Monday, April 24, 2006


"Case of the Mondays", indeed..

Since I haven't quite gotten my thoughts together yet on the state of the Flames-Ducks series, I'll throw out a few notes on the broadcast and the officiating. [Loud disclaimer for the thickest of you: I'm not "blaming" the officiating, or the obstruction standards, or the CBC for that matter, for anything. This is discussion.] As it happens, there's a fair bit of crossover between the two items, namely:

**The Corpse still hasn't quite gotten their technical ship together. One glaring error is still that the out-of-town scoreboard is frequently stretched out horizontally, with the left half being cut off of the screen. More irritating to me yesterday, though, was their errors (at least two in the Flames game) in showing the actual infraction on penalty replays. I know it's tougher these days (see Al Trautwig's comments), but it's still fairly straightforward to watch when the ref's hand goes up, then check what he was watching at the time.

Fr'instance, Todd Fedoruk took a tripping penalty late in the 1st last night. He got tied up with a Flame (Phaneuf, I think) twice in succession. The first was (rightly) not a penalty, and the second was: a pretty by-the-book call. The CBC replayed the first tie-up, with Andy Murray commenting on "a pretty soft call". Well, yeah. They also replayed Vishnevski cracking Sandbox in the head, late in the 3rd, as the reason why Salei went off for tripping. Someone wasn't thinking too clearly.

I don't know about a backlash, and there's no consensus whatsoever, but we are definitely starting to hear some strong and unapologetic opinions from people who do not like what they are seeing. Jenna Holbrooke, co-hosting on the FAN960 this morning: "I hate it." -- quote/unquote. And Chris Selley had a good little bit yesterday, concluding like so:
...with every horseshit phantom tripping and hooking call, [the NHL is] abandoning the playoffs — the single greatest test in pro sports and the NHL's single greatest asset — to the exact same sort of randomness the shootout represents. It's nothing to celebrate.

**Andy Murray again: I'm still giving him a thumbs-up on the whole, and the chalk talk stuff is welcome relief from the same old cliches, but Hey -- right now, you're a broadcaster, not a coach!

In other words Andy, when you're commenting on penalty replays, I can see why a coach would say things like "the stick above the waist will draw a whistle more often than not", or, "you have to watch out for hands up in the head area": you're instructing your players how not to get called for penalties that they're not committing. But surely, in your role as colour-guy, you have a moment to point out that "hands up in the head area" is not actually a penalty. Phaneuf got called for Roughing in the 3rd last night where no question, it looked at full speed like he shoved or elbowed Corey Perry's head into the glass. On the replay though, it was equally clear that he didn't touch Perry's head, and Perry's head didn't touch the glass.

Those of us who are uncomfortable with the penalty parade are much happier being reminded that refs are fallible and the game is fast than being reminded that if it simply looks like a penalty, that's good enough. And even if Murray (and the rest of them) have been sternly warned not to criticize "the crackdown"--and I don't know that they have--it serves no one's interests to shrug off phantom calls as a consequence thereof.

**If I was going to pick one replay to show Here's What I Hope Doesn't Get Called in the Playoffs, it'd be Regehr's interference penalty on Selanne. The puck wasn't visible on the replay, and it might well have been an infraction strictly speaking, but yikes: it's two guys skating next to each other and bumping. This is still hockey, right? And I know my examples haven't reflected this, but the Ducks got whistled for some bogus calls too. Rob Niedermayer certainly didn't obstruct Leopold, and I don't even think he actually held his stick, but off he went. Vishnevski's hooking penalty in the 3rd was crap too, I thought.

**General complimentary note: Kelly Hrudey is terrific. He's probably better now than he's ever been. It's been years since I've made a point of catching the studio chatter on anyone's broadcast (in any sport!), but Hrudey has made me reschedule (and compress) my breaks from the TV. Well done, sir.

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