Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to get Americans to Embrace Hockey

Gary Bettman has been pretty focused on one thing ever since becoming the NHL commissioner; selling the game to Americans. What if I told you he's been doing it all wrong? Forget about the teams in the Southern states; let's bring teams back to Quebec, Winnipeg and damnit, let's give Balsillie his team to put in Hamilton. Forget that Americans don't like fighting; let's remove the instigator so we can see more donnybrooks. Forget the shoot out; hockey's a team game. You want to know what the saving grace for hockey will be in the states? FAKE REFEREES!!!

Let me be the pitcher tonight, I caught last night

The Blues Jays gets about the same amount of coverage in the states as hockey does. There has only been two instances this season where they received American mainstream media coverage: Roy Halladay possibly getting traded at the deadline and the fake umpires. The fake umps have had articles written about them, they got their own Sportscentre piece and even the Yankees gave them free tickets to do their thing in Yankee stadium. If there's one thing to be learned here it's that Americans absolutely love it when a couple of douchebags dress up as umpires. So why wouldn't this work for hockey?

The attire is pretty standard. You need a striped ref shirt, black pants, a black hockey helmet, a whistle and the orange armbands to separate you from the linesmen.

However, differentiating what should be a penalty and what shouldn't be a penalty can be pretty difficult with the way the game has changed since the lockout. The following is a guide with some of the more common penalties for you to print out to bring to games so you will know when to get right up to the glass, blow your whistle and call two minutes for high sticking.

Interference/Obstruction: I will start you off with one of the most common penalties in the game today. This penalty is supposed to be called when Player A interferes with Player B when Player B doesn't have the puck, hence interference. However, in recent years, I have also learned that this is also the universal signal for "I don't know what the penalty is but I think one should be called". Remember this one, you will be using it a lot.

High-Sticking: This penalty should be called when Player A's stick is above their shoulder and clips Player B. Very often, a high-stick will draw blood which is an extra two minutes for the offender. History shows that this penalty is not called in playoff games when a star player commits it, no matter how bad the other guy bleeds.

Tripping: This penalty is called when Player A uses his body or stick to trip Player B. If Player B embellishes it, then it appears that you must call both the trip and the dive, never just the dive alone.

Holding: You will call this when Player A takes a hand off the stick and grabs Player B to restrain them or to slow their progress. This is probably the easiest penalty to call. Just look for the guy who immediately drops his stick and puts up his arms when you look at them.

Hooking: This is called when Player A uses his stick to restrain Player B. You know it is a hook when Player A lets go of his stick and the stick is still trapped under Player B's arm. That's how tight the hook is. It will take the jaws of life to pry it from Player B.

Spearing: When Player A stabs Player B with his stick. This is an automatic 5 minute penalty but as the ref, you can let them off easy when Player A promises to giggle for you after the game.

Slashing: When Player A swings his stick at Player B and makes contact. This penalty is not only called when it is stick on body. It is also called upon stick on stick contact. You should blow your whistle and call this anytime you see a broken stick on the ice because it must take a vicious slash to break one of those technologically advanced sticks nowadays.

Roughing: This penalty is called when Player A punches Player B (usually in the head or face) when the two are not in a fight. Roughing can also be called when two players get into a fight and one player doesn't throw a punch. The winner will get 5 for fighting and the punching bag will get a roughing minor for roughing up the winner's knuckles.

Elbowing: This penalty is called when Chris Pronger extends his elbow to meet his opponent's face.

Cross-Checking: This is called when Player A uses the shaft of his stick to forcefully check Player B. It appears that professional referees will let this slide up to 4 times. It won't be a penalty until the player does it 5 times in a row.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: This is called when a player chirps at the referee or acts like a soccer player. There is one exception to this rule. Any ref who calls unsportsmanlike on Crosby will be fined an undisclosed amount.

Boarding: You call this penalty anytime a player's back is facing a Montreal Canadien.

Those are some of the more common penalties you will see in a game.

If you have a friend who wants to join in the mix, they can gladly be the linesman. The linesman's job is to call the icings, the offsides and to break up fights. That last part will be key when fake reffing in Philadelphia.

Well, I did my part. If you want hockey to blow up in America then the rest is up to you. Put on that zebra shirt, strap on that hockey helmet, only you can help fill up the seats at the arena in Phoenix.

Now remember, real refs don't take days off so you shouldn't either. Feeling tired, maybe you missed a call or two? Well, that's okay. The good thing about reffing an NHL game is that you won't be penalized for missed calls if you can lie about being screened on the play. You know, because it's not like there's anybody who can prove you wrong or anything.