I'd like to preface my mini rant by saying the NHL is in general a very well refereed sport . The speed of the game is such that it is very difficult to see everything going on at every given moment, but the referees in the NHL tend to get things right more often than they get things wrong. But in the parts of two games I was able to see tonight, I saw two calls go very wrong.
The first instance relates in my opinion to player safety. While journalists and hockey lovers everywhere have been debating the inclusion/exclusion of fights and headshots, and while Bertuzzi's sucker punch has been pointed to as everything that is wrong with hockey, I'd like to talk about the forgotten (and the far more dangerous) hit from behind. I'm not going to say the rate of hits from behind is steadily increasing, I'm not gonna decry the 'diminishing state of player-player respect,' but what I will do is point out the obvious: hits from behind are not penalized as harshly or as often as they should be.
Case in point tonight; Columbus' Gilbert Brule on Andrew Ference in the second period. Ference has the puck, turns to protect it, Gilbert approaches Ference, sees numbers all the way, and blatantly and intentionally hits Ference into the boards from behind. Byron Ritchie sees this happen, and rushes in to retaliate Brule's actions. As this is happening, Ference gets up, and is instantly met with a crosscheck to the face from Jody Shelly, who then goes after Ritchie. Now I understand why Ritchie was forced to retaliate - you simply do not let the opposition hit your teammate from behind with impudence. I also understand why Shelley was forced to deal with Ritchie, because regardless of who's at fault, you always have to defend your teammate. What I don't understand is how Ritchie and Shelley ended up with penalties, but Brule didn't.
I predict someone is going to get very injured from a similar play, and what will the NHL do? Scapegoat the perpitrator and act as if they had no control in the matter. It's only a matter of time.
Next up is the call thats going to be heard around the leauge for the next few days. Having not seen the rest of the game live, I can't say how well Mick McGeough reffed the game. There was an obvious missed goalie interference call on Dallas' first goal, but in both referees defence, you can't call what you don't see, and maybe they just didn't see it.
Unfortunately, McGeough completely reversed this line of thinking on the Oilers' apparent trying effort with under 10 second to go in the game. He believed that on that fateful draw, in which Horcoff (who won another important draw about 10 seconds earlier) used his glove to pass the puck back to Stoll for the point shot. Viewing the game live, it was apparent this event did not take place. Viewing the replay, its was disasterously obvious this event did not take place. However, from his vantage point, Mick McGeough insisted the event took place. The call was non reversible, non replayable. That play single handidly cost the Oilers at least 1 point in the standings.
17,000 live fans, 23 players, 4 coaches and untold Oilers support staff were incensed, and so they should be. I did however enjoy MacTavish's post game anti-McGeough diatribe in which he described the pure insanity of the call, the spasticity of McGeough's movements upon making the call and basically called out McGeough's reffereeing integrity. I think the fine MacT receives from the League will be well worth it. Some other choice quotes:
"It was a retarded call," Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish snapped. "There is no other explanation for it. I know he is a veteran official and at times I have found his antics humorous. But if this is the product of that there is a problem.
I will also say I am impressed that patrons of Rexall refrained from pelting the ice with debris until after the game was done. Many patrons from arenas across the league would have done it immediately following the blown call (and I don't blame them).
For his part, McGeough is admitting fault.
"It was a blown call on my part," he said after the game. "It was poor judgment on my part. I thought he had his hand on the puck on the face-off but it was his stick. My judgment was poor on the play."
Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes, even referees. Sometimes its just part of the game. Still, expect Stephen Walkom to make a statement.
In final, I'd like to say that the announcers claimed Hemsky was the one who scored the waved off tying goal. In actuality it was scored by Ryan Smyth on one of the greatest leaping on the ground goals I have ever seen. I would expect nothing less from the man I refer to as Jesus on Skates.