Toronto Maple Leafs Are Taking a New Approach with Referees

The Toronto Maple Leafs are – for yet another season- near the bottom of the NHL rankings in time spent on the power-play per game.

You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. It’s something the Toronto Maple Leafs have realized could help during their games.

The franchise has adopted a new strategy to assist them be more respectful and build stronger relationships with important participants in their games, the referees.

The Leafs have begun the practice of posting the names of each game’s officiating crew behind their bench. Unlike some other leagues, the NHL has their referees and linesmen wear a number on their back instead of a name bar. While this might reduce personalized taunting from unhappy crowds, it unfortunately, also makes learning officials’ names more difficult for players.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Referees

Mark Masters brought attention to the Leafs new strategy to help them identify referees by name when he posted a picture from behind their bench.

Captain John Tavares made it clear that the intent behind the action is to gain favor with the on-ice officials. Speaking to the media, he addressed the team’s intentions.

“You’ve just got to understand – but especially – it’s a very emotional game. You’re extremely invested and you know know, things can go either way sometimes. Obviously, you’re wanting calls to go in your benefit and they’re trying to do the best job they can as officials to manage the game correctly and make the right calls and make the right judgments that happen very fast, in fractions of a second. At times, you can get heated and just knowing someone’s name – it’s amazing what that can do to just gain that level of respect and trust and communication with the officials, which is really important.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t pioneers in this area. Other teams have been using this strategy for years. A Vancouver Canucks reporter, Jeff Paterson, posted a similar picture in 2016 after he found something interesting behind the visiting Ottawa Senators bench.

While it’s unclear what effect knowing the officials names had on the outcome of the contest, the Senators won that game 3-0.

Any help the Leafs can get from the referees, they need to take. We have previously documented the penalty anomaly that has plagued Auston Matthews. He does not receive nearly the number of calls that a player of his caliber should. Though it may seem small, by addressing the crew working the game by name, it could help build a relationship with those in charge of deciding when a penalty should or shouldn’t be called.

Additionally, the added respect also helps open the lines of communication between the team and officials. A referee would be less inclined to visit a bench and speak with a coach or take questions from players when they appear to be heated. The approach of speaking respectfully, may help everyone involved take a moment to humanize one another and allow the parties to engage in meaningful discussion.

With the Leafs preparing to enter the playoffs, they could use any extra available support, even if the best they get is a short conversation with a referee or linesman. It may just help the players settle down and refocus.

Let’s also not forget that being respectful and kind is reason enough to adopt the Leafs new method. Hockey can get ugly at times and finding some warmth within it, should be embraced by everyone involved.