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Bet the NHL at Bodog
By UltimateCapper.com Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic
A tremendous NHL postseason was tarnished by the seminal game of the 2012 season, and it’s going to be tough to overcome the black mark imposed by the men wearing black and white.
Everyone will be writing today about the crowning of the Kings as Stanley Cup champions for the first time in their history. While I congratulate them on an impressive performance this postseason, you won’t find any more praise of LA’s hockey team. If you came here for that, I apologize. Instead, you’re about to get the cold hard truth about the NHL, one that no hockey fan has ever wanted to hear â or admit.
The NHL has become the NBA.
(I’ll give you a second to digest thatâ¦)
Yes, hockey has morphed into professional basketball, where rules are only called on an intermittent basis, more frequently against the road team, and always more often on those not considered “stars.” I’m not necessarily talking about the league perspective â disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan suspended both stars and role players alike this postseason for a series of hits that I wrote about during the first series. I’m speaking with regards to the calls that are made on the ice during a game, and it’s gotten to the point where no one wearing a black and white striped shirt is immune to the absolute boneheaded mistakes that have bled so quickly and frequently into the game.
I am a hockey lifer â I feel the need to disclose this to both backup my credentials and lend credence to my criticisms. I played the game at a rather high level for more than 20 years, starting at the age of 5, have now coached for five full seasons and, yes, I have even officiated games in the past as well. I understand the extreme difficulty and pressures that are placed on referees, and that’s just at a youth hockey game, so I can’t imagine what those doing it professionally at the ECHL, AHL, or NHL levels endure on a regular basis. Because I have refereed, I try desperately as a coach not to criticize the calls of the officials, but rather try to “play the game” in order to get the next call, focusing more on things like proper positioning and blatant safety issues instead of judgment calls like hooking and high sticking. But again, we’re talking high school-aged players and middle-aged referees who are mothers and fathers, 9-to-5 workers just earning some additional money and supporting a wonderful game. These are not professional referees.
The two men who refereed Monday night’s Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 are. And, to be quite blunt, they sucked.
The first rule of writing is “know thy audience.” Well, audience, if you wagered on the Devils on Monday, you got taken for a ride by two men who never touched a stick at any point during the entire game â and one linesman who laid a beautiful bodycheck on Anton Volchenkov. Amateur hockey fans â or, really, amateur sports fans â will say, “That 5-minute major didn’t matter, they still scored three more goals.” Let me please put that asinine comment to bed right now. Spotting any team at any level a 3-0 lead as a result of two hits that, according to the rule book, are exactly the same penalty is borderline insurmountable, yet that’s exactly what happened Monday night. Jordan Stoll of the Kings hit Stephen Gionta of the Devils from behind into the boards. No call. Steve Bernier of the Devils hit Rob Scuderi of the Kings from behind into the boards. Five-minute major. They are, according to the NHL rules written in a very large manuscript, the exact same penalty, and yet one was called and the other wasn’t. And that changed the entire game.
NBC’s announcers, Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire, continued to claim that Devils would get a questionable power play at some point, and it finally happened â but even that wasn’t done to benefit the Devils, as it was called with 16 seconds left in the second period, creating an overlapping power play that every coach at every level despises. Plus, the 5-minute major aside, every other call went the Kings way, too, including the linesman completely out of position on the fourth goal. Regardless of what Olczyk and McGuire say, the linesman’s job is to be on the boards. Yes, he’s part of the game and players are supposed to avoid all linesmen and referees, but the players also are supposed to be able to rely on them to be where they’re supposed to be, and in that case the linesman was supposed to be on the boards. Intentional? I’m sure it wasn’t, but it’s just another break that goes in the direction of the team that had already been gift wrapped a 3-0 lead.
There are plenty of points at which calls went one way or another for some inexplicable reason during this and every playoff series, but in every game the situation was almost exactly the same. The home team got the calls, the stars got the calls, and no one â players, coaches, fans, or even announcers in most cases â could ever figure out what was or was not a penalty from game to game or even period to period. It was frustrating to watch as a fan of hockey because it wasn’t the game that I grew up playing, watching, and loving. Yes, officials are going to make calls and miss calls â that’s part of the game. But when the table gets tilted so totally in one direction and then completely flips in the other direction at what seems to be the whims of the guys with the whistles, it makes me, for one, question whether or not there’s a hidden agenda.
And that makes me put the NHL on the same level as the NBA â and that is not a good thing.
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