You may love John Tortorella or hate him, as a person or as a coach, but you cannot for one moment ever say that he is dishonest. From his comments on Sean Avery to HBO to the Winter Classic, he speaks his mind. You may not agree with him, but you know where he stands. To John’s credit, knowing he faced a fine or suspension, he questioned the integrity of the officiating at the end of the Winter Classic. In raising the issue, he spoke for many of us who saw exactly what he saw – officials trying to create overtime.
No one has questioned that Tortorella was right that Gaborik was pitch-forked and a penalty was warranted. No one has questioned that McDonagh did not delay the game; that he was pushed into the net. All one can say in defense of the Refs is that non-calls at the end of a close game happen and that mistakes occur.
If the "mistakes" ended here, we could have a nice debate about how to be consistent the Refs should have made two non-calls or how dumb they were. But it did not end here.
Let’s go to the video tape.
First, let’s look at the Callahan call. At 0:08 he plays the puck against the wall with the intent to avoid a sweep check and recover the puck. At 0:12 Timonen is hooking Callahan with the stick firmly above the forearm at the elbow. At 0:13 the forearm is lowered by Callahan to avoid the hook and he is clearly leaning forward – he is past the defender. He is not grabbing the stick to embellish. At 0:14 his forearm is raised as his body is pulled backwards because he is being hooked to the ice. At 0:16 his body is being twisted by the hook – he is not holding anything as the stick blade is at his throat.
There is no question that at 0:13 Callahan had an unobstructed path to the net. This should have been a Ranger’s penalty shot. It was not an awarded goal because Callahan did not have possession.
Rule 25.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone on, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team.” It was a penalty shot as he clearly would have obtained possession. Rule 24.8 (iii) The player in possession and control (or, in the judgment of the Referee, clearly would have obtained possession and control of the puck) must have been denied a reasonable chance to score (the fact that he got a shot off does not automatically eliminate this play from the penalty shot consideration criteria. If the foul was from behind and he was denied a “more” reasonable scoring opportunity due to the foul, then the penalty shot should be awarded).
Second, let’s look at the penalty shot call.
You can plainly see in slow motion at 0:25-0:27 that McDonagh’s hands go over the puck and never touch it. He does not fall on the puck, or direct it with his hands. His leg slides the puck away from the crease. This is not a Penalty Shot.
67.4 Penalty Shot - If a defending player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck, or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.Any one of these “errors” by the Refs alone is understandable. Two might be coincidence. Four is a pattern.
The NHL should be ashamed. As long as this blatant type of manipulation of the “game” is allowed, Hockey will continue to be viewed by the general public as “entertainment” much like the World Wresting Federation and not a sport like the NFL. If Tortorella is fined, then the Refs should be suspended. Of course, he will be fined - he will apologize and the Refs will not be suspended. And, we fans know why.
John Tortorella's official apology, issued today:
“I just want to get it straightened out. Regarding after the Winter Classic, the game and my press conference, first of all using the word ‘disgusting’ I don’t think was the proper way to go about it as far as talking about Dennis and Ian so I was wrong there. I was wrong there. Second of all, my tongue-in-cheek comments regarding NBC, the league, the refs as far as what’s come about here, people thinking was it fixed, are you trying to get it to overtime or that type of thinking, that was not even in my mind. They were sarcastic comments by me at the wrong time. It’s frustration on my part as far as the referees were concerned and how it was done at the end of the game. So please, I want to get that straight. Not for second, no way, time, shape or form, did I think anything like that goes on with our league, or ever will. For me to question the integrity of the league, the integrity of NBC, the integrity of Dennis and Ian, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers, go right down through all the people here, there’s not a chance I’m thinking that way. It was wrong with my sarcasm, with my frustration and I apologize to everybody involved. I want to make sure that’s straight that that was not my intent. I was unemotional during that press conference, I was frustrated with what went on and I certainly handled it the wrong way. Especially to the two refs, to Dennis and Ian, I’ve known them for a long time, they do a great job, it’s one of the toughest jobs in the game. For me to put them under a microscope in that type of setting, at the Classic, was wrong. I tainted the Classic with my mouth and I shouldn’t have so I apologize to everybody involved.
“I’ve had conversations with Colie on a number of things regarding this, yes. But have I talked to Dennis or Ian? I’m not going to do it on the phone, I’m going to do it face to face.
“Colie and I have had conversations yesterday and will continue today.
“Because I knew it was tongue in cheek in my mind, and the people that were there, at least, I thought they felt the same thing, no, I regret it but I don’t think it was going to turn into something like this. But it bothers me that I’m using the word ‘disgusting’ with the two guys because I really thought they reffed a good game. I had frustrations at the end and that’s what came out there. I’ve talked to everybody I can, including Paul Holmgren with the Flyers. That was a first-class operation, that Winter Classic and I screwed up with my mouth at the end and I regret and I apologized to the people all involved with that.”