Does Anyone Know What Interference Is? The Refs Don't.

I don’t want to talk about the game much.  It was a valiant effort by the Rangers, who lost Drury and Dubinsky to injuries.  Can’t fault em for the loss when they were without their top two pivots and Lundqvist.  They even handled Calgary’s relentless pressure and forecheck pretty well.  Even Rozsival, shockingly. 

I don’t even want to talk directlyabout the Drury hit much.  The MSG crew handled it perfectly.  It was dirty and deserved a 5-minute major for interference (more on this below), a game misconduct, and still deserves a suspension.  And the Rangers should have responded in-game.  Really, we can’t afford to lose Voros or Byers and kill off one instigator penalty, close game or not?  Please. 

What I want to focus on is officiating.  Specifically, the so-called penalty of interference.  I have NO idea what it is anymore. 

Here’s the NHL interference rule:  http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=26348.  In part, it states that an interference minor should be called when either (a) a player…who interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck, or (b) a player…restrains an opponent who is attempting to “forecheck”.  The rule clarifies that, while a player is entitled to the ice position he has, if the player is “Moving laterally and without establishing body position, then making contact with the non-puck carrier is not permitted and will be penalized as interference.”  Major penalties may be called “based on the degree of violence.”

The NHL, as we all well know, also has made a concerted effort to open the game up — let skilled players operate, promote offense, and get away from the plodding/trapping play that destroyed (unless you are a Devils fan of course) the late 90′s. 

So how is it that, as in last night’s game, interference happens all the time but goes uncalled????????  Most notably on dump-ins.  It is routine for a player to dump the puck just shy of the blueline and then try to get in on either the forecheck or get the puck on the boards and the defenseman jump to the side and also into the player (i.e., forward) to impede his progress.  THIS IS INTERFERENCE!  Call it.  And call it consistently.  Sometimes it is called (i.e., the second half of last night’s game) and sometimes it is not (i.e., the first half of last night’s game).  If you are not going to call the rulebook, at least don’t call it always.  I, and I’m sure the players, hate the confusion.  And don’t tell me that they are saying the player “established body position” on the plays they do not call.  That is complete BS.

It is time for the NHL to enforce this rule.   I see no reason why it shouldn’t.  It would open the game up and create more exciting play.  (The reason cannot be that they are concerned about the safety of defensemenclearing the puck.  The league does not even really punish cheap blind side hits to the head — including the textbook one to Drury last night.)

Tags: Calgary Flames Chris Drury Interference Penalty Michal Rozsival

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