By Scott Kanold
If you’ve been watching hockey in the past month or so, read newspapers, blogs, listened to the radio, then you’ve heard all the talk of the NHL returning to the dead puck era – and era with clutching and grabbing and interferences – the rules were the same now as they were before the lockout and after the lockout, it hasn’t changed, but the ‘enforcement’ has changed. Now if only the NHL could take it’s head out of its ass and see what a ridiculous notion that is. What if the police just decided not to enforce murder or rape, depending on where and when these crimes are taking place? Sure the police may not enforce things like J-walking, or they may let a few minor offenses go like for example catching you drinking a beer on the street, usually they’ll just make you dump it, and not charge you with it. Why? Because all you’ll get is a fine, and they have to do a lot of paper work for it, and it really isn’t worth it to them when there are bigger infractions going on. Sadly the NHL doesn’t even work in that way. They choose to enforce… uhm I’m not sure what. Last night during the Canucks vs Canadiens game it was two ‘delay of game’ penalties. They’ll call those every time, every time. But being cross checked from behind head into the boards while they stand right in front of it, naw, we’ll let that go.
I used to get angry at the particular ref, but it’s not really their fault if there’s a mandate to call less penalties, and despite what the NHL would say, there has been, then it’s the NHL’s fault. If there wasn’t a mandate, you’d be getting more inconsistent versions of officiating, and right now, you’re getting consistency. At least in the fact that the ref’s have put away their whistles. That doesn’t come from 100 individuals deciding on their own, and it’s just a coincidence. No. Either the officials got together and decided to do it, or the NHL mandated it. I know they’d love for us to drink the kool aid and believe what they tell us, but facts are facts. We’re now seeing penalties called per game, lower than the dead puck era.
The ‘maybe’ this isn’t a mandate argument is that players and coaches have learned the new rules and figured out how to exploit it and thus the penalties and scoring are down. Really? After 5 years they figured it out in 2 months? Because that’s when this started. It’s not that. It’s an obvious mandate. A mandate that no other professional sports league would do. Why? Because a rule is a rule, not a guideline. You enforce it the same all the time. The NFL, NBA, MLB, FIFA all do the same thing. Sure there are individual ref’s who might think one play is pass interference and the other ref would let it go, that’s just a bad ref, and they don’t tell all their ref’s how to enforce it, other than, you know, enforce the rule book. It’s actually easier to run your league and it’s officiating by agreeing on a standard, and a rule book, and then enforce it as it’s written. You can see which ref’s are doing their job or not. Now, who knows, who knows what the ref’s have been told. And I’m sure the players are even more confused and concerned. Ref’s will call a head shot, but a cross check or a boarding or a trip, all equally as dangerous, are being let go? I wouldn’t be happy as a player. Hey NHL just to let you know, there’s a new CBA coming up, sure hope no one gets seriously injured by this type of officiating, it may be on the table.
There is no good reason to change what you are enforcing on a game. No good reason at all. You hear the answer that ref’s don’t want to dictate the outcome of a game, but by not enforcing it by the rules, then that’s what they’re doing. If a team is stupid enough to take 15 penalties in a row, as crappy as that sounds to watch, that’s what that team did and the deserve 15 penalties in a row and as many goals that come from that. If a team doesn’t learn, it loses, they lost because they were taking liberties or cheating. If you’ve ever seen the Raiders play in the NFL then they shoot themselves in the foot all the time with repeatedly being flagged, but you never ever ever hear of the officials putting their flags away, you know to even things out, or to manage the game. If your officials are managing games, thats the same as throwing games. There needs to be an investigation, because not calling penalties is cheating, it’s not letting the players decide the game, because unlike what the NHL understands, penalties are a part of the game.
Call a penalty a penalty, it’s not that hard. Or don’t call anything and get the ref’s out of there if all you want is a gladiator fight. Both would be more entertaining than what we’re seeing right now.