NEW YORK – The NHL’s competition committee offered some frustrating news from its meeting during the Stanley Cup Final this week. Like no recommendation on coaches’ challenges. Or their timidity on goalie interference reviews. Or instead of eliminating the trapezoid, making it larger.
But one of the most positive, and potentially league-altering, developments from the committee was on diving and embellishment.
“We feel embellishment in the game is a real problem. We understand players try to draw penalties. We feel it’s out of control,” said NHL senior VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell.
Well, yes, it totally is. And sometimes it happens in games that don’t feature the Montreal Canadiens!
The current rules for diving and embellishment allow for the NHL to enact supplemental discipline against repeat offenders:
64.3 Fines and Suspensions - Regardless if a minor penalty for diving / embellishment is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players or goalkeepers who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline. The call on the ice by the Referee is totally independent of supplementary discipline.
The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.) See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.
This is all well and good, expect the NHL doesn’t really enforce it. Former referee Paul Stewart noted on his blog about James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins that Neal was whistled three times for diving but wasn’t suspended. “Supposedly, it was because the player had not been warned by the NHL after the first or second diving incidents this season,” wrote Stewart.
What the what?
So the NHL’s competition committee has discussed getting rid of the suspension component that isn’t used anyway, and just hitting players in the wallet.
“We discussed another approach at embellishment, similar to the rule that’s already in the rulebook, but there would not be a game suspension attached to that. There would be a warning and fines,” said Campbell.
Now, the really good news:
“We’ve talked about attaching that penalty for embellishment not only to the player but to the coach or the organization,” said Campbell.
We’ve long argued that best way to alter players’ behavior – whether it’s eradicating diving or hits to the head – is to act locally.
The minute coaches and general managers become fiscally responsible for their players’ actions is the minute they begin to better police those actions; or, in a big picture sense, stop throwing money at fourth-line thugs and cheap shot artists that are on speed dial for the Department of Player Safety.
It brings the impact home, perhaps even more so than a suspension would.
Of course, here’s the rub: While the competition committee and the NHLPA might be in favor of it, the change in supplemental punishment policy for embellishment needs to also be approved by the men who’ll suddenly be culpable for their players’ actions – the general mangers, who are meeting this week on the committee’s recommendations.
Which is obviously a rather big stumbling block.
But the NHL is on the right track here. At the end of the day, what coveys the message of what to do or not to do better to the players: a fine from the league, or a fine from the league and a sphincter-clenching meeting with a coach and GM that are suddenly a few grand lighter because of that player’s actions?