Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman discussed the pressure on NHL officials making calls and whether complaints have been at an all-time high.

Check out the video, or read on for Marek and Friedman’s comments, and be sure to subscribe to The Jeff Marek Podcast. Here’s a transcript, lightly edited:

Marek: “Does it seem like right now there’s more complaining about the officiating than ever before? Now, my default around this time of year is that this is baked into the pie. There’s going to be a lot of complaining from all corners about the officiating. It’s the nature of the first round, but there’s one other thing that I that I thought of this morning as well and and it’s kind of along these lines.   Once upon a time in the playoffs — sounds like story time here, “Once upon a time, kids, in the carefree halcyon days of 20 years ago in the NHL” — referees put away the whistles. Right? And we all knew that going in, that you are going to have to be incarcerated, like you werent going to the penalty box, you were going to jail. That’s the only way you’re going to get a call. Not ‘did it rise to the level of its a penalty’, it was ‘did it rise to the level of a crime.’ That was the only way you’re going to get a call.”

“Now, that has changed over the course of time, and now officials are actively encouraged, by whether it’s the NHL, [Director of Officiating] Stephen Walkom, the Officials Association… There’s a lot of different pressures that are being placed on officials to make calls, so we’ve gone from the one area of complaint which was they’re not calling anything – and that was the only complaint that you could make – to now they’re calling a lot of things.” 

“Is it just that there are more things to complain about, so it feels like there are more, because the officials are making more calls? Once upon a time, they didn’t make calls at all and all we complained about was they’re not making calls. Now that they are encouraged to make more calls, we have much more of a… buffet, I suppose: grab your plate and choose what you’re going to put on it first. Is that a reason why it feels like — or maybe there actually is more complaining about officials.”

Freidman: “That’s a very fair comment to make because it is true. There’s been a big change from no calls to calls. The thing that I have an issue with – and I understand it’s a really fast game – it’s just that I remember Stephen Walkom talking about one GM meeting.  I actually don’t want to use Stephen Walkom against the referees ’cause I don’t necessarily think it’s fair, but I just remember the quote like, ‘Make sure it’s a penalty. Make sure you know. Don’t make the call because you think this happened.’  For example, with Marcus Foligno last night, I think that was the kind of the case.”

[Foligno was called for two penalties in the game, both of which he disputed in his post-game comments.]

Friedman:  “[The officials called the penalty based on the idea that], ‘Oh I think this happened because of the way the bodies ended up’ or something like that. I dont like ticky-tack fouls in the playoffs, but if its a foul I can deal with it. I just think like like we’re seeing penalties called that really aren’t penalties and that’s a concern.”

“I’m going to take it a step further… I wonder if some of it is because of two things that are out of the referees controls: Number one is increased gambling and number two is just the ticket prices in the playoffs are higher than ever before.”

“I don’t know what percentage of people gamble.  I do a little bit; I haven’t really a lot lately. I’m very careful. I don’t wager anything that I’m worried about losing.  For me, it’s more of a fun thing, and like I said, I haven’t been doing much – if any – of it lately . I bet you that there are people out there who are gambling on these games and they get a call and they’re freaking out on social media.”

“[Someone I had a conversation with earlier], they share a ticket package and he said, ‘You wouldn’t believe how much the playoff tickets are that I have to pay.’ When you go and your team loses game one like the Leafs did and you paid for a ticket… or a call really affects your enjoyment of the game –  whether that’s right or wrong. Anytime there’s a financial thing involved, Jeff, it it makes it worse.”

“I wonder if all these things we are talking about here. Number one, you saying we’ve gone from no calls to lots of calls. Me saying. I think the problem is they’re calling penalties that aren’t actually penalties and and adding in gambling, the cost of ticket prices, and just the overall angry energy of social media.”

“I wonder if we’ve baked the world’s perfect angry cake? I don’t know but it just seems like all of that is part of it.”


Check out The Jeff Marek Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.  It’s the perfect pairing right alongside the Scouting The Refs Podcast.  Be sure to follow Jeff (@JeffMarek) and Elliotte (@FriedgeHNIC).