January 17, 2010
There were three situations involving referees on Saturday night in the NHL, with varying degrees of controversy and outrage. There's really only one place to begin, which is between the Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars, Steve Ott(notes), Jimmy Howard(notes) and the new inexplicable addition to the collection of calls in which Detroit gets jobbed by a zebra:
The shot at 1:48 of that clip from Fox Sports Net Detroit is about as definitive as you'll see in a goal controversy, both in the sense that it clearly shows Ott didn't score and that the two officials who claim he did obviously didn't have the vantage point of the official who claimed he did not.
Kukla had more on this controversy, and a ton of outrage from Wings fans in his comments. Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News collected quotes from Stars Coach Marc Crawford ("We got a call go our way tonight.") and Wings Coach Mike Babcock on the controversy:
"The video replay showed the puck didn't go in the net. I thought that's why we had video replay. The referee on the goal line called it, but then they determined I guess he was blocked out and the referee decided it went in the net. I don't know how a guy 20 feet away can make that decision when we have people in Toronto with video replay - that makes no sense to me whatsoever. But they've got to make the decision and they did. Disappointing."
The real disappointment is that in a week that saw the NHL put on a PR dog and pony show about its replay system -- after Fox Sports Pittsburgh suspended a producer who intentionally held back a replay of a Flyers goal from the NHL, the League invited a Philly columnist into the War Room for a behind the scenes feature -- here's another clear example of its inequity.
Inconclusive? Seriously? If that's the case, scrap the replay system until the technology gets to a place where an obvious save can be validated through the camera lens. Because these incidents are providing too much fodder for NHL bashers.
Oh, but officials weren't just a headache for Detroit on Saturday ...
You might already be on this, but there was a bit of a controversy in last night's Panthers/Lightning game if you're a Bolts fan. With 4:39 left in the 1st and the Lightning down 2-1, Malone was looking for a wrap around and probably would have put the puck in the net, but Vokoun threw his stick behind him which stopped the puck. You can see it happen from 1:10-1:20 in the Yahoo highlights video of the game. An unrelated roughing call was made on the play, but no penalty shot was awarded. You might recall the Lightning being involved in a stick throwing controversy last year when Mike Smith(notes) was ruled to have thrown his stick in a shootout.
No, seriously, watch this one. It's one of the more hilarious blown calls of the season:
The whistle you heard was for a penalty on Florida's Bryan McCabe(notes). The sight of Ryan Malone(notes) passionately arguing the blatant tossing of a goalie stick to prevent a goal to the referee's back is symbolic of current official/player relations, no?
For the record, this was a highlighted save on the NHL Web site.
The Problem With Zebras, Part 3: Ron MacLean had a long conversation with NHL VP Colin Campbell on Saturday night regarding the Alex Burrows(notes)/Stephane Auger situation from the past week. It was an indictment of Burrows, the likes of which hasn't been seen during this controversy:
"I think it's really quite unfair from your boy Ron MacLean to go after Alex the way he did tonight, and take the footage that he did tonight," he said on the CBC's After Hours program. "Ron MacLean should have had the footage of Auger and Burrows skating 31 seconds together prior to the game. That footage has never come out.
"You only see Auger and Burr talking to one another for about four seconds, but they did two full loops together and Stephane Auger and Alex Burrows agreed on everything that was said except for one thing."
MacLean is a certified referee with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, in case you couldn't tell when we said Auger "can't have said 'I'll getcha,' we'll all agree on that." Really, Ron? Because the NHL doesn't actually agree on that; it simply said that no one could corroborate the claim.
But to bring Burrows's "history" of on-ice incidents into this situation is, frankly, irresponsible for MacLean and CBC Sports.
Auger has been involved in, tangentially or primarily, a number of controversies during his NHL career as an official. (In the regular season; obviously, with 10 playoff games in 10 seasons, he hasn't had much time to make his mark there.) There could have been a segment just as long regarding Auger blowing calls or mysteriously chatting with players before the game.
Burrows spearing a player or taunting a goalie ... what the hell does that have to do with his allegedly fabricating a story about referee bias? Those are actions within a hockey game, not accusations afterwards. What MacLean and his producers did here is no different than when a goon runs afoul of the law, and some crime reporter digs up his penalty minutes as evidence that he's a rotten egg.
This situation was under the rug and dying on the vine for the NHL and the Canucks. For Campbell to be a party to this crucifixion of Burrows is deepening the black-eye for the League on this matter. It's a shame that it happened.