Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 57, Rule 57

The game: Anaheim vs. LA Kings and Pittsburgh vs. Edmonton.

Why I chose it: The Freeway face-off includes Jonas Hiller in the net, and Anze Kopitar in the starting line-up. The Ducks are on a comeback with a capital C and my favorite Swiss goalie is on fire. Dan Bylsma is testing out the Malkin-Talbot-Fedotenko line. Most inspired. Games on.

Proof that head hits/injuries do in fact cause long-term, irreversible brain damage: The whole Burrows debacle and fine.

The rule: Section 7, Restraining Fouls. Rule 57, Tripping.

Number of sections in the rule: 4.

Definition: 57.1, Tripping. A player shall not place the stick, knee, foot, arm, hand or elbow in such a manner that causes his opponent to trip or fall. Accidental trips which occur simultaneously with a completed play will not be penalized. Accidental trips occurring simultaneously with or after a stoppage of play will not be penalized. If, in the opinion of the Referee, a player makes contact with the puck first and subsequently trips the opponent in so doing, no penalty shall be assessed.

My favorite highlight: I thought you just went to the box for 2 minutes for this one. Which is true, but there's also this run on sentence/rule: 57.3, Penalty Shot. When a player, in the neutral or attacking zone, in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) and having no other opponent to pass than the goalkeeper, is tripped or otherwise fouled from behind, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team. Nevertheless, the Referee shall not stop play until the attacking team has lost possession of the puck to the defending team. The intention of this rule (and penalty shots in general) is to restore a scoring opportunity that was lost. "Control of the puck" means the act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand or feet.

Ok, now my head hurts: It should be noted that if the attacking player manages to get around the goalkeeper and has no defending player between him and the open goal, and he is fouled from behind by the goalkeeper or another defending player, no goal can be awarded since the goalkeeper is still on the ice. A penalty shot would be awarded. Help me understand this -- "since the goalkeeper is still on the ice?" So, if the goalie is not on the ice and somehow magically fouls somebody from behind...the goal is awarded? Clearly, the random drug screening program at the NHL needs to be re-examined, because this could not have been written by someone who was stone-cold sober.

The final scores: Anaheim's down by 3 in the 2nd, Pittsburgh's up by 1 in the 3rd. Hiller just got pulled. And it's going downhill from there. The refs are being very generous with the Abuse of Officials rule, because it looks like Randy Carlyle just told the linesman to go screw himself about 50 times. 6 minutes into the 3rd period, and no fewer than 3 fights have been broken up.

Note to critics of super-cute Swiss goalies: Give him a break. Even Superman ran into a little Kryptonite now and again. In case you missed the last week of Ducks games, Hiller is a huge reason Anaheim has turned around and come within 4 points of a playoff berth, and he did it in back-to-back games.

The morals of the story:

The game: I like my two minute minor penalty assumption better...fewer migraines. But I see why all restraining fouls come with a penalty shot attached. These fouls are committed to interfere with a scoring opportunity and even in hockey, the most unfair of all sports, lost opportunities will not go unpunished. Fairness, with a small f. And of course, as always, if the goalie does anything except stop the puck, he's penalized.

Life: Like hockey, tripping and falling down are part of the game and getting back up is often easier than we think. We don't get penalty shots in life...but we do get to choose whether and how we get back up. Me personally, I've tripped many times over and I intend to a few more times before it's all said and done. Look at it this way...when you're shopping at Powell's for a you immediately go for the book about the girl who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and graduated to platinum and wants to tell you how you too can get through life without getting any of it on you? Is reality television the dominant form of programming on TV because we love watching people with perfect lives? No. We want to read the comeback story. We want to watch Tiger Woods crash into a fire hydrant (literally and figuratively) because it makes us feel better about our own failures. I say trip, fall and get back up. Repeat. Trust me, it will get easier and you will get smarter.

Next up on 1/16: Section 8, Stick Fouls. Rule 58, Butt-ending. Rule 59, Cross-checking.

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