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Hot mic debate: players, referees weigh in on Tim Peel firing, make-up calls

Last Updated Mar 24, 2021 at 4:29 pm PDT

WINNIPEG — Fellow referees and players alike are weighing in on the NHL’s decision to fire one of its officials after comments made during Tuesday night’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings.

The league said Tim Peel, the referee who is suspected of saying he wanted to call a penalty on Nashville, would not be officiating any more games with the NHL.

CityNews digital producer Justin Slimm, who was a former high-level hockey official and has 17 years of experience reffing, says Peel didn’t do anything wrong.

“People are so shocked that he said that on a hot mic, but why?” Slimm said in a Twitter thread Wednesday morning.

“Conversations happen all the time on the ice level that people are unaware of. Referees need to diffuse situations, build rapport and ultimately hold the integrity of the sport,” his thread continued, adding making calls on the ice isn’t exactly black and white.

“There are so many shades of grey in the sport and, in my opinion, the human aspect needs to remain.”

Others on Twitter echoed Slimm’s comments and have a lot of forgiveness for the referee, saying that hockey — especially at an NHL level — is an incredibly challenging sport to officiate.

Several former players chimed in on the debate.

“Good Luck trying to get anyone in hockey to wear a hot mic again,” tweeted former Maple Leafs defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo. “I played my whole career knowing that referees controlled the game and make up calls was a part of it. I never thought this would be the end result.”

Ryan Whitney felt the NHL’s decision was harsh.

“Never did I think this would be the outcome of the hot mic,” tweeted Whitney. “Make up calls have always been and will continue to be just part of the game. Tough way to go out for Tim Peel.”

Current Arizona Coyotes player Jason Demers defended Peel.

“I always liked Tim Peel. There’s a flow in NHL games that refs have to manage that might be tough to notice. They are human, and make mistakes, and sometimes get caught up in keeping that flow. Might be excessive,” he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile Edmonton Oilers player Adam Larsson said Peel was in the wrong for giving Nashville a make-up penalty.

“In my opinion you don’t want make-up calls to be part of the game,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right.”

But Slimm says that it’s tough to make a judgment when only seven seconds of that conversation was caught on the hot mic and more context could help clear up the reasoning for Peel’s desire to make a call against the Predators.

Sportsnet’s Sean Reynolds says good or bad make-up calls are a part of sports. He says it’s an unspoken understanding between coaches, players, fans and refs.

“Seems like it’s existed this whole time, so to hear it spoke out loud is rather shocking but I think if you ask any hockey parent, any hockey player, any hockey ref and any coach, this was something everyone knew existed and was going on this whole time anyway,” said Reynolds.

“The idea of referees making make-up calls is something that everyone knows exists in hockey.”

Fans on social media seemed to have mixed reviews on his firing, with some saying they were happy to see Peel gone, even going as far to say he was the worst ref in the league.

Others were more sympathetic, saying the NHL has tolerated this kind of thing for decades and the only reason Peel was let go was because his mic happened to be on.