No Goal Isn’t Enough For Fans

“Upon video review of the play, the play on the ice stands. No goal.”

That was the word from referee Dan O’Rourke last night in Carolina after the Leafs J.S. Giguere pushed the puck out of his own net after the whistle.

(You can see the entire thing here, starting at 2:22, which includes the call by O’Rourke)

The question, of course, is why? For the fans in attendance, the answer would be elusive. It still is. That was all the explanation we had before the puck was dropped.

Tom Benjamin’s post from yesterday, well before the Hurricanes game, got me thinking about the problem. Faith from the faithful when the war room in Toronto is used to determine a call on the ice.

From Tom (who quotes Elliotte Friedman):

I also think Elliotte Friedman has a good idea to deal with the perceptions of bias:

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (although there is no way Oswald acted alone), but if the league really wants to gain trust, there is a solution. All replay reviews could be carried live into the television network(s) broadcasting the games. That means a camera/microphones in the war room, only to be used when something is being looked at. You can’t argue with that transparency.

Why not?

Why not indeed? Or for that matter, how about some brief explanation of the reason a puck that was in the net isn’t a goal?

While this isn’t on the same level of tin-foil-hat fans from just about every team, there is more the league could do to remove the view of bias. Transparency could be their biggest weapon in the fight for the fan’s trust (and right now, it is a fight). If the war room and hockey operations people are truly doing everything they can to make sure the games are carried out in a fair way, there shouldn’t be as much of a barrier between the fans and the process.

The flip side is that the closer to the action the fans get, the more work it is for those who have to wrangle them. Look at all the effort spent defusing bombs thrown by fans on twitter. How much more time would the TSN guys have to do their real jobs if they didn’t have to answer every kid who thinks they have it right, and the TV guy has it wrong? Do we really want the fans banging on the proverbial glass of the war room while they are trying to do their job?

The truth is, O’Rourke was in a position that wasn’t conducive to seeing the puck go in the net. And yet, he was in the right position (good angle for most goals, out of the way of the play). And barring having 4 refs and two linesmen, there isn’t much else to be done about the on ice situation. Therefor the issue should be solved in the procedure, and the transparency of process. Maybe even with the flexibility in what it takes to change the ruling on the ice, based on the reason for a stoppage. In this case, if O’Rourke stopped play because he couldn’t see the puck, but the puck was in the net before the whistle, then there isn’t a compelling reason to stick with the call on the ice.

Last night, telling the fans why would have made the rest of the game much better for those in attendance. Instead, trust was broken, and the all mighty war room had spoken. What we have here, as ever, is a failure to communicate.

Nabokov and The Decision

Several months ago, LeBron James went on ESPN for an hour long special to reveal what team he was going to sign with in free agency. It was spectacle, wind up, spin, and just about everything wrong with the big business of sports. The verdict on LeBron James?


Evgeni Nabokov was claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders after he signed with the Detroit Red Wings today. Within hours, word came from his agent that Nabokov would not be reporting to the Islanders organization. The verdict on Nabokov:


Hang on a minute here.


The rules on signing a player in the NHL who has played part of the season in a league overseas is that they must first pass though waivers. Any team can claim the player, with the team lowest in the standings getting first priority. If they can afford him, they can have him.

And what recourse does the player have? What can the player do if he doesn’t want to play for the team that claims him off waivers?

Nothing. Except not show up.

Can you imagine that happening to you? You get a job, but because you worked in another state, any other employer can take you away from your gig, and put you to work in their organization. First, you were going to be designing websites with a kick-ass startup, and the next day, you’re working the frialator at a McDonalds in Flint, MI. What would you do?

(and if you can’t get past the McDonalds bit, just insert whatever job that would suck in your field)

In the world of sports, players are treated as, and referred to, as property. In any other context, this would be illegal. But since this is sports, and the people involved are making a pile of cash, they should do what they are told, and put what they want to the side. It’s ridiculous.

So Nabokov should go to New York, and play as well as possible for a team he doesn’t want to be on, in a place he doesn’t want to be? No matter what the NHL waiver rules are, which seem designed entirely around punishing a player for going overseas, the guy is exercising the only real power he has left. In what is probably the twilight of his career, he probably wants to play for a contender. By not showing up, he is bucking the system, which looks mighty flawed at this point.

I bet the St. Louis Blues have a good argument against the waiver system right now, after loosing two players in a similar fashion this season. The only difference is that Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood won’t me making the impact that a goaltender of Nabokov’s skill can make (this isn’t to say he’s going to turn things on like Tim Thomas, but they guy can stop a puck).

We haven’t heard word one from Nabokov at this point, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to play for the Islanders. If he wanted to be on the island, he would have signed with them. And we have a problem with that?

UPDATE: Nabokov has spoken. Another post should be forthcoming.

Sometimes, this is how change happens. Someone says no, and the rules get looked at. Don’t be surprised if Nabokov, and certainly Nabokov’s agent, know exactly what is going on here, and have a perfectly good understanding of the waiver rules. Instead of going along with them, they are doing something different, which isn’t usually encouraged in big business, or sports.

TSN has a good roundup of what the Islanders can do next. My question is, what can Nabokov do next?

(thanks to @t_san for pointing me to that TSN column)