Penalties are always a major source of discussion when watching a hockey game. Referees at any level have a thankless job that will always leave someone unhappy. As a player and a fan, all you’re looking for from the men in the stripes is consistency. If you’re going to make a call in the first and second, you should make the same call in the third.
Unfortunately, most of the NHL referees don’t do this.
Let’s start with some background information. In the 2009-2010 season, there were 12328 penalties called, which works out to about 10 per game (as there are 1230 games in each regular season).
The breakdown by period is:
- First period: 4062
- Second period: 4420
- Third period: 3745
- Overtime: 101
Now here are the most common calls, broken out by period. Pay special attention to Hooking and Interference:
|Delaying Game-Puck over glass||91||94||106||1||292|
|Holding the stick||54||67||42||163|
|Interference on goalkeeper||67||85||79||2||233|
|Too many men/ice – bench||74||104||60||3||241|
The interesting thing to note here is that there’s a drastic difference in Hooking and Interference between the first two periods and the third period. In fact, those two penalties decrease 27% between the second and the third periods. All other calls (not including Fighting) decrease just 8%.
I think this is a big problem because not making these calls slows down the speed of the game in the third. If the Hooking and Interference are happening without being called, then we’re slowly degenerating back to pre-lockout hockey. It also infuriates the players and the fans because there is no consistency in what is happening on the ice from the referees.
You could argue that there are less calls in games that are out of reach, but most games are not out of reach (just look at all the games that go to overtime). Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t hold much water when you look at the numbers of some of the refs. I think 27% is too much of a drop, and the chart below shows the top 12 offenders in the NHL in terms of the % drop in H&I calls from the second to the third period.
A quick word about the numbers shown below: There is no way to identify which referee made each call based on the data publicly available from the NHL. The best I can do is “associate” a call with a ref. That means that when you look at Mr. Auger’s 90 calls in the first period, what I’m really saying is that Mr. Auger worked games where 90 calls were made in the first. He didn’t necessarily make them all. It makes the data slightly less useful, but I think some obvious trends still emerge.
Here are the least consistent referees in the NHL in making Hooking and Interference calls in the third period:
|#45 Justin StPierre||81||89||40||2||-55.06%|
|#44 David Banfield||17||27||14||1||-48.15%|
|#25 Marc Joannette||42||66||35||1||-46.97%|
|#15 Stephane Auger||90||85||47||2||-44.71%|
|#48 Frederick L’Ecuyer||36||34||19||1||-44.12%|
|#7 Bill McCreary||63||60||34||2||-43.33%|
|#6 Dan Marouelli||37||44||26||1||-40.91%|
|#38 Francois StLaurent||58||80||48||-40.00%|
|#26 Rob Martell||63||58||35||2||-39.66%|
|#23 Brad Watson||68||73||45||1||-38.36%|
|#14 Dennis LaRue||57||60||38||-36.67%|
|#10 Paul Devorski||44||71||47||1||-33.80%|
To me, the real problems are the folks who are consistent for two periods and then drop off the planet with their numbers. That would be Justin StPierre, Stephane Auger, Bill McCreary, Rob Martell, Brad Watson and Dennis LaRue. I’m not letting the other guys off of the hook, but they’re inconsistent the entire game. These guys seem to judge the situation and subscribe to the “let the players decide the outcome” mantra. In my mind, if you don’t make the calls, you aren’t letting the players decide. Not making the calls is what let the “Old NHL” be the best source of water-skiing videos that weren’t filmed on a liquid surface. If you want to “let the players decide the outcome”, make the calls consistently.
In case you’re wondering, there were two refs whose calls for H&I actually increased from the second to the third: Greg Kimmerly and Chris Ciamaga. You can see more detail over on the original posts at Igloo Dreams (links at the bottom of this post)
Thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.
If you have ideas for other data to analyze, feel free to suggest them. I have some future posts in the works, but I’m sure there are lots of things I haven’t thought of.
The data that I’m presenting here is from the 2009-2010 regular season. It was gathered from NHL.com play-by-play reports. There were 1230 games in the regular season – I’m missing data from one game. The spelling of the names in this post are as they appear in the box scores of the games on NHL.com
About the Author: I've been blogging about the Pens at igloodreams.blogspot.com since the end of the lockout.