Getty ImagesIt's like a wall of shame at local supermarkets, gas stations and liquor stores: a collection of bad checks and occasional mug shots near the cash register, alerting clerks not to fall for these charlatans again. (Especially when they use a $100 bill to pay for an $8 ice cream cake.)
The NHL has it own problem with counterfeiters: Divers and embellishers, drawing penalties with egregious overacting as on-ice officials remain trigger-shy in calling them out on it.
So at the NHL's rules summit in Toronto with NHL VP Colin Campbell, some players suggested a similar form of public shaming. Via Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
The players in the session, including Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles, led an impassioned discussion on enforcing the diving/embellishment rule (Rule 64.1), Campbell told NHL.com. He said the players want to distribute a list of divers around the League so it can be posted in all 30 dressing rooms and be delivered to the on-ice officials.
"They want to get [the list] out there," Campbell said. "They want the player to be caught, whether it's on the ice by the referee or by us on video. They are all tired of diving. The object is to make them stop eventually and, by doing that, they can get it out there around the League, embarrass them. The referees will know it, too, so the divers don't get the benefit of the doubt."
A few general reactions to this idea, with varying degrees of incredulity.
1. The players I've spoken to about diving swear on a stack of bibles (i.e. copies of Ken Dryden's "The Game") that they don't dive. Neither do their teammates. It's the other guys that do, of course. So it would be a hoot to see a document hanging in the dressing room that chronicles the habitual divers in that room. If only to see the new levels of creative vandalism that would be reached in that document's honor.
2. How does one get on the list? Who determines it? NHL referees that refuse to call diving? The NHL's rules enforcement execs that don't fine divers? The NHL players that won't narc on their own teammates?
3. How does one get off the list? A full season staying on his skates? Sworn testimony from opposing players? Is it like the No-Fly List where it takes an ACLU lawsuit to get your name removed?
4. Are we to believe that there isn't a list of divers and embellishers passed around from official to official, if not on paper than through some tribal referee folklore? We're two years removed from learning that Campbell himself would label players (or just Marc Savard) as a "little fake artist" to the head of NHL officiating. Does there need to be a stone tablet chiseled with Mike Ribeiro's name in order for referees not to give him "the benefit of the doubt?"
5. "Ah," you say, "but it's more about public shaming than the education of NHL officials." At the risk of turning this part of the post into a confusing outline for a college term paper, here are a few ways to publicly shame NHL players for diving and embellishment:
a. Calling a penalty for diving that negates a power play.
b. Altering the rules so that a dive negates the original penalty, thus putting the diver's team in a shorthanded situation.
c. Revamping the NHL.com stats pages to break down player infractions by type of penalty, so that "unsportsmanlike conduct — diving" can be better quantified.
d. Fining or suspending a player that dives habitually so they'll, like, stop doing it.
e. Developing Department of Player Safety-esque videos that shame the divers with lowlights of their embellishments. May we suggest "Hockey Night in Canada" host Ron MacLean? (Ask Alex Burrows).
6. Make embellishers play in full SCUBA gear. Yes, including the flippers.
As we mentioned on Wednesday, we're all for going after embellishment — especially the stick-and-glove-tossing nonsense that's happening on every love tap. We're also in favor of the NHL calling out these players for their embellishment.
So as Phoenix Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett said, it's nice to see the players enthusiastic about cracking down on diving — even if, at the end of the day, it'll take more than landing on Santa's Naughty List to change behavior.