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After Claude Julien's rant the other night after the Boston-Montreal game in which he sounded off about embellishment in general, I was curious as to how, as a referee, do you assess a dive or embellishment? How exactly do you discern where a player starts to embellish a hit versus reacting to being hit?
I watched the Boston–Montreal game and Claude really didn't have a much of a beef on the penalties the referees called as they were well deserved and not a result of embellishment. Montreal played a great road game and pushed back against Claude's big, bad Bruins to earn a legitimate victory; at least on this night.
While it is obvious that Julien was attempting to plant a seed in fertile soil for his very tough, aggressive team to cultivate during the spring playoff harvest, I do agree with the broader point that he was making in the best interest of the game. Embellishment continues to take on epidemic proportions and must be stopped. Everybody complains about it but too little is being done to address it.
Many warriors still play the game and deserve our utmost respect and admiration. Sadly, there is a growing list of 'fakers' that modestly endure any embarrassment associated with being recognized as a member in 'poor standing' of the Divers Club. Their ultimate reward for their dishonesty and cowardice is a power play. Embellishment is redefining the actions of our modern day player who "takes one for the team."
You are probably wondering why the referees don't just call a stand alone penalty on the embellisher. The fact is that most often a legitimate foul has been committed which the referee first identifies by raising his arm. At this point, the initial infraction must be assessed regardless of any subsequent embellishment by the player fouled. Should embellishment subsequently result, it is then appropriate for the referee to assess penalties to each player. On very rare occasions, a player will dive without being fouled and is assessed a stand alone diving penalty.
When an initial foul has been identified by the referee, and even though the penalty assessed for embellishment eliminates what would have been a power play for the 'divers' team, I would much rather see a rule change to make diving a double minor penalty similar to high sticking where an injury results. If diving/embellishment was identified as being twice as detrimental to the integrity of the game versus a trip, hook, hold or other minor infraction, you just might see players refrain from grabbing their face when they feel the breeze from a stick or fighting to stay on their feet the way John Tonelli, Bobby Nystrom and so many hockey warriors of past eras did.
The referees must be directed to penalize players without hesitation when they deem diving/embellishment has occurred. Most importantly, whenever the refs make this call, everyone needs to accept and support their call for the greater good of the game without dissecting their judgment and be quick to offer the benefit of the doubt to the player.
Granted, fouls are missed and, while players might feel the need to sell the call, embellishment is at the point where Julien (and now me) has jumped on the soapbox to address it publicly.
Aiden, in simple terms, embellishment is the unnatural fall or reaction to contact or non-contact used in an attempt to draw a penalty. Feigning injury where there is none is one of the worst forms of embellishment we presently see in the game. For every action, there should be, to some reasonable degree, an equal and opposite reaction. If a hook causes a pull back restraint but results in the player touched to lurch or dive forward, my judgment tells me that was a dive/embellishment. Delayed reactions, late falls, springs in the feet and knees are all signs of theatrical performances designed to get the referees attention and/or fool him into calling a penalty.
Every referee has given and taken a hit during their playing days and we have also taken some big hits as officials. We know how we would react to contact. I'm 'old school' when it comes to taking a hit. I never wanted to let on I was hurt. In 1982, Paul Coffey hit me with a slapper in the ankle just eight minutes into a game in Northlands Coliseum, knocking the end off my fibula. With only one referee on the ice at the time, I finished the game on the broken ankle and was then out for seven weeks.
A deflected puck fractured my cheekbone with a minute remaining in the first period of a game in Atlanta. I argued with the team doctor, insisting that I was going back on the ice and finished the game with a helmet and visor the home team outfitted me with since it was pre-helmet days.
John LeClair accidentally hit me from behind following the opening faceoff in Philadelphia and herniated L-4 and L-5 in my back. I had been assigned to the game by Brian Burke after Lyle Odelein threatened to "get" Eric Lindros following a fight they had in the previous game and, after the opening face-off, I was bent over like a pretzel and couldn't straighten up. After the doctors straightened me up, Burkie and Dave Nonis dressed me and tied my skates so I could go out and finish the job I was placed there to do. I missed the next four weeks due to the back injury.
Please don't think that I am suggesting I'm a hero. Everybody involved in the game of hockey plays or works hurt. It's after all, a man's game!
Players that fake injury or embellish fouls disrespect the game and the warriors that play the game with honesty and toughness. The 'embellishers' of the game need to be penalized and fined for their dishonest play. Repeat offenders should be suspended under Rule 64.3 and published on a list. Can anyone remember a player being suspended for diving? It might have happened once but I can't recall.
Outstanding theatrical performances are rewarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with an Oscar. Theatrical performances by a hockey player should be rewarded with a double minor for diving!