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The New-Old Nhl: Penalties On The Decline


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With all the recent talk on penalties, we've seen plenty of comments on why one thing is a penalty, but another isn't. It often seems a play that could result in a chance that has anything but obvious interference is play on, but little things after plays or nowhere near dangerous parts of the ice are called. It's by no means a conspiracy, certainly not against the Canucks, but there is game management at play.

The referees are trying to let players play, but still want to seem like they have control of the game. They want to give out some easy calls early to try and say they are going to penalize often if they don't play a fair game. Too often though, they give out those early penalties then try and put away the whistle, or just keep the whistle in their pocket from the beginning. Both last night's game and tonight's are good examples of this.

In last night's game, Bollig gets that early penalty for the face wash on Kassian, hardly much in that at all. What happens after? Daniel hits Keith and Keith retaliates with an elbow to the head but only a 2 min minor is called. The refs had an opportunity to follow up on their original statement that they wouldn't tolerate the extras and give Keith at least a major for a blatant elbow, and even a penalty on Daniel's hit earlier if they really wanted to put their stamp on it. Instead, they end up with a player going off injured and one team taking penalties just to try and get back at a player that could have been gone for the game if they so wished.

Tonight's game has some of the same elements. They're trying to wait until they can't wait anymore, or call the little stuff in the hopes it keeps the players honest. Burrows digging for the puck in that way when it's covered is a penalty, but they only call it after Morrow hits him into the net after the whistle. It doesn't keep a fight and two unsportsmanlike penalties from happening shortly after. So they come back with Souray's 'roughing' and Kassian's 'interference' calls, penalties by the letter of the law, but hardly egregious offences.

How often have either side been left holding their arms out wondering why they didn't get a call on an obvious play? Sometimes they're reaching a little to try and get a call, but when the rule of thumb changes from letter of the law to let them play and then back again in the same game, it gets pretty hard to figure out what a player can and can't do.

If the refs can just stop trying to call only the meaningless penalties and the over the top ones, while letting everything in between go at key times, it'd certainly make it clearer.

If the refs can start a season and end a playoffs calling it the same way all year long, everyone can get on board and adjust to what they're able to do. When they step over that or try and circumvent it with something else, put them in the box.

Without any consistency to the calls from regular season to playoffs, from week to week, from game to game, and even from period to period, it'll never get better, and they're only making it harder on themselves.

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It certainly was discussed today on television. It seems referees are now making most calls discretionary, and are no longer going to call hooking penalties automatically. With all the embellishment these past few years, it needs to be made more obvious what is a penalty and what is not.

Perhaps making it tougher to draw penalties is a good thing.

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But then to call penalties on plays like the Bollig facewash and the Kassian interference seems so ridiculous compared to the other things being let go in the same game. I'm all for reducing diving, but then why not give a diving penalty when a player tries to embellish?

It's long been shown if you let players get away with things, they'll find new and inventive ways to do so. It seems counter-productive to increasing the flow of the game to call more penalties, but when players have a firm grasp on what should or shouldn't be called, they can respond better and actually just play hockey.

Of course, players will always be looking for ways to gain advantage during games, but that should be easy to call if you've already set a firm precedent.

Everything being so wishy-washy in the attempt to control a game while simultaneously letting them play does nothing but add confusion, and in the end it makes the refs look bad, but also makes their jobs even harder.

Maybe NHL refs should try and officiate a game of Calvin ball or two.


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As you said, "Game management" by the refs is disgusting. Who is to decide whether a team wins a game; based on blatant missed calls and calls.

The NHL is a fast paced game, and refs are human and make mistakes. But when the league is noticeably changing: less penalties are being called, blatant calls aren't called but sometimes are in non-crucial moments of the game; it absolutely ruins the integrity of the sport.

Reffing needs to be consistent. And only then can we see who truly is the best team in the league is.

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