Are NHL referees biased against the Canadiens, or just plain bad?
Unfortunately, I think both points aren’t mutually exclusive.
1) NHL refereeing is horrendous, from the top down, and also in terms of the ‘climate’ of the game, dictated by blowhards like Mike Milbury and Nick Kypreos.
Watching World Championship refereeing, where the initial culprit in a scrum received more punishment, instead of the no-punishment or offsetting penalties usually seen in the NHL, was instructive. A trip was a trip, an interference was an interference, etc. Very refreshing, and a stark contrast.
2) There is a functional bias that affects the way the Canadiens are treated by refs.
a) Lots of refs growing up loathed the Habs, and it’s hard to shake (I couldn’t referee a game involving the Bruins or Nordiques objectively).
b) Québec refs anxious to prove that they’re not biased for the Habs, call the game extra strict against us.
c) The Canadiens have been branded as divers and whiners by the media and the opposition, so the label has stuck, and Tomas and P.K. and Brendan get close scrutiny and no benefit of the doubt, while Brad Marchand gets away with marchand every game.
d) Colin Campbell, whose son plays for the Canadiens great rival, is still in power at NHL head offices, his hands on the levers of power.
Just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us.