Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: LeBron James gets a leg cramp, he gets carried off the court. Gregory Campbell breaks his leg, finishes his shift and skates off the ice.
It’s a stupid meme we see every year when the playoff schedules of the NHL and NBA collide, with the point being that NHL players, more so than their basketball-dribbling counterparts in the NBA, are supposed to be these rugged human beings for whom pain is optional. Hockey players live to collide at high speeds, throw punches, and take pucks at 100 mph to the groin. They don’t just want to hit, they want to GET hit. Hockey players are tough, you see? They ain’t no pansy basketball players. No siree! “My leg may be chopped off coach, but I don’t need it… give me another shift!”
Yeah, hockey players are supposed to be the toughest of tough. Look at the pain they have to endure, like poor old Nick Bonino:
TJ Oshie’s stick hit Nick Bonino in the shoulder pic.twitter.com/wLrejn1NNl
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) May 4, 2017
Man, that’s a brutal…wait…let me see that again…did Oshie’s stick even touch Bonino’s face? It didn’t, right? Did Bonino just sneeze or something? Surely, a tough hockey player in the NHL like Nick Bonino wouldn’t embellish like that! I doubt any of his teammates would do the same…
Hahah just saw the roughing call on Carlson NBCSN never showed, via CSN pic.twitter.com/bD2ywdRYsF
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) May 4, 2017
Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins gamed the system during their Game 4 win over the hapless Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones. We all know who the usual suspects are. Oshie isn’t off the hook either, as he did the same exact thing last year against the Pens in the playoffs.
But why? Why dive and make a mockery of the game we love? As Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy put it, you flop to get the call.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Diving has been as rampant as the mumps in the NHL for years now, and like the mumps, it only makes the game uglier. Sure, today’s players get fined for flopping like fish on the ice, but obviously, that hasn’t stopped players from testing out their acting careers in the heat of battle. A fine alone isn’t enough.
The NHL needs to penalize the player who embellishes, and ONLY that player. Many times in the course of a season, a call is made where there’s a high-sticking or say, a tripping penalty, but while that call is made, another call goes against the victim of a high stick or trip for embellishing the call. Two penalties for the price of one whistle. The NHL needs to just call the embellishment. That’s it. Even if it was actually a high stick, call the embellishment anyway, and forgive the high stick.
Nothing gets NHL fans fired up more than when you accuse a player on their team for diving, but they all do it, even the good ones. You hate seeing players cheat the system, but can you blame them? The NHL has enabled this diving culture. Players do it because the referees don’t make the correct call nearly enough.
If diving is a black spot in the playoffs, then NHL officiating is a black plague. It’s hard to tell what’s a penalty and what’s not these days. There’s nothing wrong with “letting the boys play,” so to speak, but as soon as that happens, the referee’s habit of inconsistency rears its ugly head. More often than not, the referees will miss that stick to the face, and it’s frustrating for both players and fans alike. What can the players do? The more referees decide to abide by what seems to be a different rulebook every period, the more players are going to do everything it takes to get the call, tough guys or not.
Maybe the solution isn’t to call more embellishment penalties, but rather, to hold NHL referees accountable for more consistent officiating. Nevertheless, the diving needs to go, because while a team like the Capitals has plenty of things to worry about, like stopping the Penguins’ lethal offense or solving Marc-Andre Fleury, diving shouldn’t be one of them.
Jeff Yerger covers the Nashville Predators for THW. He once accidentally drew on one of Henrik Lundqvist’s suits (just don’t tell Hank). He is also a sucker for IPAs and saxophone solos. Find him on Twitter @jyergs.