Dirty. Rotten. Cheaters. (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)
It's been almost a month and a half since the LA Kings' Drew Doughty fired a game winning goal past Curtis Sanford with 0.09 seconds left in the third period, denying the Jackets a point after what had been a tightly contested 2-2 hockey game.
Review of video evidence shows the clock at the Staples center "paused" on 1.8 seconds for well over 3 actual seconds, extending the final period of regulation past when it should have ended. Video review saw it. The team saw it. Fans saw it. But the game went into the record books regardless despite protests from the Blue Jackets coaches and front office.
Despite the fact that the NHL considers the matter closed (so much for that "careful investigation"), investigative reporter Mike Sielski kept digging into the incident. What he found shouldn't surprise you if you're of the opinion that the NHL's methods for handling controversial results have much to be desired.
Despite LA GM Dean Lombardi's "explanation" that the clock simply was recalibrating itself, a story that seemed to defy basic middle school science about both how time and electrons work, clock manufacturer Daktronics reported that the clock had no such "function", and that it was tested and found to be operating perfectly.
Funny how the "investigation" never reported that. Didn't we all hear Gary Bettman tell the media that he'd give a full explanation for what happened?
Strange, then, that the NHL has imposed a heavy curtain of silence, up to and including the fact that Scott Howson pulled his furious blog post about the matter off the web. How odd that Colin Campbell now declares the matter closed.
Somehow, the LA Kings were the benefit of an....y'know, I'm gonna drop the ambiguity. This wasn't a "malfunction". It wasn't a "coincidence." Let's get real.
A clock operator employed by the home team influenced the game in a way that allowed his employers to win. Edit: As was pointed out in the comments, the clock operator is actually an employee of the NHL. Does it make the situation better? Not really, in my eyes, but in some that seems to absolve him of motivation or guilt.
The players on the ice were likely totally unaware, but they were essentially gifted more time than was actually left in the period. The LA Kings as an organization cheated, and as a result they won the game.
We'll never know if it was accidental or deliberate, but the fact remains that the clock was stopped by a human hand. Somehow, the NHL "missed" it that evening, and instead of just correcting the error and allowing the teams to play OT that night, or perhaps adding a 5 minute OT in front of the final game in the series a few weeks ago, they decided that it was better to lie (and give a much "sexier" team as far as national attention and TV ratings go) the benefit of the doubt.
I agree that one point would not have turned the Jackets' season around. We'll never know if the team would have won the game - after all, even in OT they would still have needed to kill about a minute of 4 on 3 power play time. But they played hard that night, and deserved the opportunity to earn a victory for their efforts.
You might say that if the Kings do manage to surge past Colorado, Phoenix, et al and make the playoffs it will actually help Columbus thanks to the Jack Johnson / Jeff Carter swap, but personally I think that's a weak argument, at best. Eventual trades that hadn't been executed at the time are no excuse for the league as a whole refusing to handle themselves in an upright and ethical manner.
They cheated. They got away with it. And the NHL seems to be aiding and abetting them in doing so. So what stops them from doing it again? When do the rules for the "power teams" of the NHL start bending and flexing in ways that the other squads can't see? At what point do you get the right to have men like Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell, and Brendan Shanahan covering your tracks if you decide that winning means more than doing the right thing?
LA will finish the season in San Jose on April 11th. If they're within 2 points of making the postseason, I'd keep a very careful eye on the clock.