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Rulebook, What Rulebook?

The Stanley Cup Playoffs started last week and fans everywhere had something to say about the officiating in the games. It seemed that referees were either calling every infraction, unfairly calling a game, or missing blatant penalties. So how much does the officiating affect the game? Plenty. Playoff hockey brings out the best in both teams so every lucky break, every good bounce counts.

New Jersey Devils v. Philadelphia Flyers
In game four there were 19 penalties called. 19 times when special teams would be important and the overall flow of the game was interrupted. A total of 62 PIM were incurred, including three ten minute game misconduct penalties against Carcillo, Letourneau-Leblond, and Clarkson. Whether or not you believe the calls to be fair, the excessive penalty calling has some fans begging for less calls.  

Pittsburgh Penguins v. Ottawa Senators
Is it because it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins or are the Ottawa Senators really just getting screwed? I’ve watched every single game and to be honest, the referees are calling as many penalties as they can on both sides. Sens fans were exceptionally upset after game four when Kunitz should have gotten a delay of game penalty but nothing was called. Afterwards Jordan Staal went on to score their seventh. Sens fans called the officiating one sided and unfair; yet they had no problem taking two goals off of power plays with a five on three man advantage. Then the calls were good, fair, and clean. It seems that the officials were calling what they saw, but simply did not see everything.

San Jose Sharks v. Colorado Avalanche
Game four was held in Denver and unlike the other series it was the lack of calls that had fans upset. Whereas other games they were calling every slight infraction, there were many unsportsmanlike plays that occurred without penalty in this series. The Sharks knocked out Matt Duchene on his way to the bench when the puck was in the Avalanche’s defensive zone and Duchene was no where near the puck. Then at the end of regulation Ryane Clowe decided to crash into Kyle Quincey after the horn knocking him into the boards. Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski tweeted. “Good for Clowe hitting Quincey for standing at the boards, waiting for OT. It ain’t the NBA.” Fans and pundits alike tweeted about the lack of calls in the game, Puck Daddy’s Greg then tweeted, “What’ll earn a power play in this OT? Steel chair? Cattle prod to the genitals? Pipe bomb exploding in crease?” The officials did a good job of ‘laissez-faire’ in letting them play and only calling major infractions. However, the Sharks got away with many less than savory hits that had fans wondering why there was such inconsistency across the league for officiating.

Vancouver Canucks v. Los Angeles Kings
The Canucks have been crying foul for the entire series. In game three Daniel Sedin‘s goal was disallowed because the NHL head honchos in Toronto ruled that the puck went in off of his skate which was seen in a ‘distinct kicking motion’ as his toe flicked and his blade left the ice. The Canucks would score within a few minutes without controversy but many think the NHL is conspiring to keep them out of the playoffs.

The officiating may be questionable, but do we, as fans need to make up our minds? As hockey fans we are the most passionate of the bunch, devoting ourselves to our teams nine months out of the year, spending inane amounts of money on tickets, gear, etc, but do we need to cement our expectations? It seems that if you are rooting for your team if something isn’t called there is injustice. If something is called against you there is injustice. If something isn’t called against the opposing team there is injustice. When did we become as biased and inconsistent as the referees officiating the games? The fact of the matter is that we are given different viewpoints from the comfort of our home (or even at the arena) than a referee who is on the ice. Goalies get screened for goals all the time, is it illogical to assume that referees may not be able to see every infraction that occurs? When that happens are we to assume that there is a huge conspiracy going down? No, where we should be placing the blame is on the players. IF they are not committing infractions they will not be called. IF they are not retaliating the other person will get called. IF they play their hardest the infractions will not win or lose the game. While penalties can swing momentum and provide that extra bounce they do not determine the outcome. It is very easy to blame the referees for not calling a penalty or overcalling a penalty but in the end, the team that rises to the occasion and learns to play within the judgement of rules that these referees are calling is the team that will advance. Sometimes talent isn’t enough, sometimes teams need to be smart too.

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