Okay, I’m a little behind the ball on this one thanks to an epically long paper that I chose to hold off on writing until 48 hours before it was due. However, now that it’s all safely uploaded, I’m free to finally get my hockey-rant on. And, yes, rant I will. If you’re not in the mood for a good old-fashioned upbraiding of the league, you might try checking out a non-Wings blog for the time being. It’s been over 24 hours now, and this one still stings.
It’s frustrating as a fan of both logic and hockey to see these things that defy any standard of reason occur over and over again. Let’s not kid ourselves here. This is ugly, and it’s embarrassing for the league. If we want to move on to legislating things that are arguably judgment calls like, say, hits to the head, that’s going to be pretty darn hard if we can’t even figure out the simple things like whether or not the puck’s in the net.
Every person watching that game last night knew that the goal should have counted. The Dallas Stars knew that. So did their fans, come to think of it. Everyone, that is, but one Dennis LaRue. Because in the moment that the puck entered the net, he was apparently distracted by a bumblebee. Or something shiny.
His rationale for waving off a game-tying goal? It seems that he had already blown the play dead when the puck entered the net. He didn’t even bother to invoke Wings fans’ favorite “intent to blow” rule. He tried to tell us that not only did he intend to blow his whistle, he had, in fact, already done so. Never mind that there was clear evidence that this was a fantasy. Never mind that every standard of reason and logic said that it should have been a goal. Never mind that whatever shreds of credibility that the NHL’s officiating system had been clinging to were blown away along with the goal.
The league (admittedly to my surprise) issued a statement addressing the controversy that was amusingly labeled as an “explanation.” It managed to pretend to apologize for “apparently” blowing the call while at the same time supporting the decision process that led to the travesty. It really was an artful maneuver. Some people seem to think that the NHL’s admission of an issue represents intent to enact something to remedy similar situations in the future. I, however, am not nearly that optimistic. I will, as always, continue to expect the worst from the league until I am given concrete proof (something for which I have an innate respect, thus disqualifying me from ever being a part of the NHL’s staff).
If we’re to assume that the play was ended by LaRue’s intent to blow his whistle instead of the actual act of blowing it, we then have to question what on earth he was thinking. In order for this to be a legitimate reason, he would have had to have lost sight of the puck somewhere when it was out in the open. There was no scrum in front of the net. There were no bodies falling every which way and obstructing his view. There was no need to protect Alex Auld. If LaRue can’t keep track of the puck in that situation, he quite simply should not be refereeing games in the NHL. And the league’s “explanation” is tacitly admitting that much…but not really, because that would also involve an unseemly admission of fallibility.
And I haven’t even gotten to the issue of what was going on with the phone call from Toronto. I can’t believe I was actually relieved to see that they were going to weigh in on the situation. I mean, what’s the point of having a video review if they can’t overturn the ref? Even if he was adamant that he ended play before the puck ended up in the net, why couldn’t they say, “Listen, sunshine, we know you think you know what you saw, but we’ve got this fancy moving picture box here in Toronto that proves you’re delusional. Best not make fools of the whole lot of us.” Now I’m not normally an advocate of pulling rank, but if ever there was a time for that it was last night. (Yes, I understand that “intent to blow” calls are non-reviewable, but the sheer ridiculousness of that little rule is another rant for another night…or rather one that I seem to recall making sometime in the not too distant past.)
Do you honestly think that the NHL (or any employer for that matter) would tolerate that level of incompetence from anyone else on its payroll? If, say, an accountant made a catastrophic and incredibly public error while doing his or her job, how much longer do you think they’d be employed? If a member of the league’s legal staff screwed something up as epically as LaRue did, don’t you think they’d be polishing their resumes faster than you can say “intent to blow?” But for some reason, the league likes to imagine that its referees enjoy some mythical level of infallibility. Kind of like how Dennis LaRue imagined that he had blown the whistle before the puck ended up in the net.
And you know what one of the worst parts of this is? That it’s getting blown up into a Wings-fan-conspiracy-theorist debate. This is ironic, because I’ve spent a pretty good amount of time reading Wings blogs out there today, and I have yet to find one that is crying conspiracy. I fully do not believe that the NHL could be competent enough to pull of a conspiracy of the scale that size. Let’s be realistic. They can’t even figure out how to tell if a puck’s in the net, and you expect me to have a theory about an elaborate plot against my team? Please. That would require some level of competence, which clearly is not possessed by the NHL.
Instances like these are why it’s so difficult to be an NHL fan. Every single die-hard out there is a hockey fan because they made an active decision to become one. Hockey’s not an easy sport to get into, especially in the United States where it doesn’t have a presence like the other major sports. People are probably not going to stumble onto a game on tv when they’re flipping channels and they’re not going to discover it by watching mainstream media coverage. For the most part, we fans came to the sport, drawn in by family or friends who were fans before us. But how do we sell the game to others when we ourselves can’t even stand to think about the league? When the utter absurdity that emanates out of the league offices continues to baffle even those of us who know the game inside and out? When inconsistency and arrogance never fail to win out over justice and humility?
Honestly, sometimes I think that the fact that I keep coming back to watch games and spend my money night after night after horrendous mistake-filled night is clearly indicative of some level of masochism at best if not full-blown clinical insanity.
Post Game Snipes:
- I really would’ve liked the Wings to have come out with a little fire after getting robbed like that. It would’ve been a nice show of character from a team that still seems to be struggling to find an identity and consistency.
- Although, to be fair, I would’ve liked to have seen them show up to play from the beginning of the game instead of relying on Jimmy Howard of all people to keep them in the game.
- Speaking of Howard, he’s playing…well. He gave the Wings every chance to win last night, and they, with a little help from LaRue, chose not to take advantage.
- The one highlight was Henrik Zetterberg’s beautiful goal. Z is absolutely on fire. Keep it up, please. I want more.
- At one point during the first period (possibly in response to Brad May’s “slashing” penalty), I posted this on Twitter: “Another cheap call against the Wings. Is this really what I'm going to have to deal with all night?” Oh how sweet and naïve I was at that point. Little did I know what was lying in store for me.
- Babcock called May’s rant-inspiring non-goal (I’m still searching for what to title this one as The Goal That Wasn’t has already been assigned to Brad Watson’s playoff magic.), “as dumb as I’ve ever seen.” Which is putting it mildly…
- But really the killer quote out of all of this is the one from Alex Auld regarding the play. He said, “That’s the ref’s judgment call obviously. We caught a break there but I feel like you work for those too.” Now, I’m really curious as to what kind of “work” he put in to earn a gift like that. How exactly does one go about earning something like that? No really, do tell. We’d all like to know.
I literally never expected that there would come a time when I would feel like he was the best Wing on the ice. And yet, there he was Wednesday night, keeping the score close enough that the non-goal will be causing us sleepless nights for weeks on end.
Jonathan Ericsson gets the Golden Facepalm
He had a beautiful tip-in during the first period. Unfortunately, it was into the Wings’ own net.
What I learned:
That no matter what reason and logic and your eyes tell your brain about reality, it’s still okay to ignore them in favor of your imagination.