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N.H.L. Fires Referee for Comment on Penalty Call

The N.H.L. fired Tim Peel, a longtime referee, after a live rinkside microphone caught him saying he had been seeking an opportunity to call a penalty against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.

The comment came minutes after Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson had been called for tripping Detroit’s Jon Merrill with 15 minutes 4 seconds left in the second period of the Predators’ win. “It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a penalty against Nashville early,” Peel said, with an expletive, with 12:42 left in the period.

The league acted hours later in a statement issued Wednesday by Colin Campbell, a senior executive vice president of hockey operations. Peel had been a referee since 1999 and was planning to retire after this season.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game,” Campbell said in the statement. “Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve. There is no justification for his comments, no matter the context or his intention, and the National Hockey League will take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity our game.”

On the play that led to the penalty call, Arvidsson’s left foot appeared to connect with the back of Merrill’s right leg, but Merrill seemed to embellish his fall, drawing the two-minute penalty. The Predators won, 2-0, behind a 31-save effort from Juuse Saros. The Red Wings finished the game with three penalties; the Predators had four.

Peel worked Tuesday’s game with his fellow referee Kelly Sutherland. He had officiated more than 1,300 regular-season games and 90 playoff games. He also was a referee during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and worked the league’s All-Star Game in 2012.

He sustained a season-ending fractured ankle during a Chicago-Arizona game in December 2019 but was able to return this season, his final campaign. He was previously scheduled to officiate his last game on April 24, according to SportsNet.

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