from Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,
Since the dawn of time — which for NHL fans, was 1917 — it has been an annual rite of spring to complain about officiating.
We get that. The team that loses complains loudest. Few NHL champions have spent much time during their victory parades registering their unhappiness with how their games were officiated.
Some want more calls. Some want fewer calls. Some say let them play. Some say letting them play simply allows the less talented players to slow down the stars.
The different points of view, and the fact it’s usually the losers doing the complaining, has allowed hockey administrators to get away with a lot of lazy explanations over the years. Pretty much since the day Gary Bettman assumed office, his stock answer has been to say NHL officials “are the best in the world” and to annually express satisfaction with the fine work they do.
Which is a lot of ingenuous fiction. Indeed, under Bettman, there have been many changes to NHL officiating in recent years. Many officials have retired early or been fired. They had the names taken off their striped jerseys to make each individual more anonymous. A second referee was added in 1998, which was a tacit acknowledgement that an awful lot of calls were being missed.
The rules have frequently changed. There have been “crackdowns.” Sometimes that extra enforcement has lasted, sometimes it hasn’t.