Saturday, May 22, 2010

NHL adds Swedish Ref

NHL Resistance is Futile for Marcus Vinnerborg

I won't really comment too heavily on Vinnerborg himself, for a bit more on that, you can head over to Phil's Blog, Black and Blue and Gold.

What I do want to think about is what this means for the culture of the NHL, specifically its officiating.  You don't need to be a diehard hockey fan, or even more than a passing interest in ESPN to realize that the NHL might be the most inefficeintly and inconsistently policed league that doesn't contain officials that actually cheat (sorry NBA).

When you have

Clarke MacArthur



Alex Ovechkin


and Marian Hossa


get disciplined three different ways for what is essentially the same hit in the same season, something is wrong.  Now I know people are going to point out that MacArthur probably didn't intend to board Liam Reddox, and that Campbell missed significant time while Hamhuis didn't, but come on.  Irresponsible plays are exactly that.

It seems to me that the NHL has an almost maffia-esque bias when it comes to policing its athletes.  Certain stars are punished when others are not.  When the media starts to point this out, Colin Campbell can just ramble the words "repeat offender" until people leave him alone.

Furthermore the bias extends into the style of play.  Some referees will call the minor hooks (as they well should) while others will dismiss it as a "hockey play."  Defenders are getting more and more leeway holding up a guy dumping the puck in these days and it's ruining the game.  Interference is seldom called anymore when it should be (Mark Recchi), those are just more of those "hockey plays."

Of course, with the way the NHL treats its referees, we really have no idea what they're being told and how they're being held accountable (if at all) for poor officiating.  The new rules after the lockout dictated that the game be called a certain way, but at times it is abundantly clear that certain officials simply ignore that edict because their heads are still stuck in "old time hockey" mode.

If it wasn't obvious in the regular season that the older, more experienced refs are still stuck in 1994, it has beaten hockey fans upside the head in the playoffs this season as virtually nothing is being called.  Just watch a playoff game and count how many interference penalties don't get flagged.  I bet you can top twenty, and it's so horrendously obvious because the only officials in the playoffs are the more seasoned officials that continue to think the game should be called that way.  Dismiss them, every one of them.  If the older crowd can't wrap their heads around the way the game is played today, then send them packing.

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