Hot mic remark causes NHL to sever ties with referee

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
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There are consequences to saying the quiet thing out loud.

The NHL has severed ties with referee Tim Peel after Peel was heard via a hot mic talking about his decision to call an early penalty on the Nashville Predators in a Tuesday night game against Detroit.

Said Peel of the decision, “It wasn’t much but I wanted to get a f–king penalty against Nashville early in the –”

The NHL announced on Wednesday morning that Peel will no longer be working NHL games “now or in the future.”

“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” NHL senior executive V.P. of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. “Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to the cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve. There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity of our game.”

On the surface, the NHL had no choice but to take swift and dramatic action. Peel created the impression that he exercises discretion to call penalties that maybe shouldn’t be penalties. In an age of legalized wagering, the idea that any official is doing anything other than calling or not calling fouls by the book undermines the broader integrity of the sport — and invites external legislative, regulatory, or judicial scrutiny.

At a deeper level, it would be interesting to know more about why Peel did what he did. Was he trying to send a message in order to keep the game from getting out of hand? Although there officially may be no justification for the comments, there could be justification for the reasoning that resulted in the call.

The broader message to all officials in all pro sports is nevertheless clear: If you’re going to be making penalty calls in borderline cases for strategic reasons, don’t verbalize it. That’s why Peel is gone. Even if he had good intentions, those kinds of comments can lead to arguments that the fix is in, and the last thing any sport needs at the dawn of a multi-billion-dollar sports gambling industry is an accidental Tim Donaghy scandal.

63 responses to “Hot mic remark causes NHL to sever ties with referee

  1. what fans. players and coaches want is CONSISTENCY
    both inside an individual game and across all games

  2. Right. We all have to pretend that make-up calls don’t happen even though they clearly do and always have.

  3. The legalization of sports betting has led some fans to believe professional sports games are fake. What would stop referees from gambling on their own officiated games?

  4. Lets not act like referees in all the sports don’t do this. We’ve seen very questionable calls that seem ego or bias driven.

  5. Just imagine the times that weren’t caught on a hot mic and the others who heard it and stayed quiet.

  6. I think we’ve all seen situations in any sport, especially physical ones, where the refs try to keep a game under control by “sending a message” to the teams. Even in baseball, the umps can warn both teams if it LOOKS like one pitcher was throwing at a player. Next time and the player, on either team, is gone.
    I’m just guessing that this was the case here. I don’t follow hockey, but if Nashville is a particularly physical team, then in order to keep the game in hand, an early, tightly called penalty can help keep things under control.
    Consistency is the ideal, but sometimes teams push the limits and a little inconsistency is needed to rein people in.

  7. Same thing happened in the 1st half of the SB… Now it was all masked over by the thorough beating the Bucs put on KC in the second half but the 1st half was bizarre…

  8. “there could be justification for the reasoning that resulted in the call.”

    No, there couldn’t be. He’s a referee. His job is to fairly call the game. What his job ISN’T is to make phantom calls and keep tallies in his mind of which team is “due” to get the next call. And even if you think there could be some justification it makes no sense in this circumstance because if his concern things could get out of control was justified then surely Nashville was going to shortly commit a legitimate penalty. The very idea he had to invent a call against them flies in the face of what he was claiming to be doing.

  9. Well it’s now happened in the NHL and NBA. Not hard to believe it’s happened or soon will happen in the NFL. Just another reason not to gamble anything other than a few bucks to keep yourself interested for an afternoon.

  10. Imagine if the NBA fired every ref who made emotional and/or personal calls. There’d be no refs left.

  11. Definitely not a “good look”, but I’ll take NHL officials over the inconsistent, petty, subjective officiating of the NFL anyday.

  12. As a former baseball umpire, I think its cute how innocent and naive your post is.


    No, there couldn’t be. He’s a referee. His job is to fairly call the game. What his job ISN’T is to make phantom calls and keep tallies in his mind of which team is “due” to get the next call. And even if you think there could be some justification it makes no sense in this circumstance because if his concern things could get out of control was justified then surely Nashville was going to shortly commit a legitimate penalty.

  13. Shame that sports have to maintain their integrity for something as scrupulous as the betting houses, and not, you know, the millions who watch and attend the games for the sake of the game.

  14. In theory, penalties should be called identically whether in the first period of the first game of the season up to and through overtime in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. If the NHL fired every ref who did not follow that idealized standard, there would be no NHL refs. It would be interesting to hear Peel’s side as to why he wanted an excuse to call a penalty. Oftentimes refs do call things unevenly based upon one team consistently skirting the rules. When done properly, we praise the ref for his management of the game.

  15. As a suffering Red Wings fan, we need all the help we can get.

    But seriously, it’s not like it did us much good anyways.

    Cant have refs with allergenics /vendetta’s refereeing games, good that he is gone.


  16. Would love to have had the refs mic on for Superbowl XL Steelers/Hawks. If there was ever a game that refs were looking at one team that was it.

  17. I can only imagine the pressure officials in all sports face. League officials, betting venues
    and network pressure to get matchups they want all must take a toll in their subtle ways to fix game results…..

  18. I believe it was Parcells who said years ago the referee called a penalty against his team. He got in the referee’s face and yelled you stink.

    He said on the next play the referee called a 15 yd. penalty on Parcells team. The referee looked over and Parcells and said, how do I smell now?

  19. Not sure what THIS referee meant. But let’s take the Legion of Boom as an example. Some officials felt their corners were playing too physical against WRs, and so an official might call the first close penalty to “set a tone” that they were going to call the game tight.

    There is nothing wrong with an official getting control of the game early.

    if the official had some ulterior motive, that would be a different story.

  20. This has been going on in hockey for over a century. He just had the misfortune of having it picked up on mic.

  21. Peel had already announced his retirement effective at the end of the season. There was no point in the NHL just suspending him when he’s already got one foot out the door.

  22. timetolisten says:
    Well it’s now happened in the NHL and NBA. Not hard to believe it’s happened or soon will happen in the NFL. Just another reason not to gamble anything other than a few bucks to keep yourself interested for an afternoon.
    Just my opinion, the NBA Refs are the worst.

  23. As a former ref, I’ve done make up calls and I’ve also turned the screws pre-emptively on teams that cheat to keep them in line. It’s not an easy job and refs aren’t perfect. As a FORMER ref, I can say that. It’s also something I would never have colluded with other refs to do and way less worse than refs who play favorites with stars or friends.

  24. What was that show with Lee Majors and Heather Locklear?….. oh yeah, the Fall Guy

  25. Something to never forget: professional sports are 100% about entertainment, viewership, and money… they are 0% about competition, and competitive integrity.

  26. The ref deserved to be fired.

    It’s one thing for a ref to decide to call even minor infractions, to keep games from getting out of hand. But in this case, the ref was trying to make a call SPECIFICALLY AGAINST Nashville.

    Allowing betting on games is ruining professional sports. Too many people have too much money invested.

  27. My favorite sports related hot mic moment was a 90s game between the Bills and the Patriots. It was 4th down and the New England receiver caught the ball out of bounds and a full yard short of the line to gain. The ref could be heard saying, “Just give it to them.”

  28. Read the book “The Fix is In”. This has all been proven. Lebron James and Tom Brady get more favorable calls and games blatantly rigged in their favor to win than any other athletes in sports history.

  29. Anyone who has ever refereed or umpired a sports event knows exactly what that referee was saying. The only mistake he made was getting caught saying it.
    It’s a shame he lost his job because there isn’t one referee or umpire who hasn’t done exactly what he said.

  30. In hockey, the referee has to show he is in control. If there is some bad blood brewing, he can quickly lose control and all hell breaks loose. This sounds like he was putting his foot down early. The players get the message. Wait until late in the third.

  31. officials are terrible and getting worse. I swear there are NFL officials that like getting on TV and throw so many soft penalties they make it unwatchable.

  32. There was even another ref, well I’m assuming a ref, saying “yeah, I know”. Probably had a legit reason and firing to me is a little excessive I think…suspension sure but I wouldn’t fire the guy…

  33. My guess is this ref was doing exactly as he was trained to do. Would be interesting if he filed suit against the league. The stuff that would come out would be very interesting, I’m sure.

  34. It’s kinda odd but I just realized the credibility and partiality of our sport refs is more important then our same standards for law enforcement.

  35. He won’t be working games, but they said nothing about the office. I’ll guess that this happens on the regular that refs call something to get the players attention. He said it and it was heard so no escaping the consequences.

  36. Time to investigate Bettman. What if the ref hadn’t been caught? How long have the Bettmans and Goodells of the world been doing this?

    Answer: A Long time

  37. Brian Trottier of the Islanders once said in professional wrestling the refs get paid to look the other way and in hockey they do it for free.

  38. I was a referee in hockey, at a much much lower level I must say straight off. You inevitably encounter a moment where you know you didn’t call some exchange by players as you would’ve liked to in hindsight. It’s a natural human reaction. But you can’t have already decided ok Nashville has a penalty coming now let’s just fill out the rest of that label and decide what the penalty is. Shall it be roughing or maybe obstruction? In a game where denying movement or the perception you are is penalized the wide latitude an official has lends itself to suspicion already without much work. Just like a DB in press coverage, a man in basketball trying to screen the defender of another teammate, or a hockey winger holding an opponent trying to head to daylight you can’t be predetermining what IS going to happen as an official. The moment this ref started writing the script for the game to come and deciding what infractions he was going to call he wasn’t fit for the gig anymore. Imagine a baseball umpire being overheard between innings saying that a veteran starter was about to get squeezed at the plate because he thought he’d been too loose with the zone earlier. Part of this is the hot mic, a bigger part is a sub par referee under a lens. Just my opinion.

  39. smarterthanmost says:
    March 24, 2021 at 2:05 pm
    Don’t bet on pro sports. Period.
    – unless you know one of the refs for the game

  40. These guys watch film of the teams they are officiating. Wouldn’t be surprising if Nashville was throwing elbows or slashing in previous games and he wanted to call the slightest violation of the rule to set the standard for that game early on. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that he got caught saying it out loud.

  41. I used to umpire Senior & Big Leagues Little League, high school and Junior college baseball in NorCal. Sometimes emotions would run hot especially in playoffs and championship games. If there was a hint of underlying animosity among the players, coaches or fans prior to a game, at my pregame plate meeting with opposing managers I would let them know that it was incumbent upon them to control their players and their fans and if things were to get out of hand, the manager would be the first to be ejected from the game.

    I rarely ever had a game get close to being out of control. You let the managers know their participation is in jeopardy and it’s surprising how uneventful a game can be. I don’t however, know if this would have the same effect in an MLB or other pro sports event.

  42. Refs are human. It is human nature. I am not saying it is right, but it is naieve to believe it doesn’t happen.

  43. The reality is he got fired for not knowing how to work a microphone and foul language. The gist of what he said wasn’t a sign of cheating. Especially if the game you’re officiating includes a team that is top 5 in the league for penalty minutes which Nashville is. No point in going easy on them if it’s clear they’re going to abuse the rules as much as possible so call every penalty on them from the second the game starts and maybe they’ll clean their act.

    Officials are taught to do this. It’s called setting expectations early for the teams.

  44. The NHL lets this guy go and I think it was the right move but how does MLB kepp two losers Angel Hernandez and Joe West they are the two worst umpires in the game. They continually make make bad calls over and over again and they are still in the league Pathetic

  45. raiderbri100 says:
    March 24, 2021 at 1:23 pm
    Would have liked to hear a “hot mike” during the “tuck rule” review


    They said it was a make-up call from the ’76 playoff game.

  46. SouthPaw got it right. Major league sports are multi-billion dollar businesses, not public institutions. Their function is ultimately to make money for their biggest investors. The integrity of the game only matters to them in so far as it serves to make their investors money. The gamblers have to be able to suspend their disbelief in the obvious fact that officiating has an enormous impact on the outcome of sporting events.

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