March 31, 2008
There's times when I read a newspaper columnist or listen to a television pundit spew a controversial subject and think, "Do they really believe that? Or are they just trying to get some publicity?"
That's what I thought when I read John Dellapina of the NY Daily News yesterday after the Penguins-Rangers matinee. Mr. Dellapina was upset over some embellishment of certain calls by the Penguins and Sidney Crosby, mainly the "...tap to the hip that Scott Gomez gave Crosby, drawing that head flop and a high-sticking penalty in today’s third period."
Now, me being a Penguins fan, I'm not going to defend Crosby and say he never embellishes. But, here's the thing, it happens all over the NHL on a nightly basis. Some dives are a little more obvious than others. It also sounds like sour grapes when your team loses and the opponent you accuse of embellishing fouls to draw penalties goes 1-8 on the power-play.
My favorite paragraph of the entire article:
"But even more mystifying is how Jaromir Jagr could have begun his career in Pittsburgh, developed into a superstar here and never learned the diving and face-clutching and horrified equipment shedding that has been part and parcel of Pens hockey ever since Mario Lemieux decided to shame the league into enforcing its obstruction penalties by embarrassing all officials who didn’t do so."
Shame the league? Did you enjoy watching the clutch and grab-fests pre-lockout? If you want to talk about shaming the league, how about the Rangers giving past-their-prime players ridiculous contracts (hello Bobby Holik and your 5-year, $45 million contract, which they later bought out with two years left) while missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons? Where's the thank you to the NHL for implementing the salary, thereby helping turn the Rangers into a respectable team again?
Oh, and it's one thing to call out other players for embellishing calls, but least mention hometown divers, too.
It shouldn't be shocking that big-name NHL players get the benefit of the calls during games. You don't think Wayne Gretzky drew calls because of who he was sometimes? Referees are human. They miss calls, make the wrong calls, and give benefit of the doubt to players who are credible. It happens. If you're going to cry over player embellishment, you're going to need to examine the league as a whole and not just pick on the game's biggest star.
UPDATE: Mr. Dellapina had written somewhat of a retraction regarding his previous blog post.
"First things first, no, I never saw a reverse-angle NBC replay that some of you say showed clearly that Gomez's stick hit Crosby in the face. If I missed that, I apologize to yesterday's referees. But that doesn't change my larger points."
Doesn't change your larger points? Wasn't the entire basis of your post to begin with? "Crosby embellishes calls, so let me pick apart the entire Penguins history." Now that you've hypothesis has been disproven, I'm supposed to try and give credit to your other points?
"4. But that brings me to what I guess was my larger point and has been for a while: If Crosby is going to get such benefit of the doubt, why doesn't Jaromir Jagr?
To this point in their careers, Jagr is the far more accomplished player. What's more, I would think that his refusal to dive or even flinch when being fouled would stand him in good stead with referees, who never have to worry about him pulling one over on them."
I would give this as an explanation. Jaromir Jagr is 6'3, 245lbs. Sidney Crosby is 5'11, 200lbs. Jagr is bigger and stronger than Crosby. You would assume it's much easier to knock Crosby off the puck than Jagr. I remember hearing stories about Jagr when he was a Penguin, that after practice, he'd skate around the ice with a 100lbs sandbag on his back to build leg strength. I think that's the difference. It's the same to say it's easier to knock Patrick Kane off the puck than it is Zdeno Chara.