Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Open Letter to the NHL

A few things to get out of the way before I really start ranting...

I'm not the conspiracy sort. I don't think Gary Bettman has it out for the Canucks or Canadian teams in general.

Also, I'll be happy to be the first to point out that teams can't afford to squander a game (or TWO) just in case the referees determine the results of a game (or two).

I'm not typically one to point at imbalanced refereeing and call foul.  Usually I accept that these things tend to equal out in the long run and that we as observers tend to cherry pick the officiating that supports the view from our side of hockey fandom.

All that in mind, regarding tonight's game between the Canucks and Blackhawks... WHAT THE FUCK!?!

Seriously.  What the fuck was that?

In any game I cry out "What? That should have been a penalty!" a dozen or so times.  I am not even going to bother with any of the stuff that I know was me simply picking my team's side of an 'iffy' 50/50 call.  There's no point - that is the stuff that I figure equals out in the end. 

There were seven separate instances in tonight's game - mostly in the 3rd and OT periods - that were all well beyond my level of tolerance, and two of them each on their own unequivocally make the difference in the game.... but I'll save those for last.

1) I was always of the belief that taking a stick to the face was just about automatically a high-sticking penalty.

...oh right... historically that doesn't count when it's against a Sedin twin.

2) When someone swings their stick downwards at another player's stick and breaks it in two... isn't that slashing?  Or does the Sedin exemption count for that too?

3) I'm guessing that somewhere between when Hodgson put the puck over the glass and when the Blackhawks did the same thing that the rules changed... or perhaps a Sedin was on the ice?

4) If you took tonight's hit on Bieksa and overlaid it with the hit on Seabrook from game three - they are the exact same hit.  I don't think that Torres should have been penalized, but give me a fucking break.  Of these four points this one is by far the most egrigious.  Be consistent at least!

All of the above seem pretty fucking obvious to me.  Each of those should have been a penalty in the Canucks' favour.  Would those power plays have resulted in game-changing goals?  Maybe.  Heck, the Canucks DID score on just shy of one quarter of their power plays in the regular season, so it's an even bet that there's another goal hiding in those bullshit calls.

What about the other three...

5) So, the 'Hawks ice the puck and have exhausted players on the ice and no time-out left.  Looks like a break for the Canucks!  Until some ass-hat decides that it's a perfectly good time for the snow-crew to hit the ice.  I don't know who makes the decisions about these things, but I'm guessing it has more to do with arena operations than NHL officiating.  I'm kinda figuring that the folks who run the United Centre are 'Hawks faithful.  You know, I always thought that when a fan causes a critical delay of game that it was a penalty for the benefiting team.  I admit I don't know quite how this is supposed to work, but the timing of the ice maintenance stinks.  Even the commentators on CBC were caught off-guard by it.  This just doesn't pass the sniff test.

And now the real juice.

6) The Frolik penalty shot.  Bieska didn't even touch him until he had already lost his footing, and even then he hardly touched him.  Penalty shot?  Really?  Let's look at how this one plays out... Frolik punches over his weight-class and scores the tying goal.  Without that goal, the game and series is over at the end of regulation.

7) The early whistle.  You know the one I mean.  The puck slips under Crawford's pads for a fraction of a second - a stick (a Sedin stick I believe) slips in and pokes it out as the whistle blows, the puck is slapped into the net reflexively before the whistle quits reverbing.  The whistle was absurdly fast and the rest of that play would have happened with or without the ref stopping play.  Without the whistle: goal - Canucks.  The 'Hawks don't score a fourth goal until the 16th minute of overtime... long after the game would have been over had it been 4-3 canucks after 60 minutes of play.

The Canucks were the better team through most of this game - and all but about one critical second of overtime.  I accept that there is some randomness, but that is a big part of why we play best of seven, to help filter it out.  But if the referees have to filter out their own biases - or whatever the fuck happened out there tonight - it makes a mockery of the sport.  The Canucks had better win game seven so I can just forget about this.

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