Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Badger men's hockey

Ok, let's get this out of the way first. It's the video of Saturday night's fight between UW's Ben Grotting and UM's Patrick White. And it's nuts. We were at the game and everyone was kind of just stunned. You don't fight like this in college. Hell, they don't really allow fighting at all in college. And frankly, I haven't seen a beatdown like this in the pros in awhile, either.

There's a lot to talk about in terms of the Badgers' less-than-mediocre start to the season, but the biggest one for me is the chance in rules that has led to each game being reduced to nothing more than dueling Power Plays.

The idea is that the rules, and thereby the refereeing, are more like the NHL. Now there are two "head refs" on the ice calling penalties - which means they're seeing more of the action away from the puck and they're calling things a lot closer than they were before.

I've been to one live game and watched a few Badger games on TV and the new style took a lot of the flow and therefore a lot of the enjoyment out of the games. I personally feel that the way those games were reffed messed with the integrity of the game. There were so many penalty minutes that it wasn't about which team was the best on the ice, but about which one killed penalties and worked on the power play the best.

I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't notice the refs in any contest. The second they start missing calls or becoming too much a part of the action is the second they're doing a bad job. You're not supposed to be aware of them. They shouldn't interrupt or supercede the game. They're there to keep order, but in this new case, it's felt like they're the ones controlling the game.

Ironically, in the above fight, you'll notice that there are 2 refs breaking up the UW and UM players that are wrestling on the ice. There's a ref skating around jotting notes in his notebook, presumably taking done numbers for penalties/suspensions. Where's the fourth ref? Is he breaking up a fight? Nope, he's just standing there.

So you have a ref who's literally standing around watching and another who's writing in a notebook. Don't get me wrong, I know that trackign for the penalties is part of the job, but at the point that Grotting's wailing on White and they go towards the ice, that fight would have been broken up in any ranks of the pros. Instead, the guy seems more concerned with his notebook. Possibly he could have stopped the fight and the ref in the box or even replay could have been used to then figure out if the scribbling ref had missed anyone.

So for 55 or so minutes of the game, the refs call tons of penalties for the merest of touching that the players had been getting away with for the past 20 or so years of their career, but when it comes to a situation in which direct physical harm is occurring, they do nothing.

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