Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What's with the unsportsmanlike penalty on Tomas Plekanec on Saturday? I've seen goalies get snowed a million times (usually a lot worse than that) and never once seen a penalty called. Is that actually in the rule book? If it is, do they just choose not to call it (because the rule is so ridiculous)?
C'mon Ref sends a warm welcome along with a big thank you to Mike Hall for this first question of the season. A signed copy of The Final Call is in the mail to Mike.
Mike is correct in stating that we have seen goalies 'snowed' much worse (video link) in the past where no call resulted compared to Tomas Plekanec's light spray on Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens at 7:14 of the second period Saturday night. To add insult to injury, the penalty to Plekanec resulted in the eventual game winner scored by Tyler Bozak on the power play. The unsportsmanlike conduct rule does apply to this and other type of player conduct designed to incite his opponent. Tomas Plekanec could have cruised past Scrivens' goal crease without deliberately firing a little snow at the goalie. Plekanec's actions were purposeful and unnecessary.
Let this call be a warning to all players and fans on the very first night of this 48-game NHL season - that a mandate and more strict standard relative to unsportsmanlike conduct violations has been handed to the referees.
Last season during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we saw several incidents where tempers flared as players charged the crease and deliberately 'snowed' the goalie and scrums resulted. At that time, I was critical of the referees for not taking charge of the situation early on but instead allowed it to escalate and detract from the entertainment value of the game. Eventually, direction came from above and the referees laid the hammer down and assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that put an end to the snow showers.
During the officials training camp held prior to the startup of this shortened regular season the referees were directed to set a firm standard from the very beginning so that this 'cheap' tactic does not snowball! Additionally, players that enter a scrum and grab the face shield or utilize a 'stinky glove' face wash in an attempt to incite their opponent run the risk of being assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty without warning. (Does anyone remember the face washes and biting incident in the Bruins-Canucks final series?) None of these actions demonstrate tough, hardnosed hockey and if allowed to flourish will only detract from the speed, skill, hard hits and entertainment value of the great game of hockey.
I'm all in favour of this mandate Mike, just so long as it is called consistently across the board throughout the regular season and playoffs. Notice has been served!
And now, a fan tribute: I read and heard comments from frustrated fans during the lockout that they had given up on the game and would not return if and when a new CBA was reached. While comments of this nature were disappointing I totally understand the frustration everyone felt and their need to vent. What I am about to share demonstrates why I believe hockey has the very best fans of any sport in the world.
I attended the Philadelphia Flyers' home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon. I drove into the Wells Fargo Center parking lot two hours prior to game time and found it overflowing with festive 'tailgaters' garbed in their favorite player jersey and celebrating the return of the game.
When the doors opened, fans were issued complimentary bright orange T-shirts with a message beneath the black Flyers logo that read LET'S GO! I walked the concourse prior to taking my seat in the press box and felt the energy generated by the sellout crowd similar to what I experienced so many times during Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final.
The building became even more alive when their hometown heroes were introduced individually through a cloud of smoke and lights. The scoreboard high above center ice played messages from players and Flyers owner, Mr. Ed Snider thanking their loyal fans for sticking by them. The fans cheered with delight when each message was broadcast.
I am sure this took place and will take place in home openers all around the NHL.
Here's a must-share story I witnessed firsthand at the game which demonstrates the true heart of a hockey fan. At the end of the first period, a 32-year-old unemployed iron worker from the Atlantic City Union exited the complimentary seat he was given and was about to enter the concourse area.
Wearing the "Giroux" captain's jersey the fan purchased that very morning in hopes of getting it signed by his favourite player someday was a dead giveaway as to his team loyalty. This hockey fan was about to walk past a mother and her little girl (age 5) when he noticed that the child was wearing a surgical mask over her mouth.
The absence of hair on her little head along with her look was an indication that the child was a cancer patient. The blue collar fan then paused and asked the little girl if she was a Claude Giroux fan? As the child nodded he removed the brand new Giroux jersey, handed it to the little girl and said, "You are an angel and I would like to give this jersey to you."
The little girl beamed with excitement and commented to her mother that the jersey had the new "C" on the front. The good Samaritan Flyers fan simply walked away with a tear in his eye. The name of the fan is being withheld at his request because like most acts of kindness, he did not want to bring attention to himself. I felt the need to bring attention to the act of one terrific hockey fan and human being.
Event such as these demonstrate why hockey fans are the greatest fans in the world and make me so proud to be part of the game. Welcome back hockey fans. You are truly the GREATEST.