Another playoff game in the books, another controversial incident, and another black eye for the NHL. A great question was posed by a tweeter in our postgame show wanting to know what can be done "about the ref's current inability to keep the game under control." An excellent question and one that has a lot of different components to the answer.
My attempt at an answer, and this is the short version, is that as a ref you have to have a feel for the game. Now I'll admit that NHL hockey is far and away the toughest sport to officiate, but when we see crimes on the ice go unpunished, it leaves you shaking your head and wondering what these sheriffs on the ice are doing. And it goes beyond the Marian Hossa non-call. But we might as well start there.
Raffi Torres, who has been very effective and valuable to Phoenix in this series so far, had just leveled Dylan Olsen -- a pretty sturdy defenseman at 215 pounds -- and Torres was on a roll. He proceeded to catapult himself into Marian Hossa (about six seconds after the Olsen hit) with a well-placed shoulder to the head. Think of it as a 210 pound punch flying through the air and smashing into your jaw. There was a linesman five feet away who must have felt the impact because he started to put his arm up to protect himself when Hossa was knocked horizontal.
Maybe he was watching the puck, but there were three other officials on the ice, two of which have to be watching for just this type of penalty. Not only did everyone miss it, they let Hossa lie on the ice motionless and concussed for a good 10 seconds before they blew the whistle. Head trainer Mike Gapski was already on the ice attending to the victim as 22,000 screaming fans were calling for the refs attention.
It was almost as if they didn't want to see it because they knew they had screwed up. And what was the reaction from referee Ian Walsh? An emphatic whistle and penalty, signalling Blackhawk Brandon Bollig to get to the penalty box. There would be none of these shenanigans on his watch! Wait a second, you ask yourself as you give your head a shake. Did I really just watch this? Where was he 20 seconds ago?
There was a spear that was missed and a flagrant trip that almost ended up in the back of the net for the Blackhawks. And that was all in just the first period. But getting back to the question, its all about feel. As a referee, you have to be so clued in to the game that you have to become one of the players. I can guarantee you that every player on the bench and on the ice saw that illegal hit. I know 22,000 fans did.