Civian: We need to talk about the referees

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Photo credit Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

October marks the beginning of a cycle most hockey diehards know a little too well:

“This’ll be the year I convince my loved ones that this sport is worth their time.” 

Your loved ones might humor you for a while, but you tend to lose them somewhere between Game 56 of the regular season and Kid Rock headlining the 2018 All-Star Game. When the Kid Rock moment happens -- and it always does -- you can’t really blame them for giving up.

So you wave your own white flag and get over it. They’ll be back.

It usually starts with a few texts from some acquaintance asking you for gambling advice. Then your ears perk up when one of your coworkers says something slightly more profound than “Tuukka Rask is bad.” Before you know it, even your baseball purist grandfather is coming out of the woodwork to enjoy at least one period of a hockey game with you. 

It’s the one sacred time of the year you can point to Jake DeBrusk grabbing the “B” on his chest, or Brad Marchand licking folks, or an expansion team based in Las Vegas sweeping Round 1 and scream:


The Stanley Cup playoffs are untouchable, or least they were. That’s why most of us can’t stand what’s happening.

Blaming the referees is among the most insufferable things a sports-watcher can do. It’s lazy, pointless, and usually baseless. 

Three things I need to make absolutely clear: 

1. The better team won Lightning-Bruins Game 2. 

2. Not even one fiber of my being thinks any official is pulling for any team. 

3. This game featured flagrantly terrible officiating. Worse still, it was a reflection of this playoff season as a whole. 

Again, I cannot stand talking about this. I want to talk about Vegas’ Cinderella run for eleventy hours. I want to wax poetic about Nashville’s double overtime winner over Winnipeg until I’m politely escorted out of a bar. But for the life of me, I cannot get this image out of my head:

David Pastrnak - not thrilled on that call.

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 1, 2018  

I want to talk about David Pastrnak’s top hat and record-breaking playoff points, but those weren’t tonight’s turning points. Brayden Point’s wheels were, as were some ugly Bruins turnovers, and I want to talk about those too.

But so was the decision to hand Pastrnak a four-minute penalty when Victor Hedman hit himself with his own stick:

Pastrnak got a double minor for high sticking but Hedman hit himself with his own twig. Great work.

— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) May 1, 2018   The Bruins’ official Twitter account is one of the tamest in the NHL, and even it put quotations around “high-sticking.”

Ok, that was one bad call and Pastrnak did have a hand in it.

Can someone explain the return of the pre-season’s strict faceoff rules? This is slowing down the game, seems to serve no purpose, and is just painfully annoying. I’ll begrudgingly accept “rules are rules” for this, but then…

How is Torey Krug called for slashing in the first frame and Anton Stralman is free to do whatever it is that he's doing in the second frame?

First one was a pentalty. Second one wasn't.----------

— #2 WINGELS FAN (@bruinshockeynow) May 1, 2018  

“It’s unacceptable,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the no-call.

Again, this is an equal opportunity disaster. Why wasn’t Kevan Miller given a boarding major after the textbook definition of sending Point into the boards? And why was Stralman given a matching penalty for saying the F word and giving Miller a light shove after?

Imagine being Pastrnak Monday night -- "high-sticking" aside, Miller gets at least two minutes for his boarding, then Dan Girardi is free to board the heck out of you? 

How does Girardi get away with this?

— Brandon Share-Cohen (@BShareCohen) May 1, 2018  

The goaltender interference drama is bad enough, but at least that’s so bad that an entire community unites just to hate on it. The rest -- the inconsistent slashing calls, the faceoff policing, the Tom Wilson head shots explained away -- it will turn people away from this sport.

It's already a shame when you start thinking of this stuff as much as you're thinking about the game itself. But what do you even call it when these inconsistencies start feeling like they have tangible impacts on playoff games?

Are you going to “let the boys play” or not? At this point I don’t even care what the answer is, just figure it out before the only sacred time of year is ruined.