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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Game 1: Not Without My Nonsense! -- Detroit wins 4-0

Turns out Herr Bettman did learn some lessons from David Stern while he was an NBA Goon. The NBA runs strongly on hype and made-up storylines and most importantly, controversy, has indeed shown Gary Bettman the way.

In a Stanley Cup Finals that features, arguably, five of the best players in the league, Bettman can leave things hanging in the air basically to just cause problems later on. Remember, this is a guy who thought Sean Avery dancing in front of Martin Brodeur was such a problem that he addressed and reaffirmed the rulebook the very next day.

However, Bettman figures that leaving a ruling up in the air, such as what is or isn't interfering with a goaltender on a shot, is all set and taken care of.

Hoo boy.

We can't have the players be the story - we have to make it up as we go along. Rather, in this case, we can let things fester figuring it won't happen again.

Au contraire mon frere!

The issue set forth earlier this season and then again against Dallas is whether or not Tomas Holmstrom's rear-end or mere presence in the offensive zone is a weapon of mass disruption for anyone wearing the tools of ignorance. The first two times this became an issues, you can attribute that to referee Kelly Sutherland not knowing the rules so well, as he was the official who ruled that Holmstrom was interfering with Jean-Sebastian Giguere earlier this season and Marty Turco in the Western Conference Finals.

Last night, Dan O'Halloran decided that Holmstrom was again getting in the way, this time with Marc-Andre Fleury. To O'Halloran's credit I'll say this: He instantly waived off the goal and actually put Holmstrom in the box for goaltender interference. At least he felt that strongly about things, especially since Sutherland's previous efforts were made only to waive off the goal scored.

That said, O'Halloran compounded an already terrible issue by tacking on a penalty. In these three instances where Holmstrom was flagged for getting in the way, on zero of them did he either stand in the goaltender's crease or make contact with the goalie. The interpretation of the rule that's being passed around as gospel, and not eaten up by the folks in the media, is that Holmstrom is interfering with the goalie's ability to make the save.

Sounds awfully....vague, doesn't it? Don't be fooled, that's done on purpose. It gives the on-ice official, who has all the control in the situation as much leeway as possible to make, or not make, a call. It's an all-purpose bail-out. Leave it to the NHL to have a significant part of their rulebook, Rule 69 by the way (figures, doesn't it?), to be neither black nor white but completely gray...

...except in the handing down of a ruling of goal or no goal - that's written down in black ink.

No replay is allowed because Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman don't want to be saddled with reviewing every goal or play involving the goal line. "It would ruin the flow of the game," they cry out from the top of the mountain of crappy hockey and corporate suits.

Earth to Morons: Every goal or play of the puck around the goal line is reviewed automatically upstairs and in Toronto.

It's incredible how quickly the goalie in hockey has half-heartedly become the same as the quarterback in the NFL...with the exception that I'd guess that goalies get hit more since sometimes its OK to steamroll a goalie. Confused? Yeah, I knew you would be, but that's why I'm here.

What's amusing about all this fretting about where a guy is standing and what he's doing to a goaltender is it reminds me of this year's Memorial Cup - it's the championship tournament in Canadian Juniors. These are the kids that are on the fast-track to the NHL and it makes me think of an early game between Kitchener and Gatineau. The game goes to overtime and....well have a look for yourself at the highlights, specifically, 56 seconds into the video:

Note what the player in front of the net is doing. Note where he's standing. Note how much room the goaltender has to move. Note how screwed the goalie was to begin with since Kitchener was on a 5-on-3 power play.

No referee sprinting in to waive it off. No goaltender screaming at the referee. Players celebrating a hard-earned victory. No B.S.

Amazing, isn't it? It'd be fun if these kids could know that they'll get the same treatment when they reach the pros, it seems pretty stupid that a goal like that would get nullified, don't you think?

This is the situation I'm waiting for right now. Overtime. Crucial game. A shot on goal with the goaltender screened - it gets by - everyone is celebrating...and then it's called off because of a phantomly judged rule.

Hang on, I saw this movie already in 1999 and I know how it ends - bitter feelings, a spruced up rulebook, a fanbase left permanently bitter at the ruling party and, worst of all...

This guy is still left in charge to further ruin the NHL. Incredible.

Thanks to NateA over at KuklasKorner.com for creating such a lasting image of Herr Bettman.

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