When Kevin Bieksa scored in the second overtime period on Tuesday night to give the Canucks the series clinching goal against the Sharks in the Western Conference final, it didn’t take long for the white, green and blue confetti to start raining down on the ice at Rogers Place. It was a pretty sight, but what if — as almost everyone in the arena thought — the puck had actually gone into the netting over the glass behind the goal and out of play before settling behind Antti Niemi?
That was the main theme sounded by the Versus announcers in the U.S. in their description of the series winning goal and the aftermath.
The crew on Hockey Night in Canada was a bit more reserved, but they also reacted at first as if the goal might not be a good one.
As both crews correctly stated, this was not a reviewable goal, but what if the officials who gathered at centre ice determined the puck had indeed gone out of play? How would they ever have been able to reel that scene back in and resume the game?
You can bet that until the low angle of Bieksa getting the carom off the glass support and one-timing a bouncer past Antti Niemi, there were some anxious moments in the NHL’s Toronto Situation Room and wherever the league’s top executives were watching.
Of course, this brought back some memories of Brett Hull’s Stanley Cup winning overtime goal (or “no goal” as they still maintain in Buffalo) against the Sabres in 1999, with his foot in the crease and the puck outside it in an era when the rules might have been interpreted in a way that would have disallowed the score. But a complicating factor was that as soon as the puck went in, the doors opened around the rink to let the crew on the ice in order to set up the Cup presentation and the league personnel out to distribute the championship hats and t-shirts to the Dallas Stars. There was no way that goal was being called back.
As an aside, the Canadiens benefited from a situation a bit like that when they won the 1966 Stanley Cup in overtime. Early in the overtime, Henri Richard led a charge into the Red Wings zone with Dave Balon. He gave the puck to Balon and drove to the net. Balon returned the pass, but Richard had gotten tangled up with Detroit’s Gary Bergman and fell forward. The puck arrived in Richard’s path and ended up behind Roger Crozier in the Red Wings goal. Here’s that play…
…and the story goes that Habs coach Toe Blake told his players on the bench to jump onto the ice and start the celebration before the officials could question whether Richard had directed the puck in with his arm while falling.
But back to the Canucks game-winner this week: It’s hard to believe the league office didn’t get on the phone to the Canucks on Wednesday and kindly request they not repeat that sort of display until everyone is certain the game is over. A little patience wouldn’t have damaged the celebration.
You have to wonder what they’re thinking at some teams. In Tampa Bay, the organization has given fans plastic “rally drums” (and you can buy your very own on eBay). It’s a sponsored item, with a local TV station having its name printed on it and probably paying the Lightning for the privilege. But the clacking sound it makes hardly takes the place of the real noise fans can make with their hands and voices. On TV, you get the feeling the Lightning are taking their own fans out of the game with those things.
But even worse, they have armed their fans with a flingable weapon that they didn’t pay for and probably don’t care if they bring home or not. At the end of Game 4 on Wednesday, hundreds of those things went flying on the ice, some directed at the enemy Bruins (can you imagine?) and at least one, David Krejci, was hit on the helmet.
Considering how this series has gone, it would not be surprising if the Tampa Bay fans by now have some of the same feelings about the Bruins that Montreal fans have. But weaponizing them — especially if they do share those feelings — may not be the most enlightened move the Lightning have made this season.
Here’s some video of the end of Tampa Bay’s Game 6 win against Boston shot from the stands and you can hear the “rally drums” in actions (sounds weird, eh?) and watch them come flying out of the stands after the final horn.
There’s a reason some teams give their fans towels to wave during the playoffs instead of flingable plastic objects and perhaps the NHL should remind the Lightning of that.
Now, one more thing: If you watch the video closely, as the Bruins exit the ice, you can see Nathan Horton appear to squirt water at a Lightning fan wearing a blue T shirt to the right of the runway. The NHL’s Bill Daly emailed Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times that it would not be taking any action against Horton for the squirt nor the Lightning for the conduct of their fans.
But as the rival paper The Tampa Bay Tribune pointed out, “New York Rangers coach John Tortorella received a one-game suspension for a similar incident involving a Washington Capitals fan behind the New York bench during the 2009 playoffs.
“At the time, NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell issued a statement regarding Tortorella’s actions and the reason for the suspension from a playoff game.
“”It has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,’ Campbell wrote. ‘While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our fans in this manner.”’
Good advice. Wonder why the NHL didn’t heed it this time.