NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said officiating has been “consistent,” and the clock is ticking on the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation.
Bettman, speaking before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, addressed several issues. There have been complaints about the officiating, in just about every series and about every team. But Bettman said they’re doing as good as expected.
“They have the most difficult job, and it always seems to undergo more intense scrutiny this time of year,” Bettman said. “This is a game of errors: coaches make them, players make them and occasionally the officials make them. They’re held accountable for their performance. You’ve got the four best referees who have made it to this point to work the Stanley cup final, and no matter what they do they get criticized. If they call penalties at the end of the game people get hysterical and say ‘You shouldn’t call those at the end of the game.’ If they don’t call penalties, ‘Oh, they’re not calling them and letting the standard slip.’”
There have been a few calls that have drawn the ire of respective teams’ fans, including the Chicago Blackhawks’. Stephen Walkom drew their ire when he whistled a stop in play to penalize Brandon Saad and Gustav Nyquist, nullifying a potential game-winning goal that Niklas Hjalmarsson netted a few seconds later.
“Officiating has been consistent through the season,” Bettman continued. “We’re constantly trying to make it better, but it involves a human element. Where there are constant replays, angles, slow motion, all things that the officials don’t get to do in real time, I think their performance holds up under that level of review. Is it perfect? No. Have they been given instructions to change the standard in the playoffs? No.”
Meanwhile, time in is running out regarding the Coyotes’ tenuous situation in the desert. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, “It certainly means it’s possible that the team won’t play there next year.”
“We’re in the short strokes in Phoenix now,” Daly continued. “The ownership group we negotiated a deal with has been negotiating with the city of Glendale. I think everyone knows what’s on the table. The puck is in the city of Glendale’s end with how they’re going to deal with that.”
The league’s board of governors meets on June 27; Glendale has a city council meeting on June 25. So decisions will definitely be made soon. Neither Daly nor Bettman wanted to speculate on what happens if the Coyotes don’t solidify a deal with a new potential owner in Glendale. There are other cities who would love an NHL team, but the league’s focus is on Phoenix.
“We try to do everything possible (to avoid relocation). It’s not fair to the fans unless you have to move, it’s not fair to do it to communities and buildings,” Bettman said. “We’re not going to get involved in a bake-off where we’d rather be here than there. We’ll try to preserve what’s in place. We’ve seen what the fan base will do with all the uncertainty. If there was certainty surrounding this franchise, its fortunes would improve dramatically.”