Up with Officiating
May 15th, 2004
Now nobody I know wants to see the referees decide
the outcome of a hockey game.
At least nobody I know who has an IQ greater
than anyone who threw garbage out onto the ice in the last minute of regulation
of game three. In other words anybody who is not an idiot.
And of those non-idiots not a single one of
them wants a referee to decide the outcome of a playoff game especially one that
involves the hometown Flames.
On a night when Calgary could have captured a
stranglehold three games to none lead in the Western Final it was the refereeing
or lack thereof that may have gone a long way to deciding the outcome of the
match; a 3-0 win for the visiting Sharks.
A fan could overlook the first period guffaw by
the men in stripes as Chris Simon was hauled down by his jersey on a strong
foray into the Sharks zone and then ironically called for doing the very same
thing at the end of a San Jose scrum at the opposite end of the ice just seconds
later. Nobody's perfect. Even the missed interference calls that marked the play
for much of the first two periods both for and against the men in red and black
could be swept under the rug and passed off as part of the game.
But when the game is on the line in the dying
minutes of the third period obvious penalties must be called. There is an
official NHL rulebook for a reason. To make sure both teams play the game on
equal footing, even-steven, without unfair advantage on either side; within the
rules. Calls like the tripping penalty (sorry, make that non-penalty as it was
not whistled down) as Craig Conroy wound up with a head of steam only to be
greeted by a bright teal outstretched leg before even exiting his own zone. This
did not happen in the corner, behind the net or any other somewhat crowded
can't-quite-see-the-play area of the ice. It happened in plain view, out in the
open for all 40,000 eyes in the arena to witness unfortunately not including
those belonging to of Mr. Marouelli or Mr. Watson. Even the owner of the leg in
question knew it was a penalty as the look of terror across his face exclaimed
after glancing frantically at the black and white bystanders sporting whistles.
Not since I lost a game Clue to my 12-year-old niece have I been more
astonished. As it was then Mr. Ricci, with the leg, in the Flames zone.
It is obvious that missed calls will happen
then, but the biggest crime at the scene was not a muted whistle or silent Sam…I
mean Dan. It was the actual creation and fabrication of an infraction. I scoured
through the pages of my rulebook and could not find the 'two minutes for getting
punched in the head minor' that Chris Clark took at 16:53 of the third as Scott
Thornton threw 3 solid rights into the side of his helmet as he hunched on all
fours in front of the Sharks crease. Clark had taken an extra swipe at the puck
in front of the net and connected solidly with Nabokov, but the play was not
dead and the puck not fully contained.
I am in no way trying to take anything away
from the excellent game that San Jose played or add anything to the game that
Calgary didn't play. It would be irresponsible and outright wrong to claim that
had these calls been made or not made in the case of the two minute punching bag
infraction, that the outcome of the game would have changed, that the Flames
would have won, or for that matter even scored a goal, that is not the point.
The point is that the men working the game, keeping the peace, enforcing the
rules and there to do just that and they didn't. The Sharks got away with one or
two major hockey illegalities that may have very well affected the outcome of an
extremely tight hard-fought hockey game. I understand the code in the league
that dictates the rules are slightly different in the last few minutes of a
third period, that marginal calls are not made. These were not marginal calls.
On my way home from work I can't redline my
sports package Gremlin and speed without disregard for the law just because I'm
only two minutes away from my driveway. I can't go into Safeway and steal my
groceries just because the store is almost closing. So why should one team be
able to blatantly break the rules at the end of a game with such importance and
not be penalized?
Nobody I know wants to see a game decided by
the refs and quite frankly neither does any referee I've ever know, but looking
at game three one can make a very strong case that the end result had
fingerprints all over it.
In the meantime, I'll be watching game four
from my holding cell - apparently you can't make off with a new mattress just
because the furniture store is going out of business either.