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The Egregious Officiating Blunder That Cost The Flyers An OT Game-Winning Goal (A Complete Breakdown)

Let's get one thing straight: The Flyers did not deserve to beat the Flames today. They were outplayed and outworked by an inferior hockey team who is ranked 26th in the league in the overall standings.

Let's get another thing straight: The Flyers would have stolen a 2nd point from Calgary anyway, had the officials not made one of their biggest blunders of the season.

When Sean Avery instigated what is now known as the "Avery Rule" back in the 2008 playoffs, did anyone really think we would see it come up again? Maybe the lack of occurrence of the penalty caused the referees to forget what the penalty is for. It certainly is an explanation for calling it when they did. Here is the video which originally prompted the Avery Rule clarification.

 

Here is the rule clarification Colin Campbell made immediately following the incident. (bold emphasis is mine)

"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

Now it is time to show you what Pronger did. The penalty called on Chris Pronger was unsportsmanlike conduct, not goaltender interference. Unsportsmanlike conduct is Rule 75 in the NHL Rulebook. Unfortunately, nothing explicit is mentioned about this clarification there, but the "Avery Rule" is unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, not a goaltender interference penalty. And the referee's did call unsportsmanlike conduct, clearly referencing the Avery Rule in doing so.

Just one problem, the Avery Rule requires the player to be facing the goaltender. Chris Pronger had his back to him the whole time. Whether or not Chris Pronger's arm was trying to direct traffic, stick his arm out in the face of Miikka Kiprusoff, or a combination of both of them is something that is only known to Chris Pronger and something completely irrelevant in this case. The Avery Rule explicitly requires a player to be facing the opposing goaltender. Chris Pronger had his back to him the whole time. He needs to be facing the goaltender and waving his arms around to be called for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, not just waving his arms around. Think my point of view is biased? Think the video goes to fast to "really tell?" I am not advocating any conspiracies here, but this needs to be looked at in screen by screen detail, both to analyze the penalty and to see just how everything went down in an easy to understand fashion.

 

 

Chris Pronger had his arm extended for 1 second, 2 at the most. Now whether he was trying to use his arm to distract Kiprusoff or to direct Mike Richards cannot be said for sure, but think about it, if Pronger wanted to use his arm to distract or screen Kiprusoff, wouldn't it make sense to do it for a longer period of time, a la Avery? But as mentioned above, unless the referees are using some obscene interpretation of a vague rule in Rule 75, the Avery Rule just does not make sense here. Pronger never faced Kiprusoff. Avery directly faced Brodeur. Avery was definitely using his arms to distract Brodeur for an extended period of time. Pronger stuck his arm out for a second, with an unclear intention that Ghislain Hibert had no way of knowing. Like I mentioned, the Avery Rule needs to have the attacking player face the goaltender for it to be called.  Pronger, using the proper form to set a typical screen, had his back to him the whole time.

Also, I noted that Hibert waited until the goal was scored to signal anything. Referees can use "intent to blow" at any moment to justify not blowing a whistle, but I would like to see a justification as to why it took 3 whole seconds and a goal for Ghislain Hibert to determine that what Chris Pronger did was a penalty. He was staring right at it the whole time. He had not even started moving his arm up. And don't give me the "Hibert just did not react yet excuse." That's complete bullshit. Count to 3. Watch how long it takes from the time Pronger sticks his hand out to the time the goal scores. Can it seriously be assumed that the referee was still interpreting what had happened in his brain for that long a period of time and make a simple motion with his arm? Put another way, when you are sitting in a classroom and the teacher/professor asks you a question that you know instantly, does it take 3 seconds to raise your hand? Or do you react almost instantly? The answer: It's instant. If you see a penalty, and you know it, the arm goes up instantly. But, Hibert saw what had happened, waited for a few seconds, saw the puck go in, and immediately waved the goal off instead of raising his arms indicating a penalty. Shouldn't penalties be called right after they happen, not reactively after a result that may have stemmed from a possible infraction? It is a shame that the Flyers lost an albeit somewhat undeserved point because of that horseshit from the officials.

I mentioned it above, the Flyers lost because of numerous other reasons than the officials, for starters they went 0 for 5 on the PP in regulation against a team you can easily beat by cashing in on opportunities. They probably were lucky to even make it to overtime. But that fact does not excuse this piss-poor job of officiating, nor does it excuse the lack of accountability the officials displayed after the game. The referees may have not held themselves accountable for this egregious blunder, but the league needs to step up and make a statement on this matter. It was a judgment call on their part, interpreting a rule in a way that it was not meant to be interpreted. But the NHL still needs to step in and say something or act in some way. But if Down Goes Brown's flowchart is any indication, the NHL will just ignore this controversy entirely and do nothing. And honestly, would anyone be surprised by that?


This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.

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