My younger son's team recently played in game three of a playoff series where his team received about 40 minutes of penalties. The opposing team received about 12 minutes. This was excessive compared to the previous two games where about 8 minutes in penalties were handed out. While there were obvious infractions, neither team's style of play warranted being short handed most of the game.
Some refs can really make a game exciting and others somehow find themselves in the spotlight. Fans will use the terms "the ref is letting them play" or "looks like the ref has put away their whistle" as a way to express their satisfaction about how the game is going. I personally like the unofficial two whistles around the goal crease. The first signifies the stoppage of play and about 5 seconds later a second serves as a warning to the players to clear the area. This minimizes the amount of pushing, shoving and roughing around the net after the play is dead. I've even seen some refs tell coaches how they will call the game and if they need clarification on a call to nicely ask them over to the bench. After a game, while fans are leaving the stands, I'll often glance at the players leaving the ice and occasionally pick out players shaking hands with the refs regardless of the outcome of the game.
Officiating is one of many variables in a game.
A puck hitting a goal post, the height of the glass, the condition of the ice, the puck bounce off the boards or a player losing an edge on a breakaway are also variables that affect how the game will end.
Hockey is a game of respect.
Officiating is not an easy job to begin with and hockey culture allows one to chirp the refs. Sometimes that heckling can get out of hand. It took me awhile to learn that refs really don't control the outcome of the game and my amount of verbal opinions reduced greatly.
Hockey has many roles to keep it working. Coaches, players, parents, refs and fans need to know when they are stepping over the respect boundaries of each other and the game itself.