Hockey From The Blind Side; Officiating … Could I Do Better?

Let me first preface this by stating clearly that I am not knocking or bashing officials in any sport at all. As much as I am, for example, a hockey fan, I respect and admire the unsung job that the officials of the NHL do on a nightly basis. It is not an easy job as a referee or linesman, and I do not seek to disparage the job they do. I simply would not want to be in their shoes on any given night at all, and even if I could see, I doubt I could do as good a job as any of those guys do game in and game out.

The fact of the matter, however, is like the player of any sport, the officials can have a “bad game” as well. Unfortunately, just like the guys playing the sport, a “bad game” for an official can very much impact the results of a game. This does not happen often, but as a fan of any team, when it ends up hurting the team you are rooting for, well, it sticks out more clearly in your mind and brings up the anger meter quite a bit. You find yourself “remembering” those incidents even years later in some cases, especially if it occurs in the playoffs or in a championship game.

How many times have we seen a bad strike call or a runner being called out who was safe in baseball? How many times was a pass interference call missed or a touchdown call that should have been overlooked in football? How many times does a tripping call go ignored or a puck that had crossed the goal line initially waved off in hockey? Yes, perhaps these things don’t happen as a regular occurrence, but throughout a season, they do happen in any sport, and when they do, one team playing is usually NOT happy about it.

Officials are as human as the players, and, as I said, they can have an “off night” just like a goaltender or a forward or a defenseman can. It is the nature of the beast, and as much as replay can rectify some human error, no sport will ever be officiated with utter perfection. In many ways, as far as I am concerned, this is not necessarily a “bad thing” either. In fact, the “human factor” is what makes any sport “great” and this goes for the officials as much as the players in my humble opinion.

With that said, however, the call by the officials in the overtime of Saturday night’s Islanders verses Sharks game to give Islander defenseman, Travis Hamonic, a delay of game call for clearing the puck out of play was COMPLETELY blown. The puck clearly hit the glass before leaving play and, thus, should not have been deemed a delay of game penalty. This was indicated quite emphatically by both Howie Rose and Butch Goring, and was demonstrated by a very irate Islanders bench and coaching staff. It’s one thing when a single official misses a call, but when ALL of the officials do so on the same play, well, it’s plainly atrocious.

The Islanders, perhaps, played their best overall effort since beating the Rangers a few weeks ago and definitely controlled the play more than the Sharks did throughout most of the game. They also put 37 sharks on net, and had far more net front presence than I can remember in while.

Add to that the fact that Rick Dipietro, despite the Sharks scoring a power play goal less than a minute into the game, played impressively well and surely didn’t deserve to lose the game. It was DP’s first start of the season, and one cannot fault him for the 3 goals that San Jose got by him. Even with the game winner in OT, well, the Isles shouldn’t have been put into the position of having to kill off a penalty.

The Islanders got goals from John Tavares and Michael Grabner, but all of their lines played well. Blake Comeau, in particular, was a lot more visible and physical, and his line mates, Josh Bailey and Brian Rolston, also played well. Although the Isles only scored the two goals, they realistically could have had more, and they simply deserved a much better fate.

Now, being that I am blind, one might feel that I really shouldn’t comment on something that was a “visual” aspect of the game. In most cases, I prefer not to comment on a call or a play because I simply can’t “see” it. However, when the evidence is so overwhelming to support a specific position, I have no problem expressing my thoughts on that position. Thus, in this case, besides the television broadcast team openly questioning the call, everything I have subsequently read has only made me the more certain that the officials completely botched the call.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is the Islanders lost a chance to earn 2 points. These kinds of things cannot be taken back. It is frustrating and irritating as a fan, so I can hardly imagine how the players and coaching staff must feel. Particularly when the replay being shown on the screen demonstrated the nature of how badly the officials got it wrong it had to be even worse.

In the end, though, the Islanders must move on. The Jets come into town on Thursday, and the focus has to be turn don the next game. At least, they got a point out of the night, and, to me, that is better than losing both points.

Will Ricky get another start or will Jack Capuano decide to go back to Al Montoya? I would think that DP will get another shot between the pipes, as he certainly played well enough to earn a back to back start. Also, will we see Nino Neiderrieter makes his first appearance this season for the Islanders?

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