When you get down to it, the “make-up call” can be a divisive subject in the hockey world.
Fans at arenas practically expect a bad call against the home team to be patched up by a marginal penalty against the road squad later on. Then again, there are just as many people who despise the idea. After all, do two wrongs make a right?
Obviously, there’s nothing in the NHL’s rules that would indicate that the practice is encouraged. But much like the incorrect calls that prompt the instinct to even things up, human nature is the biggest culprit in that process.
That’s something former official Kerry Fraser admits in his latest column for TSN. Fraser doesn’t really give an estimate about how often “make-up calls” take place, but by admitting that he’s made a few of his own, he’s acknowledging the obvious truth.
Naturally, it’s not safe for officials to admit that they made a mistake in the heat of the action. Doing so would embolden already angry fans until things got ugly. Still, it’s refreshing to see an official be honest about the subject, even if it’s after the fact.
The most interesting tidbit isn’t really about “make-up calls” alone, but instead revolves around an experience Fraser had with legendary New York Islanders coach Al Arbour.
In 1983, I worked a game in Chicago Stadium between the New York Islanders dynasty team coached by the legendary, Al Arbour. Discipline was the trademark of those Arbour-coached teams. Al seldom raised his voice. When he did, I knew I screwed up. Ten minutes into this game, I had given the normally disciplined Islanders four penalties. It wasn’t that they were playing poorly; it was just that I was that awful.
The fourth penalty put the Islanders two men short and Al stood in the open door of his players’ bench with his hand on his hips while I waited in the end zone for him to place three players on the ice. His icy glare drew a bead on me as he waived his arm at me and yelled, “Kerry, get over here!”
I had such respect for Al, I skated over upon his command and stood before him like a school kid in front of the principal. Al said, “Kerry, what the hell are you doing out here tonight?” With my eyes focused on my skates beneath me I replied, “I don’t know Al. I’m really struggling and don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Finally, I raised my eyes to see this coaching icon scratching his head and staring back at me. He pressed his lips together and said, “Well get the hell out there and try harder.” Like a little kid that was scolded by his father I responded, “Okay, Al, I’ll do my best.”
Fans are quick to lambaste officials for making calls they aren’t happy about (and are almost as prone to hatch conspiracy theories), but referees and linesmen have a tough job. The speed and ever-changing angles (and obstructed views) of the sport make it one of the most difficult games to officiate. Throw in angry fans, coaches and players and things get that much more complicated.
If Fraser’s column is any indication, when they make a mistake, they know it. It’s undeniable that many of them choose to make up for that mistake with another one, though.