The reffing in the NHL is - to me - at an all time low. I fully understand that people may not take me seriously because I'm a chick, because I don't play hockey, because I like to make jokey-jokes, because I'm a chick (let's face it that's the worst offense to most testosterony hockey fans). But I have been watching hockey every season (for various teams, to varying degrees) since my high school best buds Anna Maria and Lori turned me onto to it in 1987.
I get the refs can't call everything. I get that some of the bullshit plays will fall victim to human error. But the frequency of those bullshit misses and unbalanced calls (when they are made) has - this year - reached an unacceptable level. It's become so bad I can't help but wonder if we're getting our refs from CNIB.
What has pushed me over the edge is Game 3 of the Canucks-Blackhawks playoff series. The first period was all action from both teams, but the Canucks were dominating shots on goal. So why were none getting in? Well, three clear reasons;
#1) The canucks were playing really clean hockey. No one was screening Niemi at all - not once. No one was shoving their ass in his face or sticks in his pads. We aren't the Hawks, but sometimes - you really do have to sink to their level and this is one of those times.
#2) The canucks were playing lame hockey. On powerplays they were back to that annoying habit of playing hot potato with the puck rather than peppering the weaker goalie with shots.
#3) Because the minute - the absolute minute - the puck entered his crease and grazed Niemi's pad, glove or stick, or he made even the slightest attempt to cover-up the Ref's whistle shreiked.
This would be fine if it had worked both ways. But here's how the evening went for the Chicago Blackhawks;
#1) Hawks screened the crap out of Roberto Luongo with Byfuglien (who I swear was the body double in Precious he is so huge) and went back to last year's ethic of taking cheap dirty, miraculously undetected jabs, checks and trips to most Canucks within 10 feet of the puck.
#2) When Luongo covered up the puck he had to wait a ridiculous amount of time until the ref found his whistle. Enough time that these thug Hawks managed to jab the puck free in most cases and get another shot off. It could be called a "rebound" if it was a puck that reasonably should have been in play. But it wasn't.
Seriously. I know I am a Canucks fans (on top of being a chick) but I noticed the long vs short whistles well before there was even a score.
And the biggest absolute EPIC FAIL had to be the goal when the Hawks SHOVED the puck (along with the goalie the puck was under) into the net and the ref's failed to call goalie interference. And Toronto had no choice but to rule it a goal since only a referee can make an interference call.
Do I get why Canucks fans threw trash all over the ice? Yes. Do I condone it? No. It was still a very stupid, uncanadian-like thing to do but the anger that led to that inappropriate choice was justified. i can tell you no matter how blind the refs are at the game tonight, I won't be throwing anything.
Here's the argument I get a lot when I bitch about uncalled penalties (big or small) "the ref is just letting them play." That whole "let them play" philosphy only works when it's evenly distributed and during game three of Chicago-Vancouver it wasn't. The refs clearly favored Niemi. End of story.
Furthermore, it's the PLAYOFFS! This is when everyone should be on their best behaviour. This is when the REFEREES should be calling everything. You should have to win it because of skill, tenacity and grit not because you're the bigger bully or the team that has more cheap tricks up their glove.
That was truly the best part about the Olympics - and the Canadian's gold medal win. We played good, clean, SKILLED hockey. I love a good hockey fight as much as anyone but I don't love cheap dirty plays or players. And I absolutely hate incompetant reffing.
I have heard a lot over the years about the economics of the NHL and how that Gargoyle lookalike Bettman only wants U.S. teams in the final because "they bring in the money." I've never been good at math so I don't bother to figure out how that makes any sense. I mean what I do know about hockey (my playoff ticket to Friday's game cost $178 pre taxes/service charges and one in the same section in the Detroit arena cost $41. Also not one of my American-born friends watches hockey and when I was living there I couldn't find a game (even a KINGS game) on a non-cable channel in LA) makes this statement irrational. But I'm sure it has something to do with how even if the entire population of Canada watches hockey it's still less than the entire population of California. Whatever.
I never believed Bettman was rigging the NHL. Mainly because I think conspiracy crap like this is ridiculous. But the way I have seen the reffing start to turn this round.... turn against Canadian teams..... right now those crazy conspiracy theorists have a stronger case than I do for not believing it. Maybe Bettman told the Refs to turn a blind eye to those Canucks (and Canadiens... that though probably came in a late memo since even a dumbass like Bettman wouldn't be stupid enugh to think the Habs would beat the Capitals).
Either that or we really are hiring the NHL refs from a CNIB work-program.