TAMPA — Veteran Lightning forward Pat Maroon knows Tim Peel better than most. He considers the longtime NHL official a really good friend. Both call St. Louis home, and Maroon says the two spend a lot of time together in the summer.
Peel, 54 and in his 22nd season, was fired by the league Wednesday, hours after he was caught on a hot mic saying he wanted to call a penalty against the Predators during their game Tuesday night against the Red Wings.
The NHL, typically methodical in its decision-making, moved swiftly to ban Peel from officiating any more games a month before he was scheduled to retire. His final game was supposed to be in St. Louis with his family in attendance, Maroon said Wednesday.
After calling Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson for tripping early in the second period of Nashville’s 2-0 win, a voice the NHL determined was Peel’s was picked up by a TV microphone saying, “It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a (expletive) penalty against Nashville early in the,” before the audio cut off. Peel worked the game with referee Kelly Sutherland.
The notion of NHL officials making calls to even-up penalties is nothing new. But this is the first time an on-ice official has been caught admitting to it. The league acted quickly to protect its integrity, forcing Peel — who has refereed more than 1,400 games, including the playoffs — into an early retirement.
“It’s just unfortunate that the NHL has relieved him of his duties from here on out,” Maroon said. “I believe that people deserve second chances in life. That’s just a mistake. I’m sure a lot of refs, a lot of people have done that, but it hasn’t been caught on mic.
“That’s just how it is. That’s the world we’re living in right now, very sensitive, and people are acting on it. So for me, I feel bad for Timmy, and I hope nothing but the best for him and his family. I hope he’s doing okay.”
Peel, known for a quick whistle, has been a polarizing official throughout his career. His penultimate game ended up being the Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Panthers on Sunday at Amalie Arena, a game that included 14 penalties, seven against each team.
Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde lauded Peel’s work Sunday and throughout his officiating career.
“(Peel) reffed an excellent game (Sunday),” Lalonde said Wednesday. “He’s been nothing but an absolute professional when we’ve had (him), and I have a lot of respect for him personally. … All I can kind of talk about is my personal relationship we’ve had.
“But as far as the Tampa Bay Lightning and when he’s reffed us, one, he’s done a great job.”
The Predators weren’t as complimentary.
“I don’t think that there’s a place in hockey for that,” injured forward Matt Duchene said of Peel’s conduct to a Nashville radio station Wednesday, noting that the Predators could have lost the game due to a goal on the ensuing power play and missed the playoffs by a point.
Maroon said he doesn’t read too much into the controversy.
“I just go out there and play my game,” he said. “The refs are out there to do their jobs. If that’s what they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I should’ve called that, so I’ve got to make one up,’ that’s what they’re thinking and that’s just how they are, so I can’t really say much on it.
“But I really enjoyed Timmy. I think he’s a great ref. I know it’s not the way he wanted to end his career. Hopefully, they at least give him one last game. I don’t think it’s going to end like that. It’s just too many phones and too many microphones around this day and age. Watch what you say, I guess.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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