It’s a REF Life in the Hockey World

Referees are always at the root of MANY sports debates, and that is ever true in the game of hockey that is the NHL. Every call made on the ice will be questioned and analyzed by the fans. The refs are the guys on the ice everyone loves to hate…especially when it comes to the controversial calls. Be honest some nights, you want to scream (or maybe you do!) at the TV due to a call that was made or a call that should have been made.

It is true that special teams are vital to a team’s success and penalties set the tone for the game and help to settle both sides into the rhythm. Sometimes in setting that tone, the penalties take a one sided nature & I’m not saying that as bias, I watch games for all 30 teams and I have seen this play out against all of them in one game or another.

The calls seem simple enough yes?

The calls seem simple enough yes? It is never as simple as it seems.

Some calls are obvious and easy to make and some fall in a grey area. Some calls that should made are completely missed. Some calls that should not be made are made and end up costing the game. Sometimes it is the right call and sometimes it is blatantly not the right call BUT more often than not it is not up for review.  Some calls seem like they wouldn’t have a big impact, but the truth is even an offside call or an icing call causes a stoppage in the play that halts the momentum for the game. Some calls lead to supplemental discipline and some that should lead to supplemental discipline go completely unnoticed.

The game is fast and constantly in motion [save for when the whistle blows!], and the certainty that we expect from the rules is thrown out the window when the refs arm goes up or does not go up. Some in-game decisions make us all shake our heads in disbelief..like this one from the 2013 playoff series featuring the Red Wings & the Blackhawks:

^That gaffe by the refs nearly cost Chicago the series. The hawks of course came back in OT and went on the win the Stanley Cup…but it could have been different had they not been able to get the OT goal thanks to the above call that was made by the refs.

There is of course also the calls or non-calls that involve players colliding and result in injuries. The most flabbergasting of all the calls and non-calls in recent history is the incredible amount of inconsistency within ONE game or from one game to the next. The same play will happen in two different games: both result in an injury but only results in a penalty and supplemental discipline. The questions begin: would the penalty have made any difference? Is the injury long-term? Was there an intent to injure the other player? Does the player in question have a disciplinary history? [Quick, stop me…I’m starting to sound like Brendan Shanahan!].

The question I have is will we ever see a level of consistency in the calls that involve a player being injured? If it’s called in one game it should be called in every game. If it results in supplemental discipline in one game, it should result in supplemental discipline every time.

No matter what the scoreboard says every single call will up for debate after every game. Some calls fans will happy with, some calls or calls that were missed will have fans livid. At the end of the day, 99% of the time the call on the ice stands regardless of fairness. There will be good calls made, calls that are missed, and the endlessly debated controversial game changing calls in all the games still to be played this year and in the years that will follow.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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Preseason Dramatics

Just when everyone thought the preseason was boring…the players decided to make this a very interesting one. There is still a week before the NHL season officially opens YET as the preseason has progressed, we have already seen a ridiculous amount of drama.

Dramatic Incidents & the suspensions handed out through September 23rd:

Sept.15th. LA Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes.

Incident: LA rookie Jordan Nolan hit Phoenix defenceman Rostislav Klesla with an open ice hit which resulted in Klesla being knocked unconscious. Klesla was taken off the ice on a stretcher and taken to hospital.

Result: Jordan Nolan was assessed 4 minutes of penalties immediately following the hit. As soon as he returned to the ice he was a target of all the Coyotes. Bissonnette left the bench in order to fight Nolan resulting in an automatic 10-game suspension. He will be eligible to return to the Coyotes lineup October 24th. As a result of his fight with Bissonnette, Nolan was given a 2-minute minor for embellishment and a 10-minute misconduct. Even though Nolan’s hit on Klesla resulted in a dangerous injury, according to Shannahan he did not break any NHL rules and would not be suspended. Best of luck to Klesla as he recovers!

September 21st Vancouver Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers

Incident: Dale Weise guilty as charged with making an illegal check to the head of Taylor Hall. Hall was not injured on the play BUT it is an extremely dangerous play to make in ANY game. An collision between Zack Kassian and Sam Gagner resulted in an accidental high stick to the face of Gagner. Not only did it result in the loss of a few teeth but also a broken jaw. I do not think Kassian had any intention to hurt Gagner but that doesn’t change the fact that it resulted in an injury. Best of luck to Gagner on a speedy recovery!(I may not be a fan of the Oilers, but you never want to see a player injured.)

Result: Dale Weise suspended the remainder of the preseason. Zack Kassian received a 4-minute double minor penalty on the play and suspended the remainder of the preseason and the first 5 games of the regular season. They will serve their respective suspensions and move on.

September 22nd Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres

Incident: Where to begin with the melee that ensued in this game?! A fight broke out between Toronto’s Jamie Devane and Buffalo’s Corey Tropp broke out that was quickly followed the incident between Buffalo’s John Scott and Toronto’s Phil Kessel. Rather than fight with Scott, Kessel took two chops at Scott with his stick and soon there was an all out brawl between the two teams. Even the goalies joined in the punching.

Result: David Clarkson was handed the automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the team bench on an illegal line change and joining the on-ice brawl. Kessel received a 3 game suspension through the rest of the preseason, and will eligible to play again opening night. Buffalo’s head coach Ron Rolston was fined for player selection and team conduct as result of the events that transpired in the third period. A total of 211 penalty minutes were divided between all the players involved.

I reiterate that it is PRESEASON and seems ridiculous to have had so many incidents take place BEFORE the regular season begins. That being said, the incidents have taken place and the punishments have been given whether fans agree with the decisions made by the league or vehemently disagree with the decisions that were made. It is safe to say that once again the NHL will once again be consistently inconsistent with suspensions handed out. It is also safe to say that whatever decisions are made throughout the year that not everyone will agree when suspensions are handed out. There will always be those who ask for harsher punishment and those who think the punishment given was too harsh. At the end of the day, whether we as fans agree with the decisions made doesn’t matter, what matters is how each team responds to that decision.

There are still a few days of preseason left, and with the way this preseason is going, anything could happen between now and next week’s regular season puck drop! We will have to wait see how these incidents affect these teams when they meet again in the regular season.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.