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For once, I agree with Sidney Crosby: the NHL’s lack of a standard of playoff officiating is dumb

This may be one of the few times a Red Wings fan agrees with Sidney Crosby. I know this isn't Red Wings-related per se, but I've been outspoken in my criticism of the lack of a standard of officiating--for any and all of the NHL's teams and playoff teams to have to operate within since the trade deadline--and I'm baffled by the amount of cheap shots, interference and plain old dangerous stuff that they're letting go on all sides, and it's my blog, and I'm allowed to write about whatever I feel needs to be said. So I'm going to do just that.

Aside from calling stick-on-hand penalties and worrying far too much about evening things up via make-ups for missed or messed-up calls (see: Walkom calls off Hjalmarsson goal, Bolland boarding infraction yields series-winner that counts in OT, and every NHL analyst from TSN to Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels agree that what Bolland did was a penalty but would never be called due to what transpired in regulation time), the refs are more or less "letting 'em play" to an extent that it's gotten downright silly.

During Saturday night's Penguins-Bruins game, the referees and linesmen stood around while more chirping than an aviary's worth of birds took place at the end of the second period, and it included hacks, whacks, slashes and eventually a fight between Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron of all people, as well as quite the stare-down and chirp-down between Crosby, Zdeno Chara and eventually Tuukka Rask, who Crosby got away with hacking before returning to the pile-up. What did the officials call? Offsetting minors for unsportsmanlike conduct to Rich Peverley and Chris Kunitz.

The Bruins roared to life in the third period, and that had Crosby wondering what the hell is legal and what's not after the game, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson noted (and you may snicker along at the opening paragraph if you are not a Crosby fan):

Crosby, rarely one to publicly criticize officiating, said the way referees Chris Rooney and Brad Watson called the game contributed to the overflow of emotion.

"It's tough," Crosby said. "They're letting a lot go out there, and the more it gets like that, the more it's going to escalate. You can only control and channel that stuff so much. You keep letting guys do that stuff, you're just going to push the envelope. That's something we obviously want to stay away from, but it's kind of a natural thing when it gets like that."

Asked if it was also a matter of the Bruins trying to get under the Penguins' skin, Crosby didn't back down.

"I don't think [so]," he said. "I think it was just hard to gauge. Interference calls [made] where you barely catch a guy, and then you're allowing punches to the head and extra stuff. It's hard to get a gauge as a player. Are we going to play, or are we going to call those little things once in a while? It's hard to get a temperature on the game when that stuff is going on. Then you let a few of those go and everything starts getting out of hand. We've just got to focus on playing."

Now there were no saints on Saturday night, only sinners, and that's been the case for every scrum that's gone on both between and after the whistles, both during the regular season and especially during the playoffs, and most of the time, anything goes, though every once in a while, the refs call some offsetting minors or picking one guy out of the pile and sending him to the penalty box.

Being the playoffs, when there is no standard of officiating or standard enforcement of rules, teams don't play on eggshells--they stamp on them--but the more and more they push the boundaries of what's legal and what's just ridiculously, stupidly dirty, the more it appears that officials who seemed to have a quota of five or six penalties to call per period during the first six weeks of the regular season have been instructed to stand by and watch.

Yes, this stuff is "part of hockey," and it tends to increase when teams are battling for their post-season lives and their chances of winning a Stanley Cup, but we've gotten to the point where games are being decided on make-up calls or penalties that aren't being called 2/3rds of the time, and there's so much chirping for so many extended periods of time that it almost appears that the NHL has instituted a mini-debate requirement for both teams during the course of each period of regulation time (perhaps the Bruins won by scoring more goals than the Penguins and winning a debate on the "pros" of Gerrymandering as a political tool).

Perhaps, for the second year in a row, we're going to be watching a Stanley Cup Final that resembles rugby on ice or a rodeo interspersed by meaningful group conversations than hockey, and quite frankly, while I understand that playoff teams have no obligation to entertain fans, it's Gord-awful hockey to watch...

And the fact that every NHL season begins with a, "No touching! No talking! No impure thoughts or menacing glares!" standard of officiating makes the referees and the NHL as a whole look like a bigger, brasher and less credible bunch of hypocrites because we all already know that, come playoff time, the only calls that will matter are the make-up calls on game-determining plays while 95% of what was called during the season's first week is deemed, as Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire have said in trademark-worthy fashion, "A GOOD NON-CALL."

That's just dumb, because we seem to have gotten to the point where the teams best-prepared to win the Stanley Cup are the ones who build one kind of roster for regular-season play and find a way to promote prospects and acquire players best-suited for an entirely different kind of postseason game--or, those teams that, like the Kings, muck and grind their way through most of the regular season to ensure that the team needs not worry about much other than making the playoffs and imposing Darryl Sutter's pre-lockout brand of chip-and-not-chase, check-you-to-death hockey upon its opponents.

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Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Admittedly, I was half watching the game while I was working on a laptop and formatting hard drives at the same time but, I got the gist of it all and found it quite entertaining. Boston gets a little rough and the next thing I see is Cooke hitting from behind and Cindy Crosby whining like the biotch that he is.

The score is a result of one team playing their game and being in complete control, while the other team comes completely unglued.

This is why the Red Wings need 2 or 3 more Abdelkaders in their lineup. If you can annoy and piss off the other team and completely take them off their game, it doesn’t matter who has how much talent. Undisciplined teams lose every time.

Is Crosby right about the inconsistencies ??  I’d have to say yes ... and also say that I’d like to see this kind of officiating all season long.  Swallow those whistles and let the boys play.  Things get rough and fights break out ??  Toss ‘em ... no big deal.  The trick is to get all refs on the same page.

I hope the rest of the series is just like game one ... lots of whining from Crosby and a Penguin loss ... hahahahaha

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 06/02/13 at 04:49 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

George, I guess the question is whether the NHLPA agrees with this, has said in public they want consistent officiating, or if they let the NHL do what it wants, whether because of supposedly better ratings or in the name of “tradition” (cue “Fiddler on the Roof” song)—or if the NHL powers that be don’t care what the players think on this. Maybe it’s to the point that the referees find it hard to change how they referee in the playoffs, but I doubt that. Even if all of the above agree in public, I don’t know how strong “tradition” would carry. Physical play is fine, just keep it clean. If the NHL wants the Bruins vs. the Kings as their Stanley Cup, and a similar scenario ends up next year, that says they’ll sacrifice even Sid the Kid for what they want their image/premier event to look like (and don’t get me wrong, I LIKE the Bruins in general). In advance of the counterarguments, I want balance in hockey. I don’t want 2-1 games all the time, but I don’t want All-Star Game 10-9 games either.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/02/13 at 04:55 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Regardless of whether the NHL decides to “let ‘em play” or whether they want to call the game tightly (and their decisions appear to be made without the input of the NHLPA), I want the NHL to be *consistent* from Game 1 of the regular season to game 1230 and beyond.

Instead, they’re manic-to-schizophrenic, if not sufferers of multiple personalitiy disorders, depending on your interpretations of the ailments. And that forces teams to do far more than adapt to the fact that referees are human beings who make mistakes. Instead, teams have to learn and re-learn how to play hockey on what seems like a weekly basis, depending on what the NHL’s decided to tell the referees to target for the week or month, and that isn’t right or fair for any team.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/02/13 at 05:18 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

who cares,  I won’t be watching any more playoffs till next season anyway.  Maybe by then they’ll have it fixed but I’m not holding my breath ... with Bettman in charge its all about ratings “nothing more” he doesn’t care about the players, the teams or us FANS
NHL and NBC are both pathetic.

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michgian on 06/02/13 at 09:44 AM ET

duhduhduh's avatar

Isn’t this hockey’s version of the oldest profession?  I mean I can’t remember a playoff season when the players weren’t frustrated because the refereeing was tough to gauge. But I don’t completely buy Syds argument that the refs are allowing the game to get out of hand. I should say its not just his argument, but that of many before him. Someone still has to choose to retaliate or escalate.

Posted by duhduhduh on 06/02/13 at 10:22 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Love hearing the NHL’s poster boy rip the NHL refs. bettman and his cronies have to be fuming right now. Maybe they call him and tell him he’s no longer their face of the game give it to twitter sensation and Coyotes goon Biz Nasty, lol.
Imagine if Crosby would of bumped Belfour, Hextall or Billy Smith back in the day instead of Rask, haha. He would of been picking up his chicklets off the ice.
With any luck he’ll take on Lucic next

cool grin

Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 06/02/13 at 10:41 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

NHL officiating is terrible


Crying Crosby cries.  A lot.

who knew?

Posted by Hootinani on 06/02/13 at 11:15 AM ET


I want the NHL to be *consistent* from Game 1 of the regular season to game 1230 and beyond.

I agree with this. There have been games during the playoffs where teams can hook, hold, slash and mug the other teams without any calls. Then there are games where they call petty BS, but let serious crap go.  Whenever they try and clamp down on obstruction, the neanderthal’s come unhinged, so they let things go. Then players like Torres and Cooke decapitate someone and the world comes unglued. I would love if they could get rid of the obstruction and trap game, scores should average in about 4-3. Headhunters should be banned for life. How you get there is the hard part.

Posted by timbits on 06/02/13 at 12:23 PM ET


It’s been about 8 years now, and the league still has no idea how their game should be officiated.

The rules changes from the 04 lockout have introduced a constant state of flux into the ref and linesmen’s minds. They all have their own interpretation of how things should be called and when they should be called, and the NHL has made no effort to revise their initial rule changes since that year.

I honestly think officiating is one of the main things holding back the NHL’s product from being as good as it can be. Even clarifying things like when a hit to the head is dirty is still needed. They’ve made steps in the right direction…but not enough.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 06/02/13 at 02:18 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

The league has painted itself into a corner with the concerted effort to crack down on so called hooking, holding, and interference. The officials are now so damned concerned with someone knocking a stick out of another players hands , that if all the real infractions were called as they should be, the games would be 4 hours long. Since the crackdown on holding has taken place, I’ve never seen so much cross checking.

In the old days the Flyers used to goon it up knowing full well that the officials would not be able to call every elbow,slash,punch,cross-check. It worked, and the Flyers were successful.

I would much rather see the silly level of hooking, interference penalties go back to the old standard, see a real crackdown on charging!!! When was the last time someone was whistled for charging???

Congratulations Gary, the game is faster than ever. However, might I suggest renaming the game ” Roller Ball”, because that seems to be the strategy Dejour. The kings seem to have perfected this style.

Posted by Down River Dan on 06/02/13 at 02:26 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

The NHL will never get consistent officiating until there’s some accountability and I don’t see that happening under the Garden Gnome’s watch.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/02/13 at 03:05 PM ET

Steeb's avatar

One need look no further back than last year’s playoffs and squarely at the Pens/Flyers brouhaha of a series. Once it became obvious that the league had no intention of calling cheap shots and headhunting (arguably with the Shea Weber attack on Zetterberg as the catalyst), the players decided (rightly) that they were going to have to do their own policing, and the refs lost all control of that series. Once things got more even-handed, and the cheap stuff started getting penalized and suspended, things simmered down. Unfortunately, as has been the case countless times during the Bettman era, nothing was learned (and i’m not just talking about officiating, here). Don’t be surprised to see things get really ugly in the Boston/Pittsburgh series before things improve, not least because Matt Cooke did not receive a suspension, and will therefore be on the ice.

Posted by Steeb on 06/02/13 at 04:53 PM ET


You guys understand that inconsistent officiating is the cover the league needs to nudge games, right?  By having a collection of dopes in stripes and making sure those dopes get high-profile games, it makes it a lot easier to pass off a ‘bad’ (aka fortuitous to league interests) call as ‘just another one of those calls the refs blew.’

If the NHL wanted competent officiating they’d get competent officiating.  Complaining about something the NHL has absolutely zero interest in fixing and about 100% interest in keeping status quo is nuts.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 06/02/13 at 07:43 PM ET

Steeb's avatar

Um, no, it’s the opposite of nuts. What, we should celebrate institutionalized incompetence in NHL officiating? By calling it out, maybe we can get things to change.

Posted by Steeb on 06/02/13 at 07:51 PM ET


By calling it out, maybe we can get things to change.

That’s the partwhich is nuts.

Seriously, this is a league run by a dude who has (in tandem with some pretty stupid NHLPA leadership) decided a better course is to SIMPLY NOT PLAY ANY GAMES AT ALL.  Three times.

Do you really think complaining about officiating, which isn’t going to move anyone’s fan interest meter very much, is going to have any kind of impact at all?

I mean, come on.  That’s crazy.

Again, this kind of officiating isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.  I don;t think the NHL wants it to get to the point where the NBA got (and amazing how yet another symmetry between the two leagues exists), but short of that?  They love it.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 06/03/13 at 07:10 AM ET

Steeb's avatar

So, complaining about officiating is okay in which forum? It’s a major form of entertainment in every sport come playoff time, so telling people that doing so is “nuts” denigrates an international pastime that has existed since time immemorial.

Also, remember that Bettman was once commissioner of the NBA, and my theory is that he’s still doing everything he can to make the NBA succeed by turning its main winter sports competition (the NHL) in to a joke of a bush-league sport. I agree that Bettman is out to sabotage the NHL, in other words, and things won’t improve until he’s gone. Not sure how to best go about that.

Posted by Steeb on 06/03/13 at 02:51 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.

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