The NHL is investigating after a miked-up referee was caught saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators in their 2-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
UPDATE: Investigation over. Tim Peel will not be working NHL games in the future.
Around five minutes into the second period, Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson was whistled for a tripping infraction by longtime official Tim Peel. Three minutes after that, either Peel or his partner Kelly Sutherland said: "It wasn't much, but I wanted to get a f---ing penalty against Nashville early," which was picked up on the television broadcast.
The league will look into it and make a decision on the severity of the incident, which admittedly looks like a public-relations nightmare on the surface. But if I may offer a more measured reaction than the one that typically happens, it should come as no surprise that makeup calls exist in sports.
If Nashville got away with a penalty earlier in the game or Detroit was called for something ticky-tack, fans should half-expect there to be some sort of leveling out in the future. Officiating is more of an art than a science and people are reticent to give the people adjudicating games in any sport any leeway or benefit of the doubt.
But the fact remains: if you get a shaky blocking call in basketball, odds are the next one is going in the other direction. If you take a close pitch with two strikes and live to see another one, you better be swinging at anything close. Defensive backs should be extra careful after getting extra handsy with a receiver and avoiding a flag.
It's not ideal yet it's the way it is, whether audio evidence giving the game away exists or not. The NHL will be forced to enact some sort of discipline to preserve some sort of facade that anyone who considers for more than a few minutes realizes is a total sham anyway because that's just how business is done.
Peel won't be able to say it but he'll be paying a price for what thousands of officials have done before and do on a nightly basis. And if you want to feign surprise and advocate a world in which no makeup calls exist, well, be careful what you wish for. Because they're essentially the corrective method for human error, which isn't soon to be rectified.