“55 Philly, 2 minutes, elbowing. 27 Pittsburgh, 2 minutes, roughing.”
That’s all you had to say, gentlemen. All one of you had to do was make the call without first checking to see who was fouled, and the third period of last night’s game wouldn’t have turned into an ECHL punch-up.
By letting Gary Roberts’ fists do your job for you, you gave the Flyers and Penguins carte blanche to exchange cheap shots for the rest of the game. You went for the cheap “retaliation” call because the play involved two fighters, Ben Eager and Georges Laraque.
“87 Pittsburgh, 2 for tripping. 43 Philly, 2 for diving.”
That was your second chance to pull the game back under your control. Sidney Crosby was sneaky about it, but he intentionally tripped Martin Biron, who responded like he was on the receiving end of a roundhouse kick to the face. But Sid is the best player in the NHL; he’d never do such a thing. And maybe he caught Biron’s pads as he skated by. Didn’t the taunts and insults they exchanged after the play give you the hint that it wasn’t incidental contact?
You are referees in the NHL. If you are checking names and numbers before you raise your hand, you are doing your job wrong. An elbow to the head is a dangerous play that has no place in the NHL. It doesn’t matter if the elbow belongs to Ben Eager or Danny Briere, and it doesn’t matter if the head is Georges Laraque’s or Petr Sykora’s. If Adam Hall had tripped Biron, would you have called it both ways? Would you have bothered with a diving call if Jarkko Ruutu had tripped Biron?
This isn’t to say that “reputations” have nothing to do with how a hockey game should be judged. After all, the Flyers have lost 51 man-games to suspensions this season. That’s not so much a “reputation” as it is a pattern of conduct. Recent history counts, too. You can bet that the crew working Thursday night’s Penguins/Senators game will expect some leftover piss and vinegar on the Pens’ bench. That’s the time to tighten up, however, not let ’em play. Give some hockey players an inch of clutch and grab, and they’ll take a mile of high sticks, high elbows, hits from behind, and “accidental falls” into a goaltender’s legs.
Shame on you, Laraque, for that cheap move. And shame on you, McCreary and Rooney, for waiting until that point to issue a misconduct for something other than a fight.
Nobody walked away from this game blameless. Hell, even the Philadelphia media debased itself by voting the 3rd star of the game to Crosby, just to give Flyers fans one more chance to boo his name. In the process, they screwed R.J. Umberger out of a star he most certainly deserved for earning his first NHL hat trick.
You, as referees, were in the best position to prevent last night’s escalation of hostilities.
That didn’t happen.