Don't Fall for It: Diving Has No Place in Hockey

Daren BukatorCorrespondent IMay 10, 2008

          However, other than the obvious tragic incidents that happen in hockey, diving is one of the worst things a player can do on the ice.

          It is disrespectful to the game, the players, and the fans when a person fakes an injury or lays on the ice longer than necessary. No one is more of a threat to the game than those who dive for any reason. Whether it’s to draw a penalty or stop the play, it ruins the integrity of the game like nothing else.

          Referees in the past have always been very selective when making a diving call. It has had a lot to do with the fact that calling someone a diver has more of an impact than the two minute penalty that follows. It can damage a player’s reputation. Because of the extra ramifications a diving penalty carries, referees sometimes don’t want to put themselves in a situation that could label a player as a cheater.

          Over the years this problem has often been brushed aside as being part of the game. The argument suggests that anything that gives your team an edge without getting caught is just fine. If a player can fool the referees to give his team an advantage, it's considered gamesmanship. A skill even.

          But where did it all begin? Of course it hasn't always been this way. Falling to the ice in order to draw a penalty while your team is heading up the ice was very uncommon in other eras of the game.

          So what happened? Well, two major changes have happened since that time. The first was the drastic increase in European content over the past couple decades, and the second was the rule changes after the lockout.

          Firstly, with so many new international players joining the league, a new obstacle was added to the mix in the diving department; the European influence. To say that Europeans dive more than those of North American birth has nothing to do with discrimination. It’s just not considered such a sin in Europe as it is in North America.

          The attitude toward flopping is much more relaxed all the way through, from the referees to the players to the fans.  

          In soccer, it’s a joke. It’s disgusting to the world of competitive sports to see such obvious fakers get away with this nonsense that can leave a huge scar on the entire game from top to bottom. Is it only coincidence that the biggest game on the planet has failed to penetrate the North American market as it has throughout the rest of the world?

Or can it be directly linked to the intolerance of diving North Americans clearly feel?

          Next, the crackdown on obstruction in the post-lockout NHL has fueled the problem further. Players knowing that the slightest infraction by the opposition can end up in a power play situation has players looking for every opportunity to get the ref's attention.

          Diving cannot be an acceptable practice in the NHL, especially in a league that needs all the support it can get and continues to search for a larger fan base.            

          Although the penalty for diving is used on a semi-occasional basis in today’s NHL, it needs to be one of the more significant changes made. Ever since the lockout and the new standard of officiating, it has been hard to understand how the referee was able to spot the small one handed tap on the hip (or hooking as they liked to call it) but failed to acknowledge the 215 pound athlete that plummeted to the ice shortly thereafter.              

          It happens all the time. For every five hooks there are one or two dives. For every five hooks there are five hooking penalties, and almost zero diving calls. The ones that are called simply negate the power play the diving team would have benefited from, even though diving is a much worse crime to commit since it has an impact on the honesty of the game.              

          For this reason, diving should be a five minute major penalty every time no matter what the circumstance.              

          With two referees on the ice, a player usually does not need to help them make the penalty call by falling to the ice, which is yet another reason why there is simply no place for it in the game. Calling both penalties is fine as long as two infractions are clearly identified.              

          There is no harm in calling the dive alone either, when a player simply embellishes a fall or an injury when no foul was committed on them.  In any case a dive is a dive and warrants five minutes in the box.           

          To put further emphasis on the issue, those who are caught must go through a separate process. A process that begins with the penalty but could lead to suspensions.             

          The offender’s name goes on a list and future dives by the same player will go to the league to discuss. Each additional dive a player takes after the first should come with a fine to both the player and coach, somewhere in the range of $15,000 to $30,000 for the second offense, increasing from there.             

          For example, a third offence should include the five minute major, a $50,000 fine and a one game suspension. I cannot imagine any player would go further than that but if so, more money and games must be sacrificed. Not to mention the label of cheater that goes along with it.              

          Players in today’s NHL rarely accumulate multiple diving penalties in their careers so to assume that it would happen on a regular basis is a stretch, but with the new standard anything is possible. A strong point needs to be heard.  

          The fear alone will have a great affect on the mentality of players. If they get checked, they will pop right back up. If they are tripped they will jump to their feet and begin to skate. They will fight through the hooks and the holds, rather than put their hands in the air and look at the referee to make a call.

          Even the goaltenders who get nudged may think twice before doing a back flip in the crease. The product will improve and the players will appear tougher and not like cry-babies, pleading for a penalty when they should be continuing on with the play.

          It would be wrong to suggest that the league is full of cry-babies since just about every player asks the referees to call a penalty now and then. But the new standard would eliminate this tactic somewhat for the better, as players would understand that there is no benefit to hitting the ice and they should instead make the extra attempt to stay on their skates to help their team.

          The overall impact these changes would have on the NHL during its crackdown on dives would be to firstly remove most diving from the game, but more importantly, it would send the message that this kind of behavior is forbidden and that no one in any league (or any sport for that matter) at any level, is allowed to flop.

          It is wrong. It is faking. It is cheating. It is dishonest. It is simply unacceptable. It is about respect, and for a professional sports league to take such a stand would bring immediate credibility to itself in this area.