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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why the NHL Needs to Stop the Flop @Evil_Shero

To me, this is hockey. It's tough, it's brutal, it's violent, there is lots to love about the fastest sport on Earth. There has been a small trickle in of embellishment in the past few season in the NHL and not cracking down now will make a mockery of the sport we love.

The most recent incident was in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Matt Cooke hit Bruins defensemen Adam McQuaid from behind.  There is no doubt in my mind that it was a bad hit, which is dangerous and should be penalized as such.

The argument for this hit was that McQuaid saw Cooke coming and that put himself in that position, which in my opinion, is still no excuse to hit anyone from behind.

Matt Cooke was quoted as saying:

"After I got by him, I looked up and see his right shoulder and he looks me right in the eyes. I was committed to hit him, I made contact. I think it’s a penalty, but I don’t think it’s an ejection or a suspension, but that’s my opinion."

This picture correlates to this story. It doesn't make it right or any less severe and that is not the point I am trying to make. It is the event that happened after the hit is what troubles me as a fan of the NHL. McQuaid turtled after the hit and myself (and 18k+ other fans) believed him to be seriously hurt. I nodded my head in shame knowing that Cooke would face harsh repercussions for that hit. 

Then I saw the replay ... I saw McQuaid want to get up then look around and go back down. He was embellishing. He was actually milking this for more! What I thought was a 2 minute boarding call turned into a 5 minute major with a 10 minute misconduct. 

Shortly afterwards, James Neal fell victim to a similar hit from behind by the Bruins Brad Marchand. Neal did NOT embellish the hit and was up and sat on the bench ... like a normal, NHL-caliber player. Since Neal decided not to writhe on the ice and call to his trainer, Marchand received a 2 minute minor penalty.

It should have been a 5 minute major and a misconduct, too.  No questions asked.

It's not my intention to defend Matt Cooke since the past two years have already done that for me. I am not going to go on and on about head-shots and hitting from behind because it's already a paramount issue with the NHL and those who write about it.

What I can't defend is the fact that embellishment right now isn't a common occurrence in the NHL but officials calling penalties like this could make it very tempting for players do act this way to buy calls in important games. For some players it's already becoming a noticeable problem.

I've mentioned this on the PensInitiative Podcast  I do not want the NHL to turn into a league where the interpretation and manipulation of the rules dictate the game. The NFL has already decided upon which team dances within the constraints of their complicated rulebook, so much to the point to where there is more discussion about the calls during an NFL game than the actual performance of the players. The NBA from what I understand has rapidly deteriorated into players embellishing for calls. And soccer well ...

I don't want this ...

or this ...

The answer lies with officiating. Officials are human but need to have all the tools necessary to make the right decisions. I saw very little difference between the Cooke and Marchand hit and I believe that both hits should have received equal reprimand. The use of replay is a simple solution to where hits (that happen in the blink of an eye) can be reviewed and the proper penalty can be assessed. It does not need to turn into the NFL where every call is micro-analyzed to the point of redundant absurdity but in a case of the Cooke and Marchand hit it would have most certainly been equal punishment.

This may seem like the insane ramblings of a passionate fan looking at (at the time of this post) 0-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I can promise it's so much more than this. This is just another small flicker of what could be an new and troubling trend in the NHL. If players continue to get away with these embellishments it will turn our sport into a watered down parody of itself.

Lets go Pens.

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