Sports·The Buzzer

Tim Peel said the quiet part out loud

CBC Sports' daily newsletter explains why the hot-mic slip that cost a veteran ref his job is such a problem for the NHL — and one that's hard to solve.

NHL ref's hot-mic slip revealed an unspoken but common practice

Tim Peel has refereed NHL games since 1999. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

A hot mic burned a ref — and the NHL

Veteran referee Tim Peel "no longer will be working NHL games now or in the future," the league announced today, after he was heard on the broadcast of last night's Detroit-Nashville game saying "It wasn't much, but I wanted to get a f------ penalty against Nashville early in the-" (that's when the microphone he was wearing cut out).

Peel, you might remember, is the guy who was suspended for one game by the NHL in 2015 after Yahoo Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski (now with ESPN) tweeted a photo of himself and Peel doing a shot of tequila at a bar. Wyshynski also blogged about their conversation, in which they explored why Peel was one of the most-criticized refs in the league. Several NHL "insiders" reported today that the 54-year-old was set to retire after working his last scheduled game on April 24, so his ban might be less harsh than it seems.

Even though Peel is gone, his comment remains a problem for the NHL because it confirms a suspicion that anyone who watches hockey has harboured for a long time: that many (maybe even most) referees don't call penalties as they see 'em as much as they strive to "even up" the game by making roughly the same number of calls against both teams.

It would be nice if they didn't do it this way. But much of it is simply human nature. Put yourself in a ref's shoes for a second. It's stressful to call a lopsided number of penalties on one team — even when they're completely deserved. Their players and coaches (not to mention fans) will scream awful things at you. They might even complain to your boss. Suddenly, you stand out — the worst possible thing for a referee. No, better (for you) to lay low by keeping the penalties as even as possible and "let the players decide the game." Is that fair to the teams that play by the rules? No. But it makes your job easier. And probably helps you keep it. Self-preservation is a powerful force.

For a classic example of this type of officiating, look no further than Peel's Detroit-Nashville game last night. The penalty sequencing went Detroit, Nashville, Detroit, Nashville, Detroit, Nashville, Nashville. Interestingly, the first back-to-back penalty was called against the team leading 2-0 late in the game. And it was for shooting the puck over the glass in your own end — a tough one to ignore whether you're trying to keep things even or not.

We probably didn't need Peel's candid comment to clue us in on the thought process behind the calls in this game — and many others. But it made it embarrassingly obvious. That's why the NHL had to actually do something about it this time.

Referee Tim Peel, seen here in this file photo from 2011, will no longer work NHL games after he was heard on a live mic saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


The figure skating world championships are underway. Eighteen-year-old Canadian Madeline Schizas qualified for the women's free skate by placing ninth in today's short program in Stockholm. Reigning Canadian champion Emily Bausback was eliminated after placing 27th out of 37 skaters. The pairs short was still in progress at our publish time, and you can watch it until about 6 p.m. ET here. The most-anticipated competition opens tomorrow as reigning Olympic men's champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan takes on American Nathan Chen, who's going for his third consecutive world title. The men's short program runs from 6:35-11:30 a.m. ET, followed by the pairs free at 1:05 p.m. ET. Watch them both live on and the CBC Sports app. Right after each program, That Figure Skating Show goes live on CBC Sports' YouTube channel, where hosts Dylan Moscovitch and Asher Hill and special guests will give their instant reactions and insights. 

Brad Gushue and Kerri Einarson look like the team to beat at the Canadian mixed doubles curling championship. Not exactly surprising, considering one half of the team owns three Brier titles and an Olympic gold medal, and the other just won her second consecutive Scotties. Still, the super-duo finished second to Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing in the pool stage and needed to eke out a one-point win over the relatively anonymous Brittany Tran and Aaron Sluchinski in the playoff qualifying round last night. But Gushue and Einarson seemed to hit their stride today by crushing Jones and Laing 11-2 to advance to the final four in Calgary. The winner of the tournament will represent Canada at the world mixed doubles championship, which, it was announced today, will be held in Scotland in May. This will be the 13th time the mixed worlds are held, and Canada still has never won the title.

Aaliyah Edwards had another big game. UConn's Canadian freshman forward followed up her 17-point, 12-rebound performance in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament by scoring 19 points with five rebounds and four assists in last night's 83-47 rout of Syracuse. Star guard Paige Bueckers led all scorers with 20 points in the win, which pushed UConn into the Sweet Sixteen. The Huskies, who are the No. 1 seed in their quadrant of the bracket, are still on course to meet top overall seed Stanford in the title game after the Cardinal got past Oklahoma State 73-62 last night. UConn's next opponent is 5-seeded Iowa.

And finally...

The Raptors' historic all-women broadcast is tonight. With Toronto mired in a nine-game losing streak and franchise icon Kyle Lowry possibly leaving before tomorrow's trade deadline, the Raps are in desperate need of positive vibes. Some will arrive tonight when Kia Nurse, Meghan McPeak, Kayla Grey, Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert make history by becoming the first all-women, on-camera team to broadcast an NBA game. Nurse, who plays in the WNBA and for the Canadian national team and does in-studio commentary for TSN, will be the colour analyst. McPeak, who works the booth for WNBA and G League games and also contributes to CBC Sports, is the play-by-play woman. TSN's Grey will handle sideline reporting. Beirness, a SportsCentre anchor, and Audibert, an analyst for the G League's Raptors 905, will pair up for the studio segments. Read more about the historic squad in this story by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.

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