For months now I have been ranting and raving about the inconsistent and ridiculous way the NHL officiates and supplementaly disciplines its players. While I feel I have a good sense for some of what is wrong and should be fixed, I also felt like something is missing; and Mike Green solidified it for me on Sunday.
After the game on Sunday ,Greener had me thinking about the old nagging question, "you don't want to put these poor refs in the situation of trying to determine intent do you?" Sure I do!
If you saw Green's attempt at a hit in the neutral zone (if somebody can dig up the footage I'll upload it I'd be much obliged, my DVR pooped-the-bed), it was a textbook example of the type of hit the league has recently added the new blind-side hit rule for. Fortunately for all involved the hit was mostly a whiff and the play went on without a beat, but... it was an attempt at a dangerous hit. That made me thinking... perhaps that's a situation where the league SHOULD be trying to determine his intent.
I have used the NFL as a measuring stick for good officiating and discipline in the past and it seems like they DO on occasion try to determine intent, but that they only have a few situations where they do. And I started thinking... "when would I WANT the officials to try and determine a players intent".
For the sake of discussion I present these three scenarios:
You are [insert lame defenseman here] and after a bad turnover, you tried to grab a handful of jersey when AO goes blowin by you and your feeble fingers fail to slow down the russian machine.
You are a random superstar power forward from an Eastern European country (not thinking of anyone in particular here) who like to forecheck with some SERIOUS OOMPH! You are chasing a fleet-footed defenseman around the cage and you attempt to knock him a little off balance (in the attempt to gain an advantage and steal the puck), unfortunately this unnamed defenseman just happens to toepick and fall really awkwardly and, oh I don't know... breaks his collarbone.
You are a hack thug who doesn't have the skill to skate in the new NHL and are barely hanging onto the league. You feel like you need to play "on the edge" to justify your existence. So when a a random superstar power forward from an Eastern European country is pounding you incessantly into the boards and you're looking really bad in front of your coach, you take a two-handed swing of your stick at his head; and miss.
How does the current NHL handle these situations?
1. I see nothing.
2. You are the devil
3. Nobody got hurt, what are you whining about.
This sucks, and I have better idea. At the risk of starting a political discussion (please refrain) I present to you the rink commentariat the following 3 state plan.
State 1: Intent to commit a game infraction
I define "game infraction" as any non-dangerous illegal act by a player. This covers Scenerio 1 where Ovechk... uh I mean the random superstar power forward from an Eastern European country, blows by a lame defender and nothing really happens... no call. Play on. Nothing to see here folks. Attempted holds, hooks, etc, that don't interupt the play of the game and don't endanger anyone are non-issues. Move on.
State 2: Intent to make a dangerous play
I define a dangerous play as any likely-avoidable, illegal action that puts an opposing player in dangerous situation, or any intention contact with an opposing players head. This covers our Eastern Europeans push into the boards and it should be dealt with harshly in-game and then reviewed by the league in an injury occurs. In game punishment should be an automatic 5 minute major. Supplemental discipline at the discretion of the league disciplinarian (who hopefully has a brain... sorry Colin, you're out).
State 3: Intent to injury
I define intent to injure as any action that has no reasonable expectation to be part of a "hockey play" and puts the player in a dangerous position, involves contact with an opposing players head, or causes injury (even minor cuts and contusions). This would be your thug swinging at a players head. In-game punishment, automatic 10 minute misconduct, game misconduct, automatic 1 game suspension and a league review.
Yes, folks, this means fighting probably doesn't pass muster anymore, but if it's possible, can we leave out the discussion of whether or not fighting should be in the game and simply respond to the three states? (If you think I'm crazy for even suggesting that, I understand, but I'm trying my best NOT to have that discussion here).
Getting back to the Green hit, I'd like to have seen that situation been called an intent to commit a dangerous act with a 5 minute major for Green. Now I know that's crazy in this situation, but if everyone was skating under these rules from day 1 of the year, players would perhaps think twice about cheapshots and dangerous plays, and we'd hopefully have a cleaner game that still is a tough, physical battle.
What do all you really smart people think? iWearStripes, what does our resident official think of this? Would you not want to be put in the situation to make these calls? In writing them, it seemed to me not to be unfair for officials, but not being one, that's easy for me to say.
Let me have it people!