Let's test that theory. The referee that ejected Foligno a few games back, called that mind-boggling penalty shot the other night, and then waved off the goal last night was Tim Peel. So I looked up Tim Peel. Birthplace? Toronto, ON. Ha.
So, birthplace aside, it is entirely reasonable to assume that most of these refs were Leafs/Habs fans growing up. These guys are obviously passionate hockey people, having spent their lives playing and now officiating. Obviously, they all had their favourite teams growing up, and those feelings don't go away just because you start working in the business.
So, yes, I buy in to SSF's theory.
Perhaps the larger problem is the lack of accountability on behalf of the officials. You never hear squat about questionable calls from the league after the fact. Not that anything would change, but it would be great if more explanation was offered, or "bad" calls were at least acknowledged. I get that the refs wouldn't like public statements admitting poor work, but given the total absence of ANY sort of communication, anything would be better than the nothing we currently get. I'm held accountable at my job for my performance - it would be nice to see the referees held accountable, and mistakes acknowledged.
The NFL had a show on the NFL Network (not 100% sure it still exits). It ran for a half hour once a week and was hosted by the head referee. He went through the video from controversial calls and would explain the decision made and whether or not it was the right one (the NFL has the benefit now of video review for MANY infractions). This would be AWESOME for hockey fans (and probably players too), although, of course, the referees wouldn't be thrilled.
What else can be done to improve refereeing? Well, I'd like to see video-review expanded. Using the Phillips-covered-the-puck-in-the-crease example, why is that NOT a reviewable play? Spotting if a player actually puts their hand over the puck in the crease for a split-second is HARD in real-time. Why not add this to the list of video-reviewable plays? It's not like it's something that is happening every game, so slowing down the pace of the game shouldn't be a concern. And when the potential consequence of error in making this call results in a goal…well, it's a no-brainer to me.
I think the two referee system is a good idea that improved officiating…anyone else have more ideas for improvement?