UFA, RUSSIA – Canada's players insist they will not dive to get calls even though the referees at the world junior hockey championship seem to be susceptible to such moves.
"Obviously, if you look at the logic, it might be the smart thing to do, but that's not what Canadian hockey is about," said forward JC Lipon. "We want to win fair."
Lipon was suspended one game by the IIHF after receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct for "checking to the head and neck area" on Slovakian Tomas Mikus during the first period of Friday's win. Mikus, who initially appeared to be hurt on the play, didn't miss a shift and scored a power-play goal on the ensuing man advantage.
"I'm disappointed," said Lipon, who plays for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL. "I got to be more disciplined, but kind of watching it a million times, you know, it would have been, probably, a roughing penalty in the CHL. You just got to watch it. Every time you go in for a hit you got to be ready to pay the price with how things are being called."
In the second period on Friday Anthony Camara was also thrown out of the game after levelling Patrik Luza with a big hit. The call on the ice – a charging major – was only made after it became clear the Slovak was hurt and needed to be stretchered off. Camara said an on-ice official told him the hit was clean, but he was ejected nonetheless.
"This is a tough man's sport and Anthony Camara is a hard man," said Canadian head coach Steve Spott. "He plays hard and that was, in my mind, a textbook hockey hit."
The ejection left Canada with just 10 forwards. The team was already missing Oshawa Generals centre Boone Jenner, who was serving the second of a three-game ban for a late hit during a pre-tournament game against Sweden. Jenner's hit left Jesper Pettersson with a dislocated shoulder and broken wrist, but Spott has made it clear he feels the penalty was harsh.
So what's a coach to do? Spott admits he's thought about giving his players the green light to embellish.
"We've talked about it as a staff. It's funny, we said, 'Maybe it's something we should start invoking with our players,' but all the Canadian young hockey players from the time they're five or six years of age to these guys now don't lie down. We'll always get up and drag ourselves off the ice."
Spott pointed out that Mark Scheifele was kneed by Branislav Rapac in the first period on Friday, but didn't stay down. He got up and skated slowly to the bench. "If Mark lies down it's a five-minute major," Spott said. The play resulted in a two-minute minor.
"That's not our game," said Portland Winterhawks winger Ty Rattie, who will fill Lipon's third-line role against the United States on Sunday. "If we get hit and we're not hurt then we get up. That's one of the first lessons my dad ever taught me when I was playing hockey."
"Some of the penalties were related to injury a little bit, but if you see one of our guys laying on the ice it would be a big surprise to me," said second-line centre Ryan Strome, who plays for the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL. "We're not going to do anything extra to draw penalties. We're going to get our penalties by working hard and moving our feet."
Refusing to dive is one thing, but what about finding a way to put an end to all these ejections and suspensions? Spott can only hope his players are able to walk the fine line set out by the IIHF.
"It's the old [hot] stove analogy where you touch it and you get burnt," the coach explained after Saturday's practice. "You got to stay away from it. We've preached it, we've spoken about it, but ultimately the players have to understand that there's going to be consequences and a two-minute minor back home may be a suspension over here."