NHL Officiating is a Hinderance: It’s Time to Showcase Skill


Coming out of the lockout in 2005, the NHL vowed to open the game so that it’s stars could shine. They wanted to boost the entertainment value of the league and appeal to a broader audience. They wanted to let the stars like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin shine. So, what happened? NHL officiating happened.

When the 2005-2006 season concluded, the top-10 in scoring looked like this.

Joe Thornton – 125 pts (29g, 96a)
Jaromir Jagr – 123 pts (54g, 69a)
Alex Ovechkin – 106 pts (52g, 54a)
Dany Heatley – 103 pts (50g, 53a)
Daniel Alfredsson – 103 pts (43g, 60a)
Sidney Crosby – 102 pts (39g, 63a)
Eric Staal – 100 pts (45g, 55a)
Ilya Kovalchuk – 98 pts (52g, 46a)
Marc Savard – 97 pts (28g, 69a)
Jonathan Cheechoo – 93 pts (56g, 37a)

Fast forward to 2015, in which Jamie Benn won the Art Ross as the league’s leading scorer. He topped the league with only 87 points. A point total that would have excluded him from making the top-10, let alone winning the Art Ross in 2006.

NHL officiating has completely reversed everything they worked so hard to accomplish ten years ago. Season-by-season they allow more clutching, grabbing, and any other form of obstruction you could imagine. And, the saddest part about it is that the league doesn’t seem to see this trend. Or, at least if they do, they are blatantly ignoring it.

Power-plays-per-game has plummeted since the first season following the lockout. Points-per-game has followed suit. The stars are being hindered by a league that is poorly officiated and stuck with an old school mentality that grinding and hard work is fun to watch. It isn’t. Goals are fun to watch. Skilled players’ being able to exhibit that skill is fun to watch.

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I’ve often pondered whether or not the owners have a lot to do with why this issue isn’t being addressed. A lot of folks place the blame solely on Gary Bettman, but Bettman works for the Owners. If you consider the dominance that teams with guys like Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, and even Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane would have over a lot of the league, it would make sense for the owners to turn the other cheek when clutching and grabbing comes up in conversation. Allowing less-skilled players to even the playing field with obstruction keeps things more competitive. In turn, it limits scoring opportunities.

Whatever the reason is, it needs fixed. For the sake of the fans, the sport, and the talent that is suppressed by how this league is officiated.

When you compare the NHL to other professional sports league’s, they are falling way behind in the aspect of promoting their stars. Of course, there will be complaints either way. If you tighten up the officiating and start calling everything consistently you’ll surely hear from the crowd that believes they’re taking physical play out of the game. The NFL deals with the same thing. But, the NFL is smart enough to ignore those outcries, as offense is at an all-time high and the game is exciting to watch.

The NHL owes it to the fans to let this fast-paced, exciting game become exactly that. They also owe it to the sport of hockey. Stop suppressing everything that makes this sport great. Stop putting so much emphasis on mucking and grinding. We, as fans, want to see offense.

Next: Assessing Mike Johnston's First Season

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