Rule 32.2, which is basically the “intent to blow” rule, is under fire at the moment. So we are clear on what the rule says:
As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.
I can’t think of a scenario where this rule is going to be applied where everyone will be satisfied. For the most part, intent to blow the whistle is going to come into play when the goalie has frozen the puck (or frozen it enough to make the play stop), the ref loses sight of the puck, or the puck crosses the goal line. Can you think of a scenario where half the fans involved didn’t feel screwed over by the refs?
This week has seen two instances of the “intent to blow” rule applied and pucks in the net not counted as goals. It doesn’t help that the first example went against a wildly popular team with a vocal fanbase. The second occurrence was the next night, on a play that would have made the Maple Leafs the victors in the battle of the basement.
When this happens, the masses cry for the heads of the refs involved, sweeping changes to the rule book, and rant about how the league is against their team (when I hear this kind of talk, I just smile and nod, and realize that I am dealing with a nutter). Like I said, everyone isn’t going to be satisfied.
The cries have gone up. The non-skating masses who have never read the entire rule book have spoken (no, reading a rule at a time does not count, go get the rule book and read it cover to cover). It’s time to end the era if “intent to blow,” right?
Wrong. I now intend to blow your mind:
The rule is a good rule, and should stay.
Mind blown? No? Maybe?
When you read the text of the rule, all the reasons for the rule to exist are there. There is a human factor involved, and for the 59:59 of a game that the refs go unnoticed, there is no problem with that human factor. It’s that one or two seconds of indecision (or in the case of the Leafs – Canes game, about 4 seconds), those small mistakes, those little moments that the frothing fans want the entire thing blown up.
And sure, it makes for good blog fodder to be outraged, or to take the refs to task (a meme that goes back way past Al Gore inventing the internet), but it’s also generally uninformed as well. There are very few people who write about hockey who skate, play the game, or – god forbid they should intensely learn about the game – have taken a coaching or officiating course (USA Hockey and Hockey Canada provide seminars at the beginning of every season, and have plenty on manuals, guides, and casebooks for further study). I realize that there are people who can’t do these things (and I don’t mean the basic excuse making kind of can’t, I mean really physically can’t), and those people get a pass. And yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this isn’t their site. Also, it doesn’t mean I am better than everyone else.
Name one sport that puts the refs in this much close contact at this high of speed with the players (and box lacrosse doesn’t count, since it’s basically hockey on grass with a ball). Basketball is a comparatively slow game, with very few scenarios in which a rule like this would be needed. Football and baseball are sports played from moment to moment. In hockey, the refs are trapped on the ice with twelve angry men who want to win at all costs. They are checked, hit with the puck, and do everything they can to get out of the way of the action while constantly monitoring the game. The speed of the game, along with the danger of being on the ice with the players, makes officiating hockey one of the most difficult jobs in sports (not to mention that they skate the entire game, unlike the players).
Here’s a simple example: How do you blow your whistle when you are falling down to the ice? A few players get tangled up with the ref, he goes down, but needs to stop play. This is a perfect example for this rule being put in the books in the first place. I bet if you tried hard, you could come up with a few yourselves.
Were these two games fine examples of the rule being applied? No, they were not. I don’t see a reason the ref in Carolina shouldn’t have blown the whistle any earlier than he did. But that doesn’t mean the rule is a bad rule. One or two applications that are unsatisfactory to the fans does not make for a bad rule.
Oh, and comments are turned off for this post. Take your ref bashing and start your own blog with it. The refs are expected to be professionals, but the players aren’t held to the same standards? Yeah, I’m not interested.
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