Saturday, June 9, 2012

AHL: How to Lose the Calder Cup without Really Trying

On the day of a possibly decisive Game 5 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, we turn to the American Hockey League for a truly devastating way to lose a playoff game, much less a championship series contest.

Because playoff hockey's overtime is truly sudden death, any goal scored after the third period is truly a walk-off, a golden goal, an instant win—or is it?

Toronto reacts to the goal (News services/Rene Johnston)
Thursday: the AHL's Norfolk Admirals and Toronto Marlies were locked in a scoreless draw by regulation's end, necessitating a decisive OT period. With fatigued players abound, goalies Dustin Tokarski (Norfolk) and Ben Scrivens (Toronto) had displayed the type of Martin Brodeur-Jonathan Quick showdown that necessitated overtime during Games 1 & 2 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Final.

So when the AHL affair came to an abrupt end nearly halfway through the OT period, it was fitting that Scrivens had left the crease to play a dumped puck along the quad boards. Unfortunately, that dumped puck took the oddest of caroms off the glass and rebounded between the pipes for the game-winner.

Or an apparent game-winner that should have been disallowed.

On Friday, the AHL admitted an incorrect rules interpretation led to this decisive overtime winner: "We have spoken with Toronto Marlies management and confirmed that a rules interpretation error by the on-ice officials occurred on the Norfolk Admirals' overtime goal during Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals."

At issue was AHL Rule 83.4—equivalent to NHL Rule 83.4—which is titled "Disallowed Goal." According to this rule:
If the puck is shot on goal during a delayed off-side, the play shall be allowed to continue under the normal clearing- the-zone rules. Should the puck, as a result of this shot, enter the defending team’s goal, either directly or off the goalkeeper, a player or an official on the ice, the goal shall be disallowed as the original shot was off-side. The fact that the attacking team may have cleared the zone prior to the puck entering the goal has no bearing on this ruling.
Rule 83.3 specifies a delayed off-side as, "a situation where an attacking player has preceded the puck across the attacking blue line, but the defending team is in a position to bring the puck back out of its defending zone."

In the game-winning play in question, Norfolk's Mike Kostka sent the puck from center ice into the right wall as one of his teammates was attempting to clear the attacking zone, allowing the defense to play the puck, a delayed off-side under Rule 83.3.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the board's stanchion caused an odd jounce, richocheting the puck straight into the empty net—yet under Rule 83.4, the goal clearly should not have counted:
The only way an attacking team can score a goal on a delayed off-side situation is if the defending team shoots or puts the puck into their own net without action or contact by the offending team.
Because the defense was anticipating the opportunity to play the puck, rather than actually contacting or sticking the dumped disc, that basket biscuit should have been disallowed, even though the offensive player tagged up before the puck entered the net—the delayed off-side still should have negated the goal.

This specific incorrect call decided Game 3 of the AHL Finals, though just imagine if a decisive Stanley Cup playoff game was decided by such an incorrect rules interpretation.

Fortunately, baseball (for instance) has a recourse, whereas hockey does not. AHL By-Laws do not allow final results to be changed based on an incorrect rule interpretation. MLB, on the other hand, has the appeals and protests process.

Under MLB Rule 4.19, a manager may protest a game due to an umpire's "alleged misapplication of the rules." Though all protests must be filed with the umpires prior to the next pitch, play or attempted play, the League specifically allows that "a protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office."

Had a similar walk-off wrong occured in the World Series, for instance (say, an incorrect ruling of Rule 7.06(a) as opposed to Type B obstruction), the Baseball Office of the Commissioner may have negated the win and ordered both teams to continue play from the point of interruption (e.g., the final play of the contest).


Anonymous said...

How about "How to Lose Game 5 of the Stanley Cup with a bogus interference call and power play goal"?

MattAB said...

I also referee hockey in the winter, in addition to being an umpire, and that is an example of TERRIBLE communication between the linesman and the referee. You really can't fault the referee here, because he is in the zone, and it's never his job to watch for anything having to do with offsides. However, that near linesman should have immediately blown his whistle for offsides as soon as the puck went on net. This isn't even a terribly difficult call. This is really pretty embarrassing for these officials, and I rarely criticize calls, but this one is so blatant it is hard to justify.

Anonymous said...

Well, Norfolk has swept the series and won the cup. Game 3, though is a black eye for professional hockey—the call is obvious wrong, blatantly blown even, and yet the league says it can't correct the obvious error. Just adopt MLB's model and allow them to correct this call! I don't know what the linesman was doing, in replays, he doesn't even look like he has recognized the delayed offside, which would make it a blown call instead of an incorrect rules application, but if the AHL says the application was wrong, then the linesman must have seen it.

Jimmy Jack said...

Down here we had a Kings vs Ducks game at the Pond, probably even were Mighty Ducks at that point. Anywho, the Kings dumped the puck into the boards during a power play, it wrapped around and took a real freak bounce right into the net, shorthanded goal for Los Angeles. Obviously, icing wasn't a factor here due to the 5 on 4, but i always wondered if a freak play like this could end up deciding a huge game, maybe even a Stanley Cup match. I guess the Calder Cup will have to do. Too bad they blew the call, though.

Tee_rrance said...

Is there a women's organization for bauer skates games? If there's hockey for guys, what's for the girls?

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