Make no mistake, they are a team. Just like the other two teams in front of the fans. The only difference? Referees are the decisions makers. Anybody's whose job it is to make decisions that will ultimately affect a large group of people know that it can be stressful at times.
A blog posted today on the CLax web site titled Referees are people too was another in a long list of essays about the referee dilema of having the most disrespected job on earth other than Rob Ford's. It's true, they take a lot of verbal abuse at times and the common opinion is they act like they just don't care about a missed call, an injured player or the game itself.
As a photographer, I've had the opportunity to share space with the referees during games. I am a fly on the wall as they say. I go about my business as they do theirs. I hear them discuss the game plan before games and after each period. I hear them dissect their performance. They critique themselves on what they didn't do right and discuss how they're going to correct it. It is precisely what the other two teams do in their own rooms. When it's time to get out there, they pat each other on the back, say a few words of encouragement and set out to give the fans the best game they can, because they DO care. Good job guys!