NHL Officiating: When the Black and White Make a Game Too Grey

The Frozen FanCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2009

Tonight’s Philadelphia Flyers-Washington Capitals game featured the most ridiculous display of officiating ineptitude I have ever witnessed in person.


After such a statement, you could call me a homer. That would be true, if I didn’t believe that the Flyers lost this game because they could not manage to capitalize on a single power play opportunity.

You could say that I’m just blaming the officials for a Flyers’ loss. But please remember that I consistently maintain that you don’t lose because of bad officiating; you win in spite of it.

Or you could say that the four NHL officials botched a series of calls, reducing the integrity of what promised to be a highly-entertaining contest.

The Flyers managed to avoid penalties for several hacking and whacking violations throughout the first two periods. The Capitals’ Mike Green should have received a hooking penalty on a Simon Gagne breakaway. Why the referees opted to assess an interference penalty on Niklas Backstrom with less than five minutes remaining is beyond me. That play is ignored 99 percent of the time in the current NHL.

And that’s all without addressing the bizarre “incidental contact” which disallowed a Capitals goal but failed to elicit a Flyers power play. Without having seen a true replay (I was at the arena, screaming angrily at the refs), I won’t try to analyze the play.

For now, however, I can direct you to the official NHL rules on goaltender contact. Allow me to point out that, other than direct intentional contact between a skater and a netminder, referees are given permission to use discretion in meting out judgment. Given the excellent decision-making they displayed throughout the rest of the evening . . .

Sarcasm aside, I was sad to see this game devolve into an officiating debacle. Both teams played solid hockey tonight, from the beautiful offensive rushes to crisp puck movement to gutsy defensive desperation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game’s pace and intensity, and I wish we could have seen a more fairly managed bout for this last meeting of the regular season. I’m disappointed that I left my game confused by referees rather than amazed by the sheer talent of both teams.