Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy was on 60 Minutes Sunday night, talking about how he gambled on basketball and how he was ultimately fired from his $300,000 a year job, his wife divorced him, he did eleven months in prison, and his world came crashing down. His winning average on these bets were around 80%, and he received a lousy $2000 for every bet he was successful at. The mob, of course, made millions from this guy, and a couple of them also ended up doing time.
But what he says about the goings-on in the NBA makes me wonder if something similar isn’t happening in the NHL. Not once have I ever accused the NHL of any sort of fixing or indiscretion, but when I heard what Donaghy had to say, I made me think a little, not about referees gambling, but about how they might affect the outcome of games.
Donaghy says NBA referees have a certain relationship with players, coachs, GM’s, and owners, and they will either help or screw over certain players if deemed necessary. Allen Iverson, for instance, incurred the wrath of the referees for things he’d said, and so in turn, the refs wouldn’t call fouls on him, or call curious fouls against him, either of which threw him off his game which would directly change the outcome. And Donaghy says the referee supervisors approved of the officials punishing Iverson.
The league would favour superstar Kobe Bryant because calls in the past against him had been missed, and so Bryant was often given special treatment by the officials.
The refs in general discuss among each other who they like and dislike and how they may band together to help or hurt different individuals. Donaghy also says the league wants playoff games to be extended as it means more money, and they also want the big-market teams to advance, not the small markets.
Do you think any of the above might pertain to the NHL? Do you think the referees let things slide when it comes to Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Maybe Ovechkin deserved more than a two-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit, but because he’s a marquee player whom fans buy tickets to see, he was given a minimal sentence. And he was hurt for the two games anyway, so the suspension was redundant.
Do you think a player like Sean Avery, who surely talks trash to not only opposing players but referees too, would be looked at closer than others, and some fouls against him are let go, and the slightest thing he does is called?
Do you think any of what Donaghy says about basketball might be happening in hockey, if the NHL approves certain things decided upon by the referees and whether they really do want the big markets to succeed more than smaller markets. Are marquee players treated with kid gloves? Are they doing and thinking what’s best for the sport?
Gary Bettman and the league would deny any of this ’till the cows come home. But if it happens in the NBA, certainly it could happen in the NHL.
I hardly think league brass are angels.