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Frozen in Time

If there’s one thing a professional sports league simply can’t tolerate, it’s the appearance if impropriety.  When situations arise that cause people to question your credibility, an appropriate response is required in order to maintain that credibility.

In that regard, the NHL has badly mishandled the mysterious clock stoppage in Los Angeles that led to a Kings victory over Columbus on Wednesday night.

Not surprisingly, Columbus general manager Scott Howson called the league out on the carpet after the game:

“It is an amazing coincidence that with the Kings on a power play at Staples Center and with a mad scramble around our net in the dying seconds of the third period of a 2-2 hockey game that the clock stopped for at least one full second.  I can only think of two ways in which this would have happened. Either there was a deliberate stopping of the clock or the clock malfunctioned.”

It’s awfully difficult, if not impossible, to argue Howson’s point.  Kings general manager Dean Lombardi made a gallant effort, saying the game clock paused because it was compensating for lost time.  It’s a remarkable explanation, and a stretch, to say the least. 

Something tells me Lombardi wouldn’t be heralding the so-called “recalibration” of modern day game clocks if his Kings were the victims of a similar injustice.  In reality, Lombardi has no earthly idea why the clock stopped prior to the Doughty goal, and he shouldn’t be trying to explain why it happened before the facts are known. 

Gary Bettman says the league is investigating the matter.  That’s fine and dandy, but regardless of whether it was caused by human error or an electronic malfunction, the fact is the outcome of an NHL game was impacted by a clock stoppage.  The evidence is crystal clear. 

Colin Campbell claims nothing can be done to change the outcome of Wednesday’s game.  Fair enough.  But in light of the extenuating circumstances, not to mention the obvious implications the game has on the Western Conference playoff race, Campbell’s response doesn’t suffice. 

The league would be better suited to replay the game in its entirety, with the winning team getting an extra point in the standings.  It’d be an unprecedented decision, but it’s the only way for the NHL to maintain its competitive integrity.  It makes no sense for league officials to admit something went horribly wrong and then just throw up their hands and say nothing can be done to rectify the situation.  Such a response reeks of unseemliness.

Some people will say it’s utterly impractical to replay the game.  It’s a valid argument.  An alternative solution would involve allowing Columbus and Los Angeles to play a single overtime period before or after their next meeting this season.  Doing so would not only pacify Scott Howson, but it would help eliminate any lingering doubts about the league’s credibility.

Or would it?  In recent years, the NHL has done a putrid job of addressing critical issues that place the league’s objectivity in question.  Most notably, the fact that Colin Campbell remains employed even though he’s been known to berate and intimidate referees for calling penalties on his son is an embarrassing black eye for the league, and it provides quite a bit of fodder for conspiracy theorists.

Somehow, the league has been able to weather that storm.  But Mother Nature’s a nasty creature sometimes, and when one storm subsides, another one often develops.  In the case of the mysterious clock stoppage, the NHL is making a serious mistake by failing to address the matter appropriately.  The league has chosen to ignore the major implications of the timing error, both in the standings and in the minds of its fans.

There is no perfect solution.  But to not respond is absolutely unacceptable.  Indeed, mistakes are a part of pro sports, particularly those made by officials.  But to allow a clock stoppage, not a subjective penalty call, to effect the outcome of an NHL game is something straight out of the Vince McMahon playbook.  The league is obligated to do everything possible to ensure the outcome of its games aren’t tainted. 


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HockeyFanOhio's avatar

The league would be better suited to replay the game in its entirety, with the winning team getting an extra point in the standings.

One of the dumbest ideas every.  That said, the league needs to seriously address this issue.  I understand that in sports human error sometimes affects the outcome of the game.  A blown calls by the officials are something the players have to adjust/react to all the time.  But whether human error or a mechanical problem it needs to be fixed.  If human the person needs fired, if mechanical the clock should be fixed and every other clock checked for similar problems.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/03/12 at 05:25 PM ET


Reminds me of a few years back when the Leafs were playing the Habs and it went to a shootout at the Bell Centre. The zamboni’s “accidentally” missed the large runway leading up to the Habs goal. Everyone thought it was a joke, but I didn’t. They were not penalized at all (I honestly can’t remember if the Leafs won or not). The point is, it definitely does have a huge ripple affect throughout the league, one or 2 points either way. Whether it be a playoff position or a draft position, and the millions of dollars in ramifications for these clubs, not to mention the integrity of the game, it is unacceptable in the literally billions dollars in the leagues hands.

Posted by Budzz from Oshawa, Ontario on 02/03/12 at 08:19 PM ET

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.