NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with media ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between Tampa Bay and Montreal to answer an assortment of questions about the NHL.
Among several topics were questions about the league's officiating. Much has been made regarding the difference in the way referees call playoff games as opposed to regular-season games, including the amount of calls officials let go in the playoffs that breed a more physical play style.
Bettman addressed this issue directly and couldn't have spoken more highly of NHL referees.
"It seems every season, it's a playoff ritual for me to address some aspect of officiating," Bettman said. "Let's be clear. Our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they're the best officials in any sport."
The playoffs have always been inherently more physical than the regular season. There are more hits, collisions into the boards and hectic play close to the net as you go later in the season.
Similar to fans across every major sport in the world, referees are under constant scrutiny for their misses. To Bettman, NHL refs have the hardest task and are still the best at what they do.
"Our officials have the hardest game to officiate, but no sport comes close to managing the speed and split-second reaction time required to make or not make hundreds of calls in real-time," Bettman said. "Yes, our officials miss calls. Not as many as some suggest, but they occasionally miss calls just as coaches and players make mistakes."
Connor McDavid not drawing a single penalty in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Jets and referees missing a too-many-men call in Game 2 of Islanders vs. Lightning highlighted these controversial playoffs for NHL officials. Bettman isn't happy about any missed call, but he noted that they come hand-in-hand with the human error aspect of the game.
"We don't like it when it happens, in fact, we hate it," Bettman said. "But it's the nature of the human element in calling our game. Even with the human element, we have been and will continue to be at the forefront of adding technology to assist in their efforts."