Here we go again.
In Ken Campbell’s blog Tuesday, our senior writer talked to Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations, about a couple of the new rules the league is adopting this season. Now, as I’ve already stated in this space, I’m not a big fan of the new icing rule being thrust upon us and I don’t imagine the NHL’s officials are either.
As a former minor hockey referee, I've had major concerns with some of the rule changes since the lockout in terms of how discretion is being taken out of the hands of on-ice officials. Too many calls are being inconsistently whistled down, not because the referees are doing a worse job than they were before the lockout, but because there is no standard to go by.
Is it hooking if a player’s stick taps the hip of another player with the puck? Or, does an offending player have to put the blade of his stick around the midsection of the other player, slowing him down?
I have zero tolerance for this zero tolerance.
And now this new rule will only put the refs under an even more magnified microscope lens.
"Any contact between opposing players while pursuing the puck on an icing must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not for eliminating the opponent from playing the puck. Unnecessary or dangerous contact could result in penalties being assessed to the offending player."
This is how the league’s new rule reads. It sounds simple enough, but if two guys are skating beside one another towards the end boards, are the officials really going to call it if the players’ skate blades nick? Or what if the players’ shoulders nudge, while they are frantically trying to pick up speed? They haven’t got to the puck yet, so technically they aren’t playing it yet.
These are the types of calls that will get blurred together. One ref might call it one night, while another sees it as too ticky-tack (and rightfully so) the next.
So when your team gets called for this one night, don’t blame the referees, blame the rule.
To take it one more ridiculous step further, when Murphy talked to Campbell, he said:
“The referees are going to bang these guys with two minutes until it stops, and if the player is hurt, even if it’s a minor cut, the guy is going to get banged with five minutes.”
Murphy went on to say even if there isn’t an injury, referees will have the discretion to call it as “checking from behind”.
That’s the only part of this rule I like, but I think the NHL is putting the emphasis on calling the wrong penalty.
How about this: Whether it’s incidental or not, whether they mean to or not, whether they think they are playing the puck or not and whether a guy gets injured or not…let’s have zero tolerance on, are you ready for it…checking from behind! Bang the players with minors, or majors for injuries, until the more serious hitting stops.
Lord knows, it’s more likely someone will be killed or paralyzed from a vicious check from behind than from a race to the puck on the end boards, or even from a fight.
But, I suppose serious injury or death has to actually happen before the NHL’s knee will jerk on this issue.
Rory Boylen is THN.com's web content specialist. His blog appears Tuesdays.
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