The "Delay of Game" penalty has plauged the NHL since it's inception. It bit the Bruins in the ass Saturday night when Patrice Bergeron inadvertantly put the puck over the glass and put Boston 6-on-3 against New Jersey.
Here's the video, curteosy of Dafoomie. If you haven't ever been to Dafoomie's channel, that's ashame. He continually posts Bruins highlights the night of a finished game. Subscribe to his channel, you won't be disappointed.
The Devils eventually scored the game winning goal with about 45 seconds left on the clock. The rule itself is pretty cut and dry, from NHL.com:
"When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick) the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. When the puck is shot into the players’ bench, the penalty will not apply. When the puck is shot over the glass ‘behind’ the players’ bench, the penalty will be assessed."
Pretty self explanatory right?
Mistake or not, if you put the puck into the arena in the defending zone, it is a penalty. Now I question I pose here is why? Why does the NHL have this penalty so cut and dry when there's a lot of issues with it?
With the introduction of hybrid icing, the NHL has given their officials the use of disgression when making icing calls. For those unaware with hybrid icing:
"The hybrid-icing system allows the linesman to blow the play dead and call an automatic icing if he determines that the puck will cross the goal line and the defending player is not behind in the race to the end-zone faceoff dots in his defensive zone. The faceoff would go to the far end of the ice as it did with icings called in the previous system the NHL used."
So what hybrid icing allows an official to do is to use their judgement to make a call. THE CONTROVERSY!
So why can't this logic be used to determine what is a deliberate attempt to put the puck into the crowd from the defensive zone and what is a mistake? To me, it was pretty obvious that Patrice Bergeron didn't intentionally put the puck in the crowd, especially when trying to kill a four minute double minor penalty. Many can make the case that players would start to do this so his team can get a line change, but that's also an easy solution:
If the referee was to make the call that the play was inadvertant, keep the faceoff in the defensive zone and don't allow line changes. Basically, turn the call into an icing situation. Once icing is called, the team that iced the puck is not able to make a line change so why can't this be the same outcome? There aren't many instances I can recall where a player will deliberatly put the puck into the arena.
That penalty just makes little sense and it seems to crucify mistakes and carelessness more than anything.
Maybe I'm writing this because it's a reaction to Saturday night's game, but really it's something I've believed for a long time. There's a better way to construct this penalty than using a "you're all fucked" mentality. In an age where the NHL seems to be constantly tweaking rules (hyrbid icing, jerseys untucked, etc) one would think that this change could easily happen, but also be miniscule enough that it wouldn't affect the flow of a hockey game.
What do you think? Is this an over-reaction on my part due to the outcome of Saturday's game or do you think the NHL should take a serious look at how this rule in written? Leave some comments below.