Monday, January 02, 2006


Happy New Year - you're in 1st place

Interesting hockey game New Year's Eve. A lot of weird things happened, and then evened out. Calgary scores a 5-on-3 goal where the original penalty was highly dubious (Langkow's 1st, with JSmith then Moreau in the box), then later Edmonton scores a 5-on-3 goal where the original penalty was highly dubious (Stoll, with Ference then Mush in the box). Oilers score on an accidental deflection where the goalie had no chance (MAB), then the Flames score on an accidental deflection where the goalie had no chance (Huselius' GWG, obviously).

Excellent result, of course (it's good to be king...). Also interesting to note: Zorak's projected standings Sunday translate to at least three awesome 1st-round playoff matchups: Calgary v. Vancouver, Dallas v. Edmonton, Detroit v. Colorado, and Nashville v. LA.

However, I regret to report that for the third time in about a week, my enjoyment of a big Flames win was tempered by frustration at how the game was officiated. Please know a couple of things:
  1. I am not generally a complainer about referees (or anything, for that matter :) ). I believe that they're out there doing their job as best they can; a bad call rarely actually costs your team the game; and even on the occasions when they do, these things tend to even out in the long run.
  2. I support the calling of obstruction fouls and interference: I am not in favour of wrestling matches.
That said, there are too many penalties being called in the games I've watched recently. And don't tell me to be patient until the players adjust, because that is not the point I'm making. I'm saying that there are penalties being called that should not be penalties in NHL Hockey, which last time I checked, was played by Men, not 12-year-old girls.

For one, a penalty call should involve actual harm, and I don't mean that in the Ouch sense. If Robyn Regehr carries the puck out of the zone and makes a play with Shawn Horcoff's stick in his armpit, I don't see the value in calling a penalty on Horcoff.

Similarly, the word interference implies strongly that the "victim's" actions were somehow impeded or altered by the "offender". If the victim is able to take the identical action that he would have absent the interference, I don't see a value in calling a penalty.

I understand that the counterpoint to this is roughly the slippery slope argument: if the same thing (say, a couple of hooks while backchecking) is a penalty in some situations and not in others, then soon enough it will hardly ever be a penalty and the refs will "let too much go". Also, it penalizes the gutsier players in a sense, because they're the least likely to spin around and fall on a minor hook, whereas the sissies will do it every time.

I might be compelled by this, if there was anything resembling a "bright line" right now, but there isn't. The refs still use their discretion on (say) what is hooking and what isn't. When there is a bright line, you get the Canada-Norway WJC game, where if you touch someone with your stick, it's a penalty. And what was there, 45 minor penalties in that game?

I could ramble on a bit more here, but I won't bother. What I'm saying is this: certain aspects of the way the game is being officiated right now is discouraging, or trying to discourage, behaviour which should not be discouraged in a game played by men for the Ultimate Prize. And it's lessening my enjoyment of the game. I gather this reaction isn't widely shared, at least yet, but it's the way I feel.


I don't mind the hooking calls that much, but I despise when two guys are battling along the boards and one guy falls, resulting in a penalty.

Essentially, it is becoming impossible to be the stronger player on your feet or puck without getting a penalty called on you.

On the other hand, the new rules have really benefited BG over the last few weeks . . .

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