I hope this stirs some positive conversation. Please take it in the tone of positive debate for the sport we all love. Love doesn't accurately portray my feelings for the sport but the word will have to do. I love hockey. It is beautiful at times, it can cause painful humility and stir outright bloodlust. Behing the beauty, there is something that has consistently bothered me since my youth. In more recent years, it has grown into a malignancy that if left unchecked may harm my love of the game.
It is NHL on-ice officiating.
It is horrendous. Regardless of the teams on the ice, fans see a game where one-ice rule enforcement is critically impaired. Every game I watch, whether it be a game down at ScottTrade or a game between two teams I couldn't care less about, I hear it. You hear it too, the crowd chanting "Ref You Suck!" National Broadcasts try to minimize the audio in those situations but it is hard to ignore. It's obvious to me that this issue is boiling right below the surface and is coming to a head. It is harming the game. Potential fans don't understand it and never come back while die-hards just get downtrodden and frustrated.
Fans over the years have come to grips with the bad officiating. They have excuses for the quality of the officiating. Fans say that the game is too fast to make every call accurately. Others say that it is just part of the game. To that point, I wholeheartedly and painstakingly agree. Every year some games are decided by poor officiating. See the Burrows case from last year. Watch 24/7: Referees are too entrenched in the actual play of the game.
All of these fans, regardless of their opinion about the future of officiating, are implicitly recognizing the problem that lies in officiating. If a fan can recognize poor officiating but can choose to say that it is part of the game, then the NHL will not work to make it better. The best case senario is that it will stay the same but there is a good possibility that it will get worse. On-Ice calls carry precedence. My case in point a call during the Blues game last night. An Oiler D-man used his follow-through on a pass to hit a Blue in the face with his stick. The rule dictates that a player must be in control of his stick at all times. Either he didn't have control, or it was a high-stick. The outcome speaks for itself and if I were a player, I would start to hit opposing players in the same manner.
We've seen this happen to other sports, namely basketball. There are many who cannot get into the sport that they love because the NBA so flagrantly ignores its own rulebook. The NCAA is beginning to follow in its footsteps. As every year goes by, they begin to resemble their professional counterparts.
I don't know the answers but I have ideas to bring to the table. I'd like to see more people discussing ways to improve it instead of the inexorable amount of people complaining about it as though it is a backache that you just have to live with. The NHL is already at the forefront of transparent rule enforcement when it comes to suspensions. Bring that mentality to officiating on-ice. Pro sport officiating remains firmly rooted in the 19th and 20th century modes of thinking. I'm not so sure why officiating is placed above the rules they are set out to enforce. In this modern age, there are immediate means of correcting the lack of quality NHL officiating.
Why don't we look into the possibility of bringing 21st century technology into the mix? The NHL has an opportunity to shine here. Invest in tech, cameras, and the War Room. Show how to do technology correctly. Put headphones in the Ref's ears with a direct link to the War Room. If millions of people can see a call or lack thereof from the comfort of their couch, then the War Room with their 4K TVs and ability to replay any part of a game from any angle should have the ability to assist the ref on the ice or even overule him quickly and succinctly. As we all know, this doesn't have to take an inordinate amount of time. It doesn't have to take any time at all. Just get the call right and move on. Transparency is the key here.
Fix it. It is the worst part of NHL hockey and it's ruining the game I love. A fan should demand the NHL recognizes that it's idea of rule enforcement is broken and needs be fixed. These are all just suggestions about how to move forward and not meant to be dogmatic or the only way to go. There is room for improvement if we get over this mentality that it is just part of the game. The Ref should not be seen as "The Sacred and Ineffable." Give him some tools to help him officiate games more accurately. Let the rules be sacred.
Now I'll let you all talk, I've probably said too much.