Zebras Not Earning Stripes


May 3, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; NHL referee Kevin Pollock (33) signals interference on Ottawa Senators forward

Matt Kassian

(not pictured) during the third period of game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Middletown, N. J.– I have played and coached enough hockey to see officiating at its best…..and also at its worst. Most of the time, I tend to shy away from the debate because at the end of the day, the assumption was that it tends to even itself out and in no way change the outcome of a game after the scoreboard reaches zero.

With that being said, through all the organized ice and roller hockey games to the street puck I used to play with my friends on Cranford Avenue in Staten Island, NY, what we have seen this postseason in the National Hockey League is beyond bizarre.

It makes one wonder aloud if the league somehow conferred during the lockout with the governing body of FIFA, who still have not figured a way to combat embellishments and outright diving when breezing past an opposing defender.

We are not asking the officials to be perfect, as there is a logical thought process that knows that is nearly impossible. But consistency would be welcome as the calls tend to vary not only from game to game but team to team.

Some of the more recent examples are pointed out below….

Eric Gryba being suspended two games for his hit on Lars Eller, when many, including myself, believe it to be a hockey-play gone bad. When an NFL receiver is crushed over the middle in similar fashion, it’s a great play by the defender in separating him from the ball. What makes the distinction in hockey any different? Does not look to be intentional, takes the proper lane to the puck, no interference, no obvious target to head.

PK Subban battling with a linesman to continue to whack away at pacifist Kyle Turris : Rene Bourque going WWE with an elbow on Cory Conacher. Josh Gorges shooting the puck intentionally at Turris at the end of the third period of a 6-1 scoreline in game three. Turris holding Carey Price’s stick right before Cory Conacher scores in game four. Illegal goals allowed, obvious icings going uncalled and setting face-offs in the wrong circle are all part of an entertaining but circus like Senators-Canadiens series.

Horrendous call on Daniel Sedin to end the Canucks season as they drop 4 straight to the San Jose Sharks.

Sidney Crosby’s famous dive in game three against the Islanders then Alex Ovechkin following that by dramatizing a high stick in such fashion you would have thought someone popped him with a BB gun from the upper deck. He didn’t even synchronize his acting with the stick tap to the chin. Penalties by the book? Sure. But if you are going to call by the book, why not give 2 minutes for the infraction, then 2 for the acting job?

Last night they even got that wrong, calling Colin McDonald of the Islanders for reacting normally to a hook in the neutral zone and evening up the play at 4 on 4.

Speaking of the Penguins, Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow pinning Matt Martin in the Pittsburgh bench right in front of the referee? Martin showed incredible restraint in not just clobbering Cooke at that moment but nobody can deny that is a textbook interference call. Jarome Iginla trip on Kyle Okposo as he heads towards the slot on a delayed penalty?

Morrow then proceeding to bash Casey Cizikas’ head into the ice with the ref staring right at it?

The punch line to this joke of which the league calls officiating reaches its peak when Kris Letang, earlier in the day nominated for the Norris Trophy, proceeds to cross-check a linesman at the end of game four. Clearly captured on video and pasted all over the mainstream media in the US and Canada this morning. Call it what you want, a cross check or a shove or a push : You just cannot touch the officials in that manner. Period.

I don’t know what the answer is, I really don’t. The league unwillingness to act on this has me puzzled, confused and frustrated at what lies ahead. Are we waiting for the Stanley Cup to be decided on an obvious egregious infraction? Fans to riot in the streets?

Maybe you can help me. Let us know what you think by commenting below (you can use a variety of different sign-in methods). It’s a hot topic debate at the moment in the league, so let’s get it going here at EyesOnIsles…..

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Stay tuned tonight for a special piece highlighting the story of the ‘Blue and Orange Army’: the raucous Islanders seventh man who rile up section 329 each home game.