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COMMENTARY · 18th April 2010
Merv Ritchie
Just like professional boxing of many years ago it would almost seem the NHL is fixing games by the only manner possible, officiating. Many years ago, in the late 80's watching the Canucks get bad calls in the playoffs caused me to boycott the NHL altogether. Watching Senior Men’s hockey was much more rewarding. Bad calls happened but not at critical moments and the play was more heart felt.

Last night the Vancouver Canucks were delivered a penalty call of 'too many men on the ice'. This is a call usually made during regular season play when someone plays a puck who has just come on the ice well before the player going off gets on the bench or visa versa. Last nights game was an overtime period playoff game. Not the time for bad calls, and particularly not this type of call. One of the players leaving the ice was injured, certainly not about to play the puck. Like the Grey Cup game last year, it is this type of call that ruins sports for intelligent discriminating fans.

In the Grey Cup last year, Saskachewan dominated the entire game. It was a completely unexpected result. One can only imagine how much money the bookies were going to lose. Montreal was highly favoured to win. Like virtually all CFL Greycup matchups it was an exciting game and was coming down to a field goal kick at the end. It was the last play of the game, make the kick and the Alouettes would win. They missed. Saskatchewan fans went wild. But wait, an official called too many men on the field. That was not the case. A player had run out from behind the end zone as the kick was in the air. Was he running out to celebrate? Did someone say to themselves, 'Hey, just in case Montreal misses this kick, maybe we should have some Saskachewan player run out at the back of the end zone to get the opportunity to kick it again, that's a lot of money to lose.'

It is all about money. In Professional Baseball, after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series two years in a row (1992 & 1993), American fans stopped watching; the top brass forced the break up of Coach Cito Gaston’s team. It didn’t help that Gaston was the first Black Coach.

I enjoy good hockey. Watching the LA Kings (Queens) goalie move with sudden determined thrusts and turns to frustrate the Canucks was an absolute pleasure. He lived up to his name ‘Quick’. In contrast to this almost smooth precision we watched Captain Canuck Luongo flail about, fall over and lay spread eagled on the ice. He even hog tied himself once with his own stick, absolutely hilarious. At other times he threw his stick, once luckily hitting the puck, which was flying threw the air, as his stick was also flying out of his grip. None the less, this loss was due to officiating, an embarrassment that should not go unnoticed.

Kevin Bieksa was cut and trying to get off the ice. The puck hit his skate. A linesman called it as a too many men on the ice ‘cause the rule says you cannot play the puck as you are going off. Right!! A player has five feet from the box as a safety margin. He was not playing the puck, he was injured, he was within the five feet and neither of the red striped officials made the call; it was a linesman. In an overtime playoff game this was the worst of the worst calls.

But think about the fans in LA. How many more will come in to fill the seats and watch the games? How much more money will be made? Yes I am cynical. A call to Ticket Master revealed there were still many playoff tickets available in LA, maybe less after this win. The next game in Vancouver has a few $400 seats left. It is all about the money

The Federal Liberals railed against the GST when the Conservatives were going to bring it in. The Liberals won the next election in 1993 promising to remove it. The Conservatives suffered the worst political defeat in history winning only 2 seats giving the Liberals a huge mandate to remove the tax. The Chretien Liberals broke their promise and kept the GST. It is all about the money and nothing about the desires of the citizenry. The BC Liberals campaigned stating they wouldn’t bring in the HST. The conservatives bribed them with a multi billion dollar bonus if they did. Ah, what’s this, a change of heart or a clear out deception?

Maybe I’ll boycott watching politics too. No CFL, no NHL, no MLB, maybe I’ll go back to watching Boxing, at least we all know it’s fixed. Maybe this is why the extremely violent Ultimate Fighting Championships in the cages are so attractive to new young audiences. Awful hard to fix these fights; brutal, full on assaults. I dream of seeing our top politicians in a cage right about now and maybe that linesman too.