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The Illusion of Consistency

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On Dubinsky, Beauchemin, Refs, and @NHL

Jeff Gross

First, let me get a couple things out of the way.

  • Hockey is a fast game. Referees in the NHL arguably have the hardest job among officials in pro sports. I mean, they have to skate while they call the game.
  • The person who runs the Twitter account for the NHL is simply tasked with engaging fans. Their role isn't to make judgement calls on what constitutes a highlight hit or a penalty.

Now, let's talk for a minute about the Beauchemin on Anisimov and Dubinsky on Koivu hits.

One of those hits was given a 5-minute major for interference, plus a 10-minute game misconduct. The other was not.

One of those hits was promoted by the NHL itself:

The other left a fanbase wondering if one of their top players would be suspended for a significant amount of time.

On Beauchemin's hit, Nick Foligno was given a minor penalty for roughing, after shoving the Duck down to the ice.

On Dubinsky's hit, Cam Fowler pursued Dubinsky and tried to (ineffectively) engage him in a fight. Fowler was not penalized.

According to the referees, Anaheim played a perfect game, committing no fouls until 58 minutes and 33 seconds into the game. At this point, the Blue Jackets had already spent a quarter of the game on the penalty kill. (Anaheim is right around the middle of the league in most penalty related categories, according to NHL.com.)

The game is fast. My issue isn't missed calls. My fault with the refs is a total lack of consistency. Or should I say the linesmen? The ref, after all, didn't throw his hand up on the Dubinsky hit. It was a linesman that decided it qualified for a major penalty, and after conference, ejection from the game.

What's at issue here is that the NHL wants to be seen as leading the crusade against concussions and rough play, yet promotes a hit that's nearly identical to one that led to a player ejection. So, what is it? Is it a fair play, or not?

Well, thankfully for the Blue Jackets, the NHL decided Dubinsky's hit was clean. But what about the refs? Will this be swept under the rug like the time the Kings screwed with the clock and a last second Drew Doughty goal beat the Blue Jackets? Will anyone be held accountable?

Look, NHL. You're at a crossroads. You need to decide if you want big hits in the game or not. You need to decide if you want fighting in the game or not. You can't make inconsistent calls that play a major role in deciding the outcome of the game. You can't act like you're against bone-crunching hits but play them up on social media and in-arena highlights.

Or is that too much to ask?