predators Coach John Hynes declined to comment about the incident other than to say “it’s an issue that I think the league will have to take care of.”
“You’re not so much worried about what’s going on in those situations as we’ve got to be able to kill the penalty, we’ve got to be ready to play, and that’s what I really liked about our team’s reaction to that situation,” Hynes said.
A 2015 study of NHL penalties by FiveThirtyEight found that “makeup calls” appeared to be an actual phenomenon in pro hockey, that “referees’ past calls influence their next calls.” After analyzing every NHL penalty call between the start of the 2005-06 season and the end of the 2014-15 regular season, FiveThirtyEight determined that when teams are “owed” penalties — in other words, when they have been whistled for more infractions than the opposing team — they are called for penalties at much lower rates.
The analysis also found that when one team is called for a string of penalties to begin a game, the other team is far more likely to be called for the next one.
“If a game starts with four straight penalties against the away team, for example, the home team is about three times as likely to be called for the next one,” FiveThirtyEight’s Noah Davis and Michael Lopez wrote.
Kerry Fraser, a former NHL official who worked thousands of games, told Davis and Lopez that when one team was called for more penalties than the other, it made him pay closer attention to what the less-penalized team was doing.
“My mind-set was, ‘Okay, I’m not going to look for one on the other team just because one team has taken four or five in a row, but I sure as heck can’t afford to miss one,’ ” Fraser said. “Your radar goes up, especially when the other team is in a checking position, and as soon as one is there, you make sure you get it.”
The Predators were called for four penalties and the Red Wings three in Tuesday’s game, but at the time of the play in question, Detroit had been called for one and Nashville none.