Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The World Junior Ice Hockey championships recently ended. Canada defeated Russia for the gold medal – again. What seemed most disturbing as the game unfolded was the Russian players feigning offenses to draw penalties. Is hockey going the way of European football?
As the game unfolded and Canada’s lead grew bigger, more and more Russian players were dropping to the ice. The result: either a penalty for the Canadians or the Russian player would simply return to the game play none the worse for wear. The former was most common.
This slows the game considerably and takes away any flow that has been established. It is not fun for the fan to watch such play. The players become frustrated and the officials taxed. In short, there is no excuse for this type of behaviour and offenders need to be reprimanded immediately and consistently. It disgraces the team condoning such actions and practicing such tactics. It is a shame that Russia has brought this type of play to the table without regard for the integrity of the game.
Bill Barber of the Philadelphia Flyers became infamous for this exact action while playing in the NHL in the 1970s. Did it really affect the integrity of the game? No. Referees quickly caught on and these “penalties” weren’t called.
The league now institutes a two minute minor penalty meant to deter this very thing. A player drawing a penalty for diving does not gain respect amongst his peers. Yet, this is still a very common occurrence and is becoming a real worry around the game for fans, players and management.
How can this be stopped? The answer sounds amazingly simple: have the officials call this infraction more regularly. This really should not be a problem. There are two referees on the ice and most infractions should be able to be detected. If a few slip through, that won’t matter as the precedent will have been set and it will be known that diving will not be tolerated. Together with the shame that accompanies this offense, it will be enough to virtually eliminate the problem.
The biggest step is for the league to recognize that this is a very real problem. Soccer, or football everywhere else in the world, has had its reputation tarnished badly for this exact reason. In hockey, this is nowhere near the concern as it is in soccer – for now. It is far easier to fix this now, before this cancer grows into something too big to handle. Hopefully someone is aware of this.