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Game 3 Ref Being From Boston May Help Leafs

There was no question that Game 2 between Toronto and Boston in this first round suffered a torrent of questionable officiating. Down 1-0 in the series, Boston was intent on taking every edge they could get to tie the series up, and the refs didn’t seem inclined to actually draw the line until very late in the game.

It was at that point where Nazem Kadri was ejected for cross-checking Jake DeBrusk, in retaliation for one instance, but also probably in retaliation for a larger injustice throughout the game.

Looking toward Game 3, it is everyone’s prerogative to make sure this game doesn’t see the same fate. Some Toronto fans are worries, as it has been pointed out that one of the referees for tonight’s game, Chris Rooney, is from Boston.

At first glance, this appears to be writing on the wall that Game 3 will see even more injustices towards Toronto when it comes to officiating, due to referee homer-ism.

However, it’s probable that the exact opposite will occur.

Generally, referees make mistakes quite often in the game. Sometimes those makes are a result of innocent human error (not seeing the play), but other times those errors are a result of unconscious biases that the referee has.  This is especially true in important games like the playoffs, where the pressure goes up an order of magnitude with each passing game.

The bias that most commonly results in poor officiating is home ice bias. The referee is, due to human nature, afraid to anger the loud and passionate home crowd. This concept is explored in a number of references, including the book Scorecasting, by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Jacob Moskowitz, and this easier-to-digest version of the concept, a podcast episode from the show, Freakonomics.

With Rooney being a Bostonian, it’s likely that he’ll be conscious of the obvious concern, that the fans will think he’s being biased towards the Bruins. This could unconsciously lead to a bias against the Bruins, with the game tonight being in Toronto.

All in all, everyone is hoping for better officiating in tonight’s game, and I hope so as well, for both the safety of the players, and my own sanity.

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