Penalty: Too Many Referees On the Ice

By JD Lagrange – American journalist, editor, and author Charles Peters once said: “Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof that they were busy.” The NHL is filled with bureaucrats who feel the need to “fix the game,” to justify their position and their pay cheque.

The problem is that the game didn’t need that much “fixing” to start with and they have gone overboard in trying to micro-manage a product which was already excellent to start with. The main reason? Over-expansion in non-traditional markets, in an attempt to draw fair-weather fans to those markets.

In the meantime, NHL bureaucrats are trying every which way imaginable to change the roots of the game with what is, in many cases, gimmicks. Let’s add some new rules, new ways to end games, more referees… You want fries with that? That should bring fans to the game, right?

There are many examples of micro-management, suits trying to change the game for what they claim is the better. Yet, it is painfully obvious to traditional hockey fans that they have not thought those decisions through, not thinking of the collateral damage those decisions have on the actual game itself.

Some examples

I will not write a whole thesis about each one of them today, as most of these points could be a column of its own, with its own debate attached to it. While I know that some people will want to argue those points by the simple fact that they are mentioned in this article, I refuse, for the time being, to be drawn into it until such time that I write my full take on each and every one of them.

➙ Someone decided that fans didn’t like tie games, although it’s been there for ages. They’ve decided that no game should end in a tie and they’ve come up with a five minutes playing at four on four at the time, and have now made it three on three. But wait, what if it’s still tied? Let’s end it with our most popular skills competition at the All Star break! Oh no doubt that some fans loved it. Many hated it, and more and more have grown tired of the gimmick.

➙ After the 2005 lockout, they chose to crack down on interference. Further, let’s not allow the goalies to play the puck in the corners! It definitely has sped up the game, but so have the unprotected contacts, putting targets in the back of defensemen chasing the pucks in the corner, resulting in more concussion and serious injuries. They didn’t think of that.

➙ Whoever decided it wasn’t fair for the home team to have the penalty box on their side and to “fix it”, the two benches should be on the same side, should be hung. The last time I checked, each team plays the same number of home and away games, so it evens out at the end of the season. What’s wrong with giving the home team a slight advantage, in front of their own fans who pay to go to the games? Also, having the two benches side by side has cause more problems with line changes and such than it was before. They didn’t think this one through either.

➙ The tighter enforcement of the instigator rule was brought forward to prevent so-called “goons” from attacking star players. What they didn’t think about is that it has given the green light to the rats of this league to play their game without fear of reprimand in tight games. We will protect them through our NHL Player Safety and refereeing on the ice, they said. How is that working out? They have even been talking about removing fighting from the NHL, which would undoubtedly worsen that same situation.

➙ Let’s get some video review, they said. Getting the calls right was the goal of implementing the reviews. How is that working out? Everything that they’ve worked on to speed up the games, they have killed with the delays of video reviews. It takes minutes to drop the puck after a goal because the bench is looking at their iPads to look for offsides, deflections with a high stick, infractions that should have stopped the play and/or goaltender interference. And then, the endless time taken by referees and linesmen to determine the “right call”… which ends up being wrong in many occasions anyway.

This play, resulting in a goal by San Jose, was challenged by the Habs. After review, they deemed the play wasn’t offside. Clearly, the puck isn’t completely across the line and the Sharks player is well in the offensive zone. The Canadiens were assessed a penalty for losing the challenge…

Two referees

Now the best, and the actual point of this article: the two referees system. This is one of the biggest issues needing to be addressed and reversed immediately. In their wisdom, NHL bureaucrats decided that having another pair of eyes on the ice would allow catching more infractions. Facts indicates that it hasn’t. Yet once again, they didn’t think about the consequences.

1. Two referees, two judgments: In the days when there was only one referee, players knew, before the puck was dropped, what kind of game to expect. They knew the referees and what they called and allowed, in most cases. If Andy Van Hellemond, Terry Gregson, Kerry Fraser or Ron MacLean, each had their own way to manage a game. Now, while players and coaches know each referee, they don’t know which one will call what and when, bringing total inconsistency in calls made during the same hockey game. Players, coaches and fans have no idea where they stand game in, game out.

2. Incompetence: In the past, only the best referees in North America were doing NHL games. When the league chose to double the number of red bands on the ice, guys from the AHL received a promotion. With the rule changes alone and with the speed of the game increasing, calling a game would have been a challenge for the most experienced and qualified referees. But bringing guys who are not ready and/or simply not qualified for the position, the bureaucrats created a monster! The refereeing in the NHL has never been as bad and as inconsistent as we’ve been seeing since the lockout of 2005. Then you had the over-expansion, the talent is completely diluted and at least half of those guys have no business in the best hockey league in the world. Worse, fans and teams at every level will tell you that it channels down to every single league, from the AHL to junior and college hockey as well. Those leagues not only have lost their best referees at their level, but they followed suit and have two referees. Imagine this issues!

3. Too many people on the ice: Let’s face it… players are bigger and faster than they’ve ever been, yet the ice surface has remained at the same size. Many people, including myself, believe that the NHL needs to force teams to go to an Olympic size ice but that’s another topic. In the meantime, there is less room on the ice for players to maneuver. Adding one more referee on the ice takes more space and they are getting in the way of clearing attempts, passes and/or players trying to skate away and make plays.

And I won’t even touch on the topic of linesmen not dropping the puck and chasing centermen away from faceoffs, another ridiculously amplified problem…

When you had 18-24 teams in the NHL, playing 72-80 games per season, with one referee per game, you had the best of the best wearing the red armbands for each game. Now, you have 32 teams, with each team playing an 82-games schedule. That in itself puts stress on the quality of refereeing. Now you double the need by doubling the number of referees, adding an unqualified judgment? You do the math…

Finding solutions

The solution? I’m not sure. Is it time for the league to have an official in the press box with a button that blows a whistle to catch stuff happening behind the play but only on blatant calls? Linesmen can call some infractions such as the too many men on the ice. Is it time to give them a couple more rules they can enforce like things happening behind the play?

The one thing I do know though is that this two referees system is not working. It has never worked from day one and it’s only getting worse. Not for the teams, and certainly not for the fans. It’s more than time to revert back to the three striped men on the ice. That I do know for sure. But what do bureaucrats think? After all, it’s their pay cheques that need justification.

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NHL Insiders Vs Rumourrhoids

By JD Lagrange – Okay, it’s not really a word. At least, not one that you will find in a dictionary… not even in an urban dictionary. No, it’s a something that I have made up to differentiate legitimate NHL Insiders to the attention-seeking wannabes.

Of course, you know the NHL Insiders right? The (now retired) Bob MacKenzie, or Pierre LeBrun, Darren Dreger, Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman, even Jeff Marek and Kevin Weekes, who are slowly building a reputation as reputable Insiders. There are a few others, less known perhaps, or beat writers associated to specific teams, who also come up with the odd scoop on rumours around the NHL.

But what’s considered a “Rumourrhoid”? Much like their cousins the hemorrhoids, rumourrhoids are a pain in the butt. They are intrusive, painful and disturbing and make those who have to deal with them rather uncomfortable. They are the not the butt hole, they are the pain in the butt hole of hockey fans! Unfortunately, there are no magical creams to relieve the pain, the itch and the discomfort they create. The best way to deal with them is to ignore them. If they don’t get the attention that they are seeking, they will eventually disappear where the sun doesn’t shine.

Here’s a piece that I wrote many years ago, that is still valid today. You will recognize the Eklund, Hockeyy Insiderr and other nameless story tellers of the internet. Enjoy.

Rumour Blogging For Dummies

Ever feel like everyone around you has NHL scoops? Get the feeling that you’re the only one without sources about rumours? Feeling unpopular and bullied? Do you like role play? Feel the need to be popular and appreciated? It’s easy. Become a Rumour Blogger!

Rumour blogging is becoming more and more popular, as shown by the number of them coming out of the woodworks in the past couple of years. Move over Eklund, you have company, as more regular Joe’s want to take advantage of people’s naïve nature to make themselves look important!

But how does someone become a Rumour Blogger? I’ve created an easy to follow, step by step guide to help you do just that. Try it, it’s really simple!

  • Create a username. Don’t use your real name and ensure no one finds out, at all cost. Pretending to work in a NHL organization, being a former player, etc, will had credibility to some of your followers;
  • Get a Twitter account and now, you can even get a checkmark! A website to post on is preferable, especially if you can edit at a later date, but optional;
  • Find at least one big, gullible and desperate fan base and focus on them mostly, especially when you’re in dire need of attention;
  • Proper spelling is preferred, but not crucial as people are so desperate for juicy rumours, that they will overlook the fact that GM’s, scouts or other personnel would want their message written by an illiterate;
  • Don’t give too much information. You could get caught in a lie;
  • Be vague, yet leave some meat on the bone;
  • Tell your followers not to believe everything that’s out there, but insist that they should trust YOU as you’re not like others;
  • Once in a while, make something up to be the first to come out with that rumour, so that people don’t think you’re stealing from others. You’ll be surprised to see how many others will say they’ve heard the same thing;
  • Come up with a rumour quoting one source, and then contradict that rumour a few days later saying you got information from another source. You can’t lose that way;
  • Often mention that you can’t divulge your source not to burn them or compromise their job;
  • Agree with some other rumours, other times say that you haven’t heard that;
  • Pretend to have appointments with your sources, meeting, phone calls. This will bring credibility to the untrained eye;
  • Often use the line that most rumours don’t result in trades. People can’t defeat that no matter how hard they try;
  • Make sure to use the canned answers: “Cap space can be cleared” and “don’t shoot the messenger”. It’s an easy cope out of difficult situations when confronted;
  • If they catch you in a lie, ask them why they’re following you if they don’t want to believe;
  • Tweet something immediately after a traditional media or another insider. If someone challenges you, pretend you didn’t see it or that you have the same info, so it must be true;
  • Re-tweet everyone who agrees with you. While it may not add to your credibility, showing the world that some are gullible to believe you will make you feel better;
  • Make sure to piggy back what others are reporting, especially if it’s more than one. You wouldn’t want to be left out if it were to materialize;
  • Always claim to have a source better than your other ones. This will bring more attention to yourself when you feel the time is right, like at the trade deadline or at the amateur draft;
  • When a trade actually happens, pretend to have predicted it. People are lazy and won’t go check, some will concur;
  • And remember that the more crap you throw on the wall, some will eventually stick!

While I’ve created this guide in good humour, don’t think for one second that it isn’t true. GM’s and team officials don’t reveal information to that many people “leak” information to some traditional media. Remember that while none are legitimate, they all claim to be the ones to be trusted.

In conclusion, I highly suggest you read The story of Dallas Dave, a Rumour Blogger who, after reaching some success, decided to come clean. Great story!

For legitimate trade rumours from true NHL Insiders, make sure to check out our Rumour Mill section on this site, and follow @Habs_RumourMill on Twitter.

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