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Ref You Suck: Subpar Officiating Hurting NHL’s Image, Integrity

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I’m not one to blame officials for the outcome of games. I always believe that you make your own luck in sports. And I have yet to see a referee actually score a touchdown, sink a basket or put a puck in the net.

But when the officiating negatively impacts the outcome of games, you have a credibility problem.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We see it in the NFL. We see it in Major League Baseball. We see it in college football and college basketball. And we certainly see it in the NHL.

Every team in the league falls victim to inept officiating and the Golden Knights are obviously not immune. I won’t even go into Game 7. I’ll just give you Exhibits A and B from Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg.

Exhibit A was Ryan Gibbons’ waving off icing in the third period which led to the Jets tying the game 3-3. The linesman had initially put his hand up for icing, then had a change of heart and waved it off.

Nate Schmidt, who was in pursuit of the puck and was closest to it as it crossed the goal line, could not have made a play. By rule, the whistle should have blown since there’s no-touch icing in the NHL.

Instead, Schmidt loses an edge, crashes into the end boards, Kyle Connor scoops up the puck and feeds Mark Scheifele, who was alone in front and beats Malcom Subban.

Tie game.

Watch the video. Gibbons has his hand up. The Golden Knights players see it and react the way you normally would as they gear down and look to head to the Winnipeg end for the ensuing faceoff.

Instead, there’s never a whistle, the goal counts and there was nothing Gerard Gallant could do about it. It’s a discretionary call by the linesman and not subject to review.

They didn’t really have an explanation. They knew they made a mistake, bottom line. So, we just moved on. -Gallant

The non-call was an obvious game-changer. If the rule is properly applied, it’s still 3-2 Vegas, the faceoff is in the Jets’ end and Gallant can change his lines and his defensive pairings.

Would Winnipeg have eventually scored? Perhaps, given the Knights once again were laying back and letting the Jets dictate the tempo, much like Montreal did Thursday in rallying from two goals down to win in OT, 5-4.

Then again, maybe the Knights get an empty-net goal late and it’s a 4-2 win instead of a 4-3 OT loss. Obviously, we’ll never know.

As for Exhibit B, which is also egregious, was the missed hit to the head on Alex Tuch by Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry in the second period.

Tuch was dropped like a sack of cement by Lowry, who zeroed in on him and from the blindside and lowered the boom on him. A similar hit to Calgary’s Oliver Kylington in the recent Heritage Classic outdoor game in Saskatchewan resulted in a two-game suspension. Saturday’s was Lowry’s first game back.

Watch the video of the two hits and they are nearly identical.

If the NHL’s Department of Player Safety thought the Kylington hit deserved two games, Lowry’s hit on Tuch at least deserves a meeting with Lowry. At most, a multiple game suspension is warranted given Lowry was a repeat offender with a history of delivering hits to the head. That decision from DoPS will be made one way or the other later today.

I thought it was a major penalty, and he obviously didn’t play the rest of the game. I don’t know much more right now. It’s an upper body injury and we will know more (Sunday). -Gallant

No one should like the hit. It’s another problem the NHL has, trying to eliminate head shots from the game. It’s dangerous and can change, and, in some cases, end careers.

Tuch probably went to concussion protocol after getting his bearings. And we know how cautious the Knights are, as they should be, when it comes to concussions. We may not see Tuch for a while, which is a shame given it was his second game back after he had missed the first 13 with an injury and appeared to be playing well.

But if the NHL allows Lowry to get away with those kinds of hits, what kind of message does that send?

Obviously, Gallant and his players were very cautious in their postgame remarks when I asked about the officiating. After all, nobody wants to be fined by the NHL. But you could read between the lines that they’re not happy with the quality of the officials.

There are a lot of new rules and there are tough calls to be made every night. I’m not going to blame the referees for this game, I’m going to blame the way we played the last twenty-five minutes of the hockey game. If they wouldn’t have scored there, they probably would have scored somewhere else because we didn’t play our game. We backed off, we were too loose and I’m disappointed. I think the call was wrong, but that wasn’t the reason why we lost. -Gallant

Paul Stastny was equally diplomatic.

It’s a faster game now and they have a tough job. Calls are going to happen. We need to do a better job of reacting and play better. -Stastny

Yes, that’s true. The Knights did not handle the gaffe by the linesman well. They didn’t pick up the pace. They didn’t stay out of the penalty box, which allowed the Jets to cut the two-goal deficit to one as Mathieu Perreault scored his second of the game on a third-period power play. They failed to take control in overtime, though at least they had some possession time Saturday.

There’s a couple games now that we’ve backed off, so we need to be more aggressive. We talk about it all the time, when our forecheck is good and our defensive is aggressive on the forecheck, we’re a good team. When our backcheck isn’t as good then our defensemen are back all the time, it’s not going to work. You don’t win in this league doing that. -Gallant

My hope is that George McPhee, who I saw walk through the locker room after the game Saturday looking none too happy, will bring up the officiating at the next Board of Governors meeting or have Kelly McCrimmon bring it up when the general managers meet in Florida in March. This is not a Golden Knights issue. This is a league issue. The officiating has to improve. It has to be more consistent. The rules have to be properly applied. Or, change the rules.

Better yet, improve the process in training the officials. To me, the officiating was so much better years ago. And that was with one referee. The linesmen were usually spot on, from dropping the puck, to calling offsides to blowing the play dead for icing back when you had to make a physical play on the puck.

Something is amiss with today’s officials. Maybe the use of replay factors into this. Perhaps in their minds the refs have a built-in mechanism that tells them if they miss it, Toronto will get it right and all’s well that ends well.

I know it’s a tough job. The game is faster today. But that’s why there are four officials on the ice instead of three. But how about they get the call right in the first place? Now wouldn’t that be novel.

Something must be done. The players and coaches deserve better. The fans deserve better. Those who bet on the NHL certainly deserve better.

The integrity of the sport is at stake.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

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12 Comments

  1. Greg

    I think the bigger question beyond officiating is why does management and the coaching staff go away to what sparked the team, and seemed to work? Meaning, vs. Anaheim, Roy was good on the 4th line, and Nosek was great on the 3rd line. When Tuch is back, Glass can go back to the AHL. He is not ready, and I think the fans can see that now. He gets pushed around consistently, and needs to get way stronger on the puck because he is not that fast of a skater. And swipe Hague with Merrill. I know he is a veteran and seems like a good teammate, but he seems to always be on the ice when the team is dominating in their blue line.

  2. Doug MacLeod

    Ken does a good job of researching and explaining rules and it would be good to hear from him. There was another play in the first period (I believe) where Carrier appeared to be first to the puck but icing was called.
    What exactly is the rule?

  3. Bent Hermit

    I have been watching the NHL for a long time and have learned not to get too excited about calls due to it usually balances out. This year it does not seem to be balancing out. I could be wrong but it seems like the refs are calling more borderline calls against VGK than the teams that they are playing. It’s not just 1 game here or there that they are doing it but every game. Look at the Pacioretty hooking call most times that isn’t called and if it is the other player would of gotten a embellishment penalty. I don’t have a problem with calling a tight game but when it seems like they’re calling 1 team tighter than the other something needs to change. I’m not saying that VGK has been innocent because just about every penalty that has been called was technically a penalty. There’s just been 2 interpretations of the rules during the games.

  4. This is just two of MANY calls that left fans with dropped jaws. There has been much talk for quite a while now that some shady things may be occurring between the refs and the “higher ups”. It’s a sad day when fans now feel that the refs in NHL are corrupt and/or paid off. Last season had more of the same. Perhaps it’s time to start checking out these refs Big Bank deposits??? Because CLEARLY something is going on here and fans are WELL AWARE.

  5. DOC Williams

    First … our comment about “bad” officiating is also happening in other sports. Well yes, they are humans. There have always been bad/missed calls and it will not end. That’s just the way it is. Like the saying goes: Play better than the ref’s call the game. I’m a very passionate Knights fan, but I am just getting sick of the BS that comes from players & the head coach after horrible played games. – “We let up off the gas” – We didn’t move our feet enough”- – “We got to play 60 minutes” – WELLLLLL, cryin out loud, DO IT!!!! These last two games just make a fan sick to his stomach. Do we have a team full of “primo donnas”? ” “Guys that don’t want to work any harder than they just have to”? WHAT???????????? Tickets are so friggin expensive, I have to save all year to go to maybe one game!! I’m telling you, long-term wise, what happened in our first season, has left us with a bunch of guys still reading their press-clippings from 2 years ago. Were told we have a rosterof VERY talented players. Maybe so. But we sure aren’t Boston, Washington, Tampa Bay etc…. You got talent, fine! BUT, start showing me some HEART. Show me you will play relentlessly for the team AND the fans of this city that cheer @ spend their ass off to follow and back! Enough is ENOUGH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Jeff

    If you can’t see the difference between the two Lowery hits then I’m sorry your VGK blinders have just made you ignorant.

  7. pooploch

    You must be new at this. Oh wait! You are!
    The rest of us have been dealing with this for decades. Get used to it. You guys got gifted an immediately successful team by the NHL. The rest of us have to actually work to become a winner. Stop whining.

  8. vgk2018

    The Lowery hit was not a penalty let alone a suspendible hit and VERY different than the one vs Calgary (which was and should have been a penalty/suspension). If you can’t do what he did against Tuch (and I love Tuch) then make the sport no contact and cancel my season tickets. Please realize that most people outside of Vegas (including those in the NHL league office) do not agree with your assessment.

    The icing on the other hand was a shit call but what are you going to do. The laws of statistics would suggest the bad calls will even out (unless we think the NHL is really out to get us). As you pointed out the ref put his arm down, which means he called off the icing, So play and/or be ready to save the puck. Did the Jets give up on the play? No. And if they score then get pissed off and score one right back at home against a pretty average team that played 24 hours before. Absolutely NO reason for that game to be close!!!

    Will always be a Knights fan but we don’t have a lot of reputable media sources that follow the VGK and to waste an article on bad officiating sends a bad message. Eakins season ending #notamajor…ok…but a blown icing and a not penalty legal hit…not for me.

  9. Drunk Ref

    Schmidt wasn’t on the correct side of the net on the icing. Connor would have played the puck first if Schmidt didn’t fall. Good call, unfortunately against the hometown team, but they got the call right.

    • Call has to be made at the dots. At that time, Schmidt is clearly ahead and Connor has not chosen the other side. There’s an argument that it’s close (but it’s not a very good argument), but by rule, if it’s too close to call by dots then it is to be called icing.

      There is absolutely no defending this call in any way by anyone who understands the rules of hockey. Clearly should have been called icing, it was blown, and it is unforrtunate.

  10. Tim

    The non icing in the Jet’s game was a tough call but this taking our foot off the pedal has to stop. As mentioned above the fan loyalty and price of tickets the team should give us a 60 minute effort. Right now our biggest problems are Cody Eakins and the need of a quality blue liner that has offensive capabilities. Right now were not ready to play with the big boys.

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