Originally written on Puck Drunk Love  |  Last updated 1/23/13

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 17: Mike Ribeiro #63 and Karlis Skrastins #37 of the Dallas Stars against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on December 17, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
That didn't take long, did it?  Shortly after the Washington Capitals dropped their home opener by a score of 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets, newcomer Mike Ribeiro wasn't shy in making his feelings for the officials known. Ribeiro had just ended the game with a 10-minute misconduct and a 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was feeling chatty about how he thinks the officials are treating him and his teammates.  The year is young but fans, and now players, are quickly growing frustrated with the lack of clarity from NHL officials.  Check out what Ribeiro said following the loss, as reported by Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times.  Mike Ribeiro on officials: "They believe they're like above us or like more power, they feel power, I don't know." — Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) January 23, 2013   Ribeiro on refs: "I just feel like you're not allowed to talk to them anymore about situations that happens in a game." — Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) January 23, 2013   Fans, players and coaches alike have been quick to call out NHL officiating this season. Honestly, we can't blame them. The NHL is attempting to crack down on interference this year and as a result have been blowing the whistle on what seems to be a much more regular basis. While we didn't dive in and calculate just how many penalties have been called compared to this stage last season, we are confident that the calls this year have been debated much more heavily due to their nature.  Interference is being called on plays where players bump each other, even if it's inadvertent. This new problem adds to the existing problems that have plagued NHL officials for ages and it's starting to create some tension with the players and the officials on the ice.  Imagine if you're a player that just took a high stick to the face. The official missed it, leaving you with a bit of anger and probably a pretty sore face. On the following play, you bump your opponent with your body as you both skate to the puck. It was incidental contact that's expected in a hockey game. The officials arm goes up and suddenly you're sitting in the box. Outrageous, right?  Instead of fixing what was already broken, the NHL went and made things even more confusing for those playing and watching the game. The biggest criticism against NHL officiating has been the stunning lack of consistency. The new and improved (highly debatable) push to end interference has only made matters worse. Now it's completely unclear what is a penalty and what isn't. The slightest contact on a 50-50 puck might lead to two minutes while a more direct hit that impedes progress is not. Calling such minute contact in a contact sport is mind-numbingly off target.  Clean up and clarify the original rules we're all familiar with first. Then, and only then, tackle the subject of introducing new interpretations to old rules or introducing new rules to the book.  Unfortunately, according to Ribeiro, talking to the officials is a lost cause. This is an even more troubling issue but we're not positive if this is just the case in Ribeiro's experiences or just due to the specific officiating team that was on the ice.  Players should be allowed to have a line of communication with the officials, within reason. A player should be allowed to ask for clarity and explanations as they deserve to know what's fair and what's not fair in the eyes of the official. If this request is being denied, we might have a much more serious problem with NHL officiating than we previously thought. Of course, Ribeiro might have used some...colorful metaphors...when speaking with the officials, so take his comments with a grain of salt. We'll never know what was said in that conversation. At the very least, Ribeiro opens up the officiating debate early this season. Usually fans are able to stomach the officiating through the season's first week or two, but now that there's so much added pressure due to the shortened season we're seeing the officials called out early and often.  Let's hope the officiating improves before it gets worse.  Photo courtesy of CSN Washington [follow]
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