This letter is addressed to Mr. Steven Walkom, Director of Officiating of the National Hockey League.

Dear Mr Walkom:

Over the years, you come to expect an NHL official to make a few mistakes, miss a few calls or cost a team a game. In the case to veteran official Chris Lee, it has become abundantly clear to most Montreal Canadiens’ fans, and by extension the media and the organization, that some reorientation is in order to reaffirm the definition of ‘objectivity’ in officiating a hockey game.

At 1:04 of the first period, the Montreal Canadiens were called for a too many men on the ice penalty. Montreal defenceman Nathan Beaulieu played the puck at his bench as he got on the ice, and the whistle was immediately blown by Lee.

By definition, Rule 74.1 in the NHL Rule Book states:

  • If in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering the game or the player retiring from the ice surface plays the puck with his stick, skates or hands or who checks or makes any physical contact with an opposing player while either the player entering the game or the retiring player is actually on the ice, then the infraction of “too many men on the ice” will be called. 

That’s all well and good, except in this case, P.K. Subban was the player retiring to the bench, and was on said bench when Beaulieu played the puck.

Later, at the 14:18 mark of the same period, Canadiens’ defenseman Andrei Markov received a tripping penalty on Boston Bruins’ forward Colin Miller. Both players did make contact at the Canadiens’ blue line, but Miller fell too his knees a full three second after the contact was made. At no time did Markov extend a leg out or lunge with his stick to impede Miller in any way. It was the most blatant form of embellishment I have seen in over 40 years of watching the National Hockey League.

Then, there was the high sticking call made on Canadiens’ centre Torrey Mitchell at 4:36 of the second period. Mitchell was skating from the corner to the Bruins’ goal mouth area, where he was confronted by diminutive defenseman Torrey Krug. Both players were face to face, and it was Krug that was trying to initiate contact in front of the net. When Mitchell tried to push off Krug to get some separation, Krug went down like he had been shot atclose range…holding his abdomien.

And finally, making matters even worse, at 4:01 of the third period, Tomas Plekanec scored on a goal mouth scramble to seemingly tie the game, with Brendan Gallagher falling over him. After Bruins’ coach Claude Julien asked for his Coach’s Challenge, Lee took no less that 35 seconds to review the play, and came back to centre with a “no goal” announcement due to incidental contact.

Firstly, Gallagher entered the crease behind Bruins’ goalie Jonas Gustavasson. Then, as he tried to back out of the crease, Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara fell into him, forcing his weight onto Gallagher, causing the contact. Last time I looked, there’s nothing ‘incidental’ about that.

Hockey is a physical game. It’s a foregone conclusion that there will be contact, punishable or not, in almost every area of the ice. Calling justifiable penalties and calling back goals on incidental contact are expected. But when phantom calls are made, embellishment ignored and goals reversed when contact was by no means to fault of the ‘offending’ player and more because of reputation, I fear for the integrity of the game.

It’s the league’s responsibility to take action to correct this sub-standard level of officiating. And not by ‘punishing’ the officials in question by keeping them out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but by reorienting them on what correct calls and good goals are. The lack of clarity, and lack of objectivity in Lee’s case, mark the game in a way the league should never allow.

  • Pietro

    Wah, wah, wah. Every team gets bad calls against them, but only Montreal fans call for the dismissal of officials, police investigations, and other such nonsense when it goes against them. I never see you complain much when you get the benefit of calls though, and don’t try to pretend that you don’t get beneficial calls, because you do. Every one does. Just like they get bad ones. Grow up already.

    • Don777

      Regardless of who the call is against, bad officiating ruins a game.

      • Pietro

        You are correct. I couldn’t agree more. My beef is with the nature of the article itself. If the article had made mention of a questionable call or two made by this official against a team other than Montreal, such as the questionable call against Krejci with two minutes left, then it might actually be worth considering a journalistic endeavor. However, written as it is it is nothing but a oh-woe-is-me-I-am-being-persecuted piece of claptrap by another blinder laden Habs fan decrying a lack of objectivity by using a complete lack of objectivity. Crybaby reportage.

        • Boston45

          I personally hate the Canadians but if you call that last penalty on krejci questionable you need to get you head checked

          • Pietro

            Ok. So I am wrong about the Krejci penalty. Fine, put a good example in place of my bad one. It doesn’t change anything because it is really irrelevant to my point. My point is that this is trash writing because it lacks any hint if objectivity. If the writer really wants people to take his rallying cry against Lee seriously show some objectivity and cite examples that weren’t against his own team. Otherwise it’s just a homer whining about how hard done by his poor little team is. Sob….sob…

          • SVan

            Pietro: I agree with you. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Habs fan and I too think that Chris Lee is a bad referee, but how can I take something like this seriously? Hard to say that there is no bias from the writer. Throw in a couple examples of Chris Lee calling bad penaltys to other teams on a regular basis (in order to eliminate the occasionnal bad call that every ref makes) and then you’ll be talking seriously.

        • hab

          You’re joking, right? Krejci leveled Plekanec with that cross check. That wasn’t a love tap. Were you even watching the game?

          • Pietro

            Actually no. Trusted somebody elses judgment. My bad. Doesn’t alter the truth of my point though.

  • Jeff Bailey

    Chris Lee is a very bad ref lol whether he is reffing a Habs game or not…it’s been apparent for years now

  • Don777

    Even is the more egregious is when a player is charged with interference or hooking when in fact the other player is holding his stick under his arm.

  • hab

    Coach K is right about last night’s game with the exception of the Gallagher no goal. Gallagher was at no time trying to back out of the crease. He was held in there and not allowed to move by Chara, but he wasn’t really doing all that much to avoid contact with the goalie. That call was one that could have gone either way:true, Gallagher was held in by Chara, but had Gallagher not been in the blue paint in the first place, hovering over the goalie, there would have been no issue at all. And I am saying this as a die hard Montreal fan. But to Coach K’s point, this game was one of the worst officiated games I’ve ever seen. There was a slew foot not called, at least two high sticks, and a boarding missed (on both teams, not just Boston). And that’s in addition to what was mentioned in the article. I don’t know if the trouble was Lee, or the other ref, but hopefully Toronto takes a hard look at this game, and has a hard talk with these zebras, because they were atrocious last night.

  • Mark D

    I agree that these were bad calls, however if you want to be taken seriously, and not as another crazy Habs fan, you will need to provide equal proof of bad reffing by Lee in other games where the Habs were not playing.

  • Turbosloth

    2 years later and this pile of crap is still officiating in NHL Playoff games. Seems like Edmonton has lucked out because Game #1 vs San Jose we got Tim Peel. Game #2 Chris Lee…Fuck!

  • Dave Wayde

    Chris Lee is widely regarded as the worst NHL official today. Shocked he is still employed. Every time I see a game badly botched it always seems to be him at the helm.