Obstruction, Officiaiting and a Bertuzzi Rant…..

There are three things that stir much discussion amongst the men in my family.

1) Why did they cancel Baywatch? (Briefly, the synopsis of every show: “Quick, we’ve got to disarm the bomb and make it back in time for the big bikini contest.”)

2) My Aunt Effie’s Jellied Carrot and Raisin Salad. (Is it dessert or a side dish)

3) The officiating in the NHL sucks.

At the beginning of the NHL season Andy Van HelleMond the NHL’s head of officiating, Colin Campbell, Vice President of the NHL and Gary Betteman the NHL head honcho held their own Yaltaesque conferences around the continent to let all the fans, players and coaches know that this would be the year in which the NHL would finally crack down on obstruction.

And lo the referees held their arms aloft and there was a parade to the penalty box and there was much rejoicing amongst the Jagr’s, Forsberg’s and Hull’s of the rink world.

To this date there have been almost 500 (Sporting News, January 17, 2003) obstruction penalties called by the referees. At this time last year there were only 174 obstruction penalties. (Sporting News, January 17, 2003) As a result of more penalties, power-play goals have numbered 1,055, up from 921.

Just by sheer attrition it seems as if the NHL has lived up to its end of the bargain by calling the obstruction penalties it said it would. Although the numbers have slightly decreased from the start of the season (down from 12.5 to 9.4 penalties per game avg.) obstruction seems to be on the outs according to the scions of the NHL.

My question is: Is anyone buying this spin job ?

I have seen every Canucks game this year and although I agree that at the beginning at the season there were more penalties being called there was also a marked “drag” to the flow of the game. To me it seems odd that an organization that markets itself as being built around moving fast would go to such great lengths to slow the game down with all those penalties.

Now, as a reaction to all those penalties it seems as if the NHL is cutting back on the pilgrimages to the penalty box. The penalties have gone way down and according to guys like Selanne, Jagr and Alan MacAuley the obstruction has returned.

I’m inclined to agree based solely on the last 10-12 Canucks games I have seen. (I’m using the Canucks as an example because I have seen every game of theirs this year, God Bless you DIRECTV) The holding, clutching and grabbing along with the interference seems to have jumped back up to the levels of last year. So, to me it seems all the NHL has done is reinforce the status quo.

This only makes the NHL officiating look more and more ridiculous. There is no way that they will be able to catch all those interference calls which will only lead to angrier and more frustrated fans, players and coaches. I think this is really true of late in cases where a lot of players, more then I can remember have been coming out and publicly challenging the referees poor calls or non-calls. Amonte, Bertuzzi, Thornton, Hull, Selanne, etc… have all got something to say about the refereeing as of late.

The most exemplified case concerns Vancouver’s own Todd Bertuzzi. Here’s a mountain of a guy that can barely be contained when he moves to the front of the net during most games. At the beginning of the year Bertuzzi had his own personal referee as every clutch and grab was called when he tried to move in the offensive zone especially. This resulted in guys having to play him without the grabbing and clutching and because of it there were many “le buts”. Let’s fast forward to the last week. In the Nashville game Bertuzzi took two sticks to the face and was dragged down in 7 different cases during the game.

Now, I’m an understanding fella, I don’t expect every call but come on. If the NHL was serious about calling the obstruction then they would call it regardless of situation, name on the jersey or score on the board. As a juicy little aside to the Bertuzzi example I thought it just oh so cheesey of the NHL’s chief lackey Colin Campbell to comment on Bertuzzi in front of the net. Here’s what he had to say:

“Campbell told Sun columnist Gary Mason on Thursday that a

push-off move that Bertuzzi likes to use against defencemen in

front of the opposition net is illegal. Bertuzzi scored the tying

goal in a game the Canucks went on to win against Nashville

on Jan. 14 at GM Place. Campbell has forwarded a tape of the

play to the two officials who worked that game, informing

them the move is illegal. He threatened to alert all league

officials if Bertuzzi continues to use it”

Is this for real ? Bertuzzi did push off and yes it is definitely a penalty but have you ever heard the NHL say that they were going to alert the referees about one guy using it ? Does that mean that they’re going to call every cross check, or fight for position in front of the net ? Will Marion Hossa, Forsberg or the other slight players around the league get called. I counted almost 11 cross checks on Bertuzzi when he stood in front of the Nashville net in the same game.

Well, let me know how you feel. I am not anti referee and if this comes across that way I may have missed the point. I am anti policy. I feel that if you’re going to enact policy then you have to be consistent every time and if you’re not it devalues what you’re trying to accomplish. You tell me, has the league’s new obstruction penalty crackdown improved the game ? Not to me.