FanPost

Are These Refs at Least Going to Buy us Dinner?


They should, with the amount they're screwing us. And I'm not just talking the hit the drive-through at McDonalds on the way to our place kind of buying us dinner, and a Cinnabon at the airport certainly won't suffice. No. At this point we have earned something better - I think I'll order the lobster.

It seems like far too often, these guys come from Toronto, walk up the Penn Station steps, and just give us the business. And you know what? I'm sick of it.

I know this was well-covered in the Game Notes that were published this morning, but I'd like to delve a little deeper and start a conversation a little more about the refereeing and the offices in Toronto as they especially pertain to Dubi's game misconduct. I apologize for my lengthy writing, but I'd like to use a lot of space here to pull out every possible place where the referees got it wrong on the Dubi call to enhance our understanding of what we already know is total BS. To my count there are about six places where the game's governance screwed up royally, some of which are easy to overlook - but somebody needs to give these guys hell, because what they did yesterday is a god damn shame to the sport. Six points, any one of which should have voided the ref's calls, were ignored by the refs themselves, and by the people in Toronto. That is a dumbfounding amount of error by numerous officials. The NHL's rules, and even any base understanding of hockey and an appreciation and respect for the game's logistics and spirit, show just how wrong these refs got it. Such unfairness, illogicality, and hypocrisy simply cannot be tolerated in the NHL. This problem deserves the attention and space which I am about to give it.

Did Boyle deserve some retaliation after the noogies he gave to Erik Karlsson in Game 1? Yeah, probably. I would argue that Ottowa got the short end of the stick on that one, as one of their best players got taken off the ice despite what could be fairly argued as a cheap shot from Brian Boyle - but was the Senators' retaliation just? Was the call on Brandon Dubinsky a grossly overextended move in the direction of justice? Or are these refs just as dumb as their performance suggests?

Hell no the Senators' retaliation wasn't just. It was appalling, and honestly, I had a hard time watching it. Boyle's noogie punches were never destined to do more than to merely cause minor pain - at least in comparison to what these body pounding, shot blocking NHL athletes would consider harmful. But Matt Carkner's attack on Boyle? Are you kidding me?! He backed Boyle's face away from him with some noogies and shoves, gripping Boyle's collar with his left hand, but unlike Boyle in Game 1, Carkner employed these punches to make space for two huge, bare-knuckled right cross haymakers to the defenseless, still shocked and unsuspecting face of Brian Boyle. It was a vicious, unconsensual, and uncontested attack with intent to harm, and it did not end until someone had the sack to subdue the aggressor.

1) The refs stopped play, but did not subdue the aggressor

Subduing an aggressor - this sounds like the job for a referee! Right!? Wrong. Watch the video again if you have to here:

The linesman, first of all, sees the whole show. He's right in front of Carkner and Boyle, and I believe it's him who blows the whistle well before the arrival of Brandon Dubinsky. So why, then, does he make no effort to stop the mugging that he saw develop and take full brutal form? Maybe it was too risky of a move for a ref to make - to try to get a hold of an angry, still swinging Matt Carkner. I certainly would not want to undertake that task either, so without a doubt these referees would be relieved to see a player like Dubi approach and subdue the aggressor cleanly - without throwing punches or crosschecks - am I right?

2) The refs did not use their "discretion" in exercising the "Third man in" rule

I was wrong. Somehow, after a linesman sees literally everything, after all of the referees converge and discuss, and after the headquarters in Toronto is consulted, the final decision is to boot Dubinsky for being the third man into an altercation. "The third man into an altercation?" Is that Canadian for "The first man to stop a player from being beaten defenselessly into the ice?" Maybe. I guess I have to brush up on my linguistics.

I love the grittiness of hockey. I love the fighting in hockey when it's agreed upon and done well. I love the passion of the players in hockey that motivates teammates to put themselves on the line for each other. That's why this jumping didn't really surprise me. They added Carkner to the Game 2 lineup and started him for a reason. I'm not excusing Carkner here because he definitely went overboard, but what is inexcusable is the judgment call made by these refs.

That's exactly what the "Third man in" rule boils down to: judgement. The rule is spelled out in the 2011-12 Official NHL Rulebook under Section 6 Rule 46.16: "Third Man In - A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress." So clearly, "at the discretion of the referee" shows that if the refs saw when Boyle was being pounded into the ice as a necessary moment for Dubinsky to jump in on what cannot simply be deemed an "altercation," then they could have stayed within the Rulebook and not disciplined Dubinsky for preventing a beating that could have easily result in injury (if it had not already, as Dubi saw it) if allowed to continue. I think any level-headed sports fan, or any level-headed person with a good sense of judgement (which the referees are paid to be), would argue that this was a more than necessary time for a subduing third-party intervention - as the third party would end the irresponsible, malicious, and illegal behavior of a player, as well as the possibility of injury - or further injury, as no one knew if Boyle was really hurt yet. If these refs are not looking out first and foremost for the safety of the players who they are "officiating," then what the hell are they looking out for?

3) The refs deemed the Boyle/Carkner incident not as a one-sided ambush, but as an "altercation" between two players.

It is important, also, to define "altercation" as the NHL Rulebook has it in the same section, Rule 46.3: "a situation involving two players, with at least one to be penalized." The vagueness in the definition of "altercation" is to be noted - as clearly, every situation involving two players and a penalty on at least one of them should not be considered an altercation (which a dictionary actually tells us is "a noisy heated angry dispute"). The vagueness in the definition of "altercation" calls for the referees' judgement to decide what is right, fair, and safe - I think the language in the definition suggests dual participation in whatever "situation" the rule pertains to in its application. I certainly do not think that one man being ambushed and beaten defenselessly on the ground can be considered an altercation by any means.

4) The refs decided that Carkner's actions did not in any way merit a match penalty

I wish the poor judgement ended there, but it doesn't. The rules, although allowing the refs breathing room for making the call that they want to make, suggest further that Dubinsky's actions were justified. The "third man in" rule continues, after saying that a game misconduct should be given to the third man in an altercation as the ref sees fit, to say "except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation." This beckons the question - since a match penalty (outlined in Sec. 4, Rule 21.1) is defined as an action with the deliberate attempt to injure, could Carkner's actions merit a match penalty? Carkner's attack on Boyle wasn't an eye for an eye. He was appallingly excessive to the point that it is probably impossible to argue that he wasn't trying to injure Boyle. Otherwise he would have skated away after giving a few noogies, or at the very least at the moment when Boyle hit the ice. I still do not think that this should be a match penalty on Carkner due to how scarcely these are called, but the fact that it could qualify for one should definitely factor into the refs' "discretion."

5) The refs didn't even consider why an instance of match penalty should excuse Dubinsky, even if it is not explicitly called a match penalty - although they were responsible to since the rule calls for their discretion

Fine, maybe the refs would want to argue that Carkner's jumping was only retribution for Boyle's actions and the intent of injuring Boyle was absent his mind, but doesn't the fact that the match penalty addendum was added to the end of the rule after granting the refs room for judgement call the refs to contemplate instances in which it is not only okay, but far safer to allow a player to intervene in an altercation? Does the "match penalty" part of the "Third man in" rule probably exist to qualify an instance in which one player is in danger (the definition of a match penalty) as an excusable instance even if the penalty in the original altercation is not specifically called a match penalty? I definitely think so. These refs need to be held accountable.

6) The HQ in Toronto OK'd these horrible oversights.

Worst part is, this problem that occurred in the first minutes of Game 2 cannot simply be written off as poor reffing. The awful officiating certainly started with the ref's embarrassingly bad judgement, but then, as with all game misconducts, the call was reviewed in Toronto. Toronto - the league's headquarters. The place with countless monitors and great hockey minds. The place with the most apt people to make the correct call, working to promote the best possible, safest, and most fair level of play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs - Hockey's biggest annual stage. Yes, that Toronto reviewed exactly what I had just taken you through step by step and point by point (if you have been so patient to indulge me), and they screwed the pooch too. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?! This is an embarrassment and a huge problem that can't even be solved at the top, because Toronto backs up the illogicality and injustice that we have been seeing from refs with either quiet agreement or even more unfairness.

Also, as it is mentioned in the game summary which was published last night, the refs allowed a ton of pushing and shoving after whistles. How, if the NHL executives and refs wish to reduce nastiness, did they allow for so much post-whistle contact to go unpunished? These guys are livid when someone makes a dangerous or dirty play, but they water the roots of the problem by distancing themselves until the inevitable happens and people get thrown out. I just don't get it.

To sum it up: the refs - namely the near linesman who stopped play and was located right in front of this bogus "altercation" - neglected to step in themselves to stop a pummeling aggressor from possibly injuring one of our players. The refs decided that when Boyle was lying defenseless on the ground, it was, according to what is left as their judgement, an unruly time for Brandon Dubinsky to end the blows being rapidly thrown. The refs deemed this jumping not as a one-sided ambush, but as an altercation between two players. The refs finally deduced that what could have been an endless pummeling of Brian Boyle (for all we know, if Dubi had not intervened) was without the desire to injure, and therefore should not be a match penalty - and the even minor possibility of this malicious intent by Carkner should not be contemplated in what is left, in the end, explicitly to their "discretion."

That's the big thing: Discretion. If a rule calls for the refs' discretion, than they must exercise it, as I have done here, by analyzing every possible part of a situation. The way the refs probably see it, they can get excused on the basis of their discretion, but that is exactly what condemns them - as it does not suggest, but requires the officials to think through everything thoroughly, and to provide the most fair and unbiased outcome possible.

So we'll see what happens with Carkner and Dubi. We'll see what happens with Hagelin too (who, as our managing editor points out is less in the wrong than Shea Weber who only got fined). All we can do is wait and see and hope that the Rangers play hockey that is good enough to beat both our opponents and our referees.

And most importantly, we can't lose focus. Yeah, we were put to a disadvantage early and one of our better performer's in last year's Playoffs was unjustly pulled off the ice, but you have to keep in mind, as our managing editor also points out, that Ottowa played a great game. The Ottowa forecheck was relentless at times, and despite some bad breaks for us, we were generally outplayed. They forced some frantic play with how quickly they arrived to hit the puck carrier, and although their goals can be largely attributed to some luck and error on our part, they cannot be discredited for what was one hell of a game for them, and a rather lackluster one from us. Our team needs to focus on fixing that, and I am faithful that Tortorella will say the right things, and our boys will get it done.

BTW

What a job by Boyle to answer the Senators' abuse with two goals in what was a tremendous hockey game for him. I just wish he didn't fight Chris Neil. That was weak. Brian Boyle gives his opponent more hugs during a fight than the Mickey Mouse mascot at Disney World gives to smiling children and overweight moms during a day's work.

ADDENDUM

Since this article, the Game 2 fines and suspensions had been indiscriminately strewn out amongst the night's offenders and, as I both feared and anticipated, Carkner only got a game's suspension for his malicious attack, but Carl Hagelin, who, to this point had no fines or suspensions, received not one, not two, but THREE GAMES. For one hit that did not intend to injure (and I believe that on the basis of his character as I interpret him, as well as the fact that Karlsson is his national teammate). I wouldn't hate this if it wasn't three games, and if people who have done much worse get away with a much lesser penalty. Did I mention Shea Weber only got a fine for the shit he pulled? Unbelievable, NHL. Despicable.

Anyone want to respond about how we should give the people who officiate these games the benefit of the doubt? It's no coincidence that the refs are so awful when the people who train and pay them act so god damn irresponsibly.

To end on an optimistic note, this is a great time for Chris Kreider to come in and wow us. He could be the jolt of life that we may need in these playoffs.

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