Wednesday, May 6, 2009
You want to know why hockey is very, very solidly behind the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball in popularity in this country? I mean, besides being stuck on a no-name network, losing an entire season to a lockout and the Dead Puck Era that strangled the fun out of the sport for a decade?
It's nights like this. Events like this. Screwjobs like this that will keep the NHL in its place in the pecking order. The casual, prospective fan gets turned off when any team, and especially the defending champions, get robbed blind by incompetent, abysmal officiating put in place by one of the worst commissioners in major American sports history. Seriously, and I say this with extreme prejudice, extreme contempt, and pure, undiluted hatred: You suck, Gary Bettman. You are a disgrace to the sport, a disgrace to the office you hold, and a disgrace in general. It took an entire lockout for you to loosen the rules to inject some excitement into the sport. And you still have rules in place that ruin the game because you put pathetic, lapdog-like people on the ice, give them striped shirts, and call them officials. In a group that includes Bud Selig and David Stern, you have the "worst commissioner" title locked up and hidden away, buddy. The clowns that you call referees are an embarrassment. Brad Stuart checks a guy behind the net with the puck, and the ref near the play does nothing, while the one all the way out at center ice, who probably didn't even know where the puck was, calls interference. A year after Tomas Holmstrom gets called for goalie interference twice when he was firmly planted outside the crease and was not touching the goalie, Ryan Getzlaf is allowed to slash Osgood in the right arm as the Ducks score their second goal. The Ducks are constantly allowed to crash the net in an attempt to drive Osgood into the goal. The Ducks are constantly allowed to punch, jab and cross check after the whistle. The penalty on Niklas Kronwall in Game 2 that resulted in a Ducks goal? Scott Niedermayer has built a Hall of Fame career using that same interference move. He perfected it and led the New Jersey Devils to the top of the NHL and ushered in the Dead Puck Era with it. And yet he still does it without penalty.
And just when you think the officiating could not be anymore incompetent, anymore of a farce...they manage to top themselves. Everybody likes to complain about the refs, in every sport. And yet tonight, Red Wings fans can legitimately say that Brad Watson determined the outcome of the game. The puck was loose, Marian Hossa poked it in, the game was tied...and then it wasn't. Instead of skating in behind the net to make sure the puck was dead, Watson made the move to blow his whistle as he skated in. He even blew the whistle AFTER the puck was in the net. And yet, because of another one of Bettman's laughably awful rules, the act of the referee moving his hand toward his mouth to blow the play dead overrules the actual blowing of the whistle. In what other sport does this apply? The answer is none, because other sports aren't run by a clown masquarading as a commissioner.
Hockey is a beautiful game. It's exciting, it's heartstopping, it's gutwrenching. It's a wonderful, awesome sport. And it will never reach its potential while the human excrement Gary Bettman is running it. His TV deal, his refs. His mess. Gary Bettman running the NHL gives hope to idiots everywhere. If you're lucky, you too can be successful at life. And you can employ people of equal stupidity to ruin a good thing.
In a perfect world, the Red Wings use this robbery as a rallying point to finally cave the Ducks' skulls in. But hey, in a perfect world, these two teams are in overtime right now and Gary Bettman is hitched on the back of a garbage truck gathering trash. In a perfect world, this scene doesn't happen: