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First off, love the column! And how appropriate that you just delineated 10-minute misconducts versus minor misconducts as the end of the Penguins/Senators game gave the refs an opportunity to assess both!
My question is this - what exactly did Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke do to deserve the 10-minute misconduct? Besides being the recipient of four punches thrown by Chris Neil, I saw nothing. Anybody who points back to the Karlsson injury should remember that there was no penalty on Cooke there - whether they think there should've been or not should be irrelevant to the late-in-the-game shenanigans by Neil!
I look forward to your answer. Thanks!
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TSN play-by-play superstar Gord Miller applied sound logic gained from "officiating theory-101" with a call of his own as the penalties were being announced over the PA system when Gord offered up, "and Cooke gets 10 (misconduct), more for his own protection than anything."
Analyst Mike Johnson followed with, "and that's okay for the Referees to get him out of the game to make sure he doesn't get back on the ice and not have this get out of hand."
Both insights were accurate because any referee that is worth a pound of salt is aware of possible retribution that could be directed at Matt Cooke for his legal check that inadvertently injured Sens young star defenceman, Erik Karlsson.
At this point in the game the Officials are on damage control and pay close attention to on-ice personnel and match-ups. In addition to keeping the peace, each Ref will do everything within his power to avoid having to assess an instigator penalty in the last five minutes of the game or anytime in overtime, which as you are aware can result in a suspension and fines. Aside from not wanting to write lengthy post-game reports if something like this occurs, a more important consideration for the Officials is their desire to provide player safety when liberties can be taken. The potential for paybacks greatly increases when the final outcome of the game has already been decided.
Putting this "theory" aside for a moment, I reviewed both broadcast feeds to see if there was something that Cooke did in this dust-up that was worthy of a misconduct penalty to provide a more direct answer to your question, Rich. I found what I was looking for in the local Pittsburgh feed. Once Cooke got back on his feet after being thumped to the ice by Chris Neil, Cooke in his frustration attempted to throw Neil's hockey stick over the glass and into the crowd. It was only through good luck that the stick caught the top of the protective glass and spiralled back onto the ice. If the stick had gone over the glass into the seats a game misconduct would have been assessed under Rule 53.4 instead of the 10-minute misconduct penalty. Additionally a review of the incident would have taken place and supplementary discipline might have been applied since fan protection is a very sensitive issue. There you have your answer Rich.
Even though Gord Miller, Mike Johnson and many of you might endorse the sound officiating logic described above, there are others reading this that probably won't agree. You might say the Refs overstep their authority by being proactive or over-officious and instead should just call the infraction when it occurs. Removing a player due to time remaining just to keep the peace or for a player's own protection might be beyond your fan comfort level. While you are entitled to your opinion I know I dodged a bullet on more than one occasion by taking the proactive approach.
With a couple of minutes remaining in a blowout win in the first game of a back-to-back series between two divisional rivals in the 1980's a coach put his "enforcer" on the ice. (This was long before the instigator in the final five minutes was in the book so I felt the need to be creative.) The "role player" had not taken one shift all game and was anxious to do some serious damage in the dying minutes. The player was 'snortin' and snottin' as he lined up and could hardly contain himself before the puck went down. I skated over to him and read the riot act and promised I would throw the book at him if he started anything.
The enforcer took the bait I offered and told me to go 'Ef' myself and to just worry about my job because he was going to do his! That's verbal abuse in my world so I told him he would have a hard time doing it that night from the dressing room as I banged my hips, assessed a misconduct penalty and had the linesman escort the player off the ice!
The game ended without incident and I had no reports to write. ?
Happy Valentine's Day everyone!