Fri Feb 10 10:45am EST
When the play-by-play announcer deems it necessary to clarify, "I haven't been drinking people, trust me, people, this is something that's out of Twilight Zone!" then you know something bizarre is unfolding on the ice.
As many hockey spectators know, a goalie must stay in his crease on a penalty shot until the shooter touches the puck. Game officials chose to strictly enforce this rule during the shootout between Ontario Junior Hockey League rivals Cobourg Cougars and Kingston Kimco Voyageurs. Emotions were already running high after public accusations of goalie-running in the teams' previous tilt four days earlier; as one hometown broadsheet put it, "Charlie Finn was injured late in the contest, run over by a rogue Cougar who escaped incarceration."
(Rogue cougar? Incarceration? Sounds like a headline we'll read about Lindsay Lohan in about 10 years.)
So when the teams went to the breakaway contest and referees Gord Miles and Brian Park gave Cobourg's Dylan Goddard three re-takes in the first round of the shootout because Kingston goalie Justin Gilbert kept violating the rule, everything boiled over. After his third violation, Gilbert was ejected.
Goddard, on his fourth try, predictably scored on the backup netminder coming in cold off the bench, which sent the Voyageurs off the deep end to the tune of 24 games in suspensions and $1,500 in fines.
It's a long clip, but it's worth it. It's got a near-skirmish between Kingston's Ludlow Harris and Cobourg goalie Emerson Verrier after the first shootout try, self-professed homer play-by-play man Bob Benham going Jack Edwards Defcon-5 as the Voyageurs bench melts down ("Kingston is showing themselves for what they really are!") and the statistician overheard in the background wondering how to record all the penalties. Then there's the ugly part — a Kingston player swung his stick in the direction of a fan while leaving the ice.
Kingston general manager Denis Duchesne, who was Taylor Hall's minor hockey coach a few years ago and was part of a group that came forward to save the Voyageurs franchise last summer when there was a distinct possibility the team could fold, also got a $1,000 fine for remarks he made last week. After Finn was injured, Duchesne intimated, "If that's the way they want to play the game, then we should start driving hard to the net, take out the goalie and see if the puck goes in."
Understandably, there is no defending what the coaches and players and did in the heat of the moment. The easy way out is to preach about respect for the officials and say there's no way you or I would have lost control. Cobourg coach Justin Teakle didn't even come off as too judgmental about it, saying, "I would have kept my guys a little more composed, but I think we're in a different spot than they are and they're fighting because they definitely want to finish in a certain spot, and I understand that."
One has to wonder about what built up to that moment. From Mike Koreen:
Did [goaltender] Gilbert break the rules? Yes. Rule 35 B in the Hockey Canada rule book on penalty shots (same scenario as a shootout) states "the goaltender must remain in (the) crease until the designated player touches the puck at centre ice, and in the event of a violation of this rule, the player designated or selected to take the shot shall be entitled to take the shot over again." This is exactly what happened Monday.
Now, did Gilbert's rules violation affect the shootout attempt? No. Was there a better way to handle this? Probably.
Look, if refs called every single infraction in a game, there might be a minute or two of five-on-five play. The best officials maintain a constant flow of communication with teams to let them know what's acceptable and what's not.
Perhaps these two refs avoid the gross misconduct barrage if they simply tell Gilbert after the first attempt, "You have to stay in your crease until the shooter touches the puck. Come out early again and we'll have to award a re-take." (Kingston Whig-Standard)
There probably is no moral to this story beyond the Kingston Voyageurs being mortified by their behaviour. It doesn't take Serena Williams, though, to see how this reflects that nothing grinds competitors' gears when officials apply rules literally at a crucial time instead of just going by the unwritten rules everyone just knows by heart.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (video: Neulion).