The NHL has a problem with diving. With some organizations it’s traditional and so much ingrained in their culture even most of their fans acknowledge it. Some NHL stars get away with it on a regular basis. The only player I can name off the top of my head who has been whistled for it more than once this season is Alex Semin. One would think that in a league so conscious of it’s image that it would suspend a player indefinitely for out of uniform, outside the locker room, perfectly legal statements to the media might place a great emphasis on the the integrity of the on ice product. Not so.
The real reason diving will not stop or diminish, and will likely even increase in coming seasons is pretty simple; the NHL doesn’t want to stop diving. There is even the twisty collection of excuses the NHL substitutes for logic behind it. The NHL would rather have another goal to show in the highlight shows from the resultant powerplays when someone cheats, than force players to clean up their act or hold their officials accountable. I’ve watched hockey for decades and can’t think of a single season where two different coaches were fined for publicly criticizing the on ice officials. Neither Tom Renny nor John Torterella are exactly new to the NHL. Neither is all that young, and both have been around to see exactly what NHL officiating looks like.
This dive was well rewarded, the Penguins were already on a powerplay, and this Emmy Award worthy performance turned a 5-4 into a 5-3.
You want proof you say that the NHL doesn’t want to discourage diving? Ok, take a look at NHL Rule 64. We all know about the on ice rule, 2 minutes for flagrant cheating, the equivalent of accidentally sending the puck out of play over the high glass from your defensive end. Obviously a well considered rule, really. The important part is what can happen off the ice:
64.3 Fines and Suspensions – Regardless if a minor penalty for diving / embellishment is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players or goalkeepers who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline. The call on the ice by the Referee is totally independent of supplementary discipline.
The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.) See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.
So, first offense you get a note sent home to your parents telling them you’ve been naughty? Second offense you get fined less than what most NHL stars spend on a suit, or what James Neal spends on two or three days hair product? Third time you get a day off to perfect your technique so you don’t get caught any more. Oh The Humanity!
There’s a problem here, ok several. How many letters does the NHL send out for the first offense in a year? Even a form letter where all the off ice official has to do is type in the players name, time of infraction and sign it? If I had to guess I’d say the number was less than five a year, and I’m being generous. No one can look at that rule, know the impact a well timed dive can have and not thoroughly understand the rule is an embarrassment to organized sports. Will all of the lovely Shanny Shorts videos released this season, all the fine announcements, I haven’t seen a single fine or suspension announced for diving.
This rule is as completely absurd as all those weird laws you get in granny spam. The scam artists who engage in this are no better than the Nigerian spammers, or the people who sell fake event tickets outside the arena. No one opens their wallet to go to a game to watch people flop all over the place, no one wants to pay for Center Ice or GameCenter for that privilege either. While there are lots of ways to address this issue on the ice, off the ice the best solution is simple: Two game suspension for the offender, the first to be served in the next game, the next to be served the next time the offenders team is scheduled to play the team they cheated against, even if the player is traded or signs with another team should those happen before the next meeting.