May 25, 2011

Diving Could Become Dangerous

Was it a trip, or a dive? One fan base is always certain of the answer, while supporters of the other club know the opposite to be true. It puts the referee in an impossible position, and it is why embellishing has become an issue for the NHL.

Like most other controversies the league faces, the fans’ opinions are split. The liberal view is that diving should be accepted as a valid strategy, a part of the game, while traditionalists argue that it is a cheap tactic, and does not belong it the game.

But even as awareness increases, faking spills is becoming a more frequent occurrence. If this trend is allowed to continue, it will prove more than just an annoyance; it could become dangerous.

In basic terms, a officiating is meant to protect the players. Diving impairs the referee’s ability to officiate, and consequently, player safety suffers. Referees have a very difficult job, more so than most fans will concede. Refs have so much on their plate already, having to judge whether a play was a dive or not really is unfair.

You hear it come up in many casual hockey conversations; that the quality of officiating has gone down in recent years. If that is true, then it is the players, not the referees who are to blame.

The diving problem is also indirectly linked to the more hot-button topics in the league today. Much has been made about how officials, in front offices and on ice rinks, must be held more responsible for the prevention of serious injuries.

But the NHL’s big boys can help get rid of headshots in ways other than handing down tougher suspensions. Increasing the length of these bans will not be as effective as expanding the types of plays that are suspendable.

Many times, deciding if a player was legitimately tripped up or not borders on impossible when viewed at full speed. But if Colin Campbell’s office examined these questionable plays in slow-motion, determining that the fall was embellished, in some cases, would become obvious. We know it would work; in fact, viewers in living rooms make it look easy.

Not to say that they should give suspensions for going down a little easy, or holding the stick to one’s body to aid the ref in spotting a hook. Than would be extreme. But if someone is obviously trying to make an innocent play look viscous (i.e. Mike Ribero), there is an opportunity for the league to make a statement.

Unfortunately, this gamesmanship is not the issue people want to talk about when Sidney Crosby is out with a concussion, and another cheap-shot cost Marc Savard his career. But if the NHL is not careful, it is exactly these kinds of incidents that diving will produce.

The league would be wise to deal with diving now; because it is easier to kill a virus that an epidemic.

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