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First off, I love the Q&A's that you do (even though I often wasn't your biggest fan when I was watching games growing up... just kidding... kind of).
In the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning game Saturday night, I saw the official, referee Gord Dwyer, help Steven Stamkos to the bench after his skate blade broke. I have never seen this before in the NHL. Shortly after, Alex Killorn, the player who came on for Stamkos, scored the game-tying goal.
I can understand picking up a loose stick on the ice, but helping a player to the bench during play seems unfair and I have never seen another official do that. Is this commonplace and I just don't see it more often, or was an unfair advantage given to Stamkos and the Lightning in this situation?
Cedar Falls, Iowa
I am sure you have had numerous emails about this incident but go on and choose mine for the column and show the worldwide profile NHL l now enjoys, even in Ireland.
I was watching the Penguins and Lightning game Saturday and was more than perplexed by an incident that occured late in the third period. The incident resulted in a goal for the Lightning as a result of referee, Gord Dwyer, helping Steven Stamkos off the ice when he had an issue with his skate.
Indeed one could argue Stamkos interfered, albeit minimally, with Paul Martin as he left the ice. My understanding was either Stamkos could make his own way off the ice, be assisted by line mates or failing that the referee would blow the play dead as he would for an injury and the resulting faceoff would take place outside the Pittsburgh defensive zone? What is your view on this?
Darragh McMahon, Ireland.
I'm sure you got more than one email on this, but it's a bizarre play. How is the ref allowed to help a player (Stamkos) off the ice instead of blowing the play dead, and have that player bump into a player (Paul Martin) on the opposing team who is in the middle of the play? People want to say the NHL doesn't give stars preferential treatment, but all you have to do is play that clip. Thanks for reading and keep up the great column.
What is your opinion on an official pushing Stamkos over to the bench after one of his skates broke? Thanks for your input.
The other night I'm watching Penguins/Lightning and Stamkos loses his skate blade and the referee gives him a push halfway across the ice...what do you think about this and do you think it's okay?
Thanks, Dylan Rogers
Dear Fans (With special welcome to Darragh McMahon all the way from Ireland):
This certainly is an unusual situation (check out the viz) and magnified by the fact that Tyler Johnson (Steven Stamkos' replacement) set up the Lightning power play goal scored by Alex Killorn which tied the game with 3:10 remaining in regulation.
Gord Dwyer is a good and conscientious Referee. Gord is also a really good person.
The Ref's human instinct here was to assist a player that was placed in harm's way once he witnessed Steven Stamkos slip, slide and stumble toward a potential groin injury (or worse) some 100 feet from his bench. This wasn't 'Star treatment' that was being extended by Dwyer, but legitimate concern for a player's well-being. The courtesy of providing two strides and a shove by the Ref was creative and would have been done for all the right reasons. With hindsight being 20-20 the end result supports the claim by some that, "No good deed goes unpunished!"
You must first understand that there's no official policy on assisting a player that has sustained an injury or broken a skate and is attempting to make his way to the bench under his own power while handing a player that has lost his stick is a definite no-no. A policy might be instituted as a result of this intervention by Referee Dwyer but that remains to be seen.
I will tell you that I have instinctively helped more than one injured player to his bench as play continued and even one with a broken skate that had no adverse effect. I know that many other Officials have done the same with regard to injured players. We not only want to ensure the player gets medical attention quickly but also to keep the play moving for game flow.
Rule 8 advises us that play can be stopped immediately when a serious injury has been sustained; otherwise the Referee must wait for a change in puck possession unless his team is in a scoring position. While this was not an injury situation in the moment, Referee Dwyer might have decided to be proactive to prevent an injury from occurring. How can we fault him if that were the case?
Had Steven Stamkos laid on the ice play could have been stopped or once the puck cleared the Pen's zone an offside might result in a whistle with Stamkos still down. The Pens dumped the puck all the way down into the Lightning corner at the moment Steven Stamkos broke his skate blade. With the dump time and space was created for Stamkos to attempt his slide to the bench and for the Referee to allow his instincts to take over and assist.
It certainly would have seemed innocent enough at the time for any Ref.
Rule 63 (delay of game) states that play shall not be stopped nor the game delayed by reasons of adjustments to clothing, equipment, skates or sticks. This typically applies to situations when play has already been halted to avoid delays but the broad wording might also stretch to when play is actually in progress. At some point, common sense would take over and play would be stopped if a player could not make his way to the bench.
Due to the ultimate scoring of the goal it is easy to suggest that an unfair advantage was offered by the Referee to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I believe that in this situation the Referee acted creatively and instinctively to assist a player that was in a difficult position without disrupting the flow of play.
Unless Stephen Walkom issues a firm "hands off" policy to the Officials in situations such as this (hindsight aside), what Referee Gord Dwyer did speaks to the humanness of the Referees and Linesmen that place the well being of players first.