Thursday, 11 June 2015

"Diving" in hockey is an ugly practice that's easily fixed. Unless you're Colin Campbell and the NHL.

There’s a tolerance to flopping in the NHL that’s in opposition to the stated goal of the league and its talking heads. They unanimously decry embellishment, but it happens routinely in games now, and it’s to the detriment of player safety.

Some have taken to lying on the ice for a few seconds, acting dazed when they receive what they think might be a questionable hit, trying to draw a penalty. Ben Bishop is a frequent offender.

It would be so easy to end that practice. Just punish embellishment, immediately and sternly, any clear incidence of diving when it shows up on game tape. Let the on-ice officials punish the offenders if they can, when they see it, but tell them not to worry about it unduly, concentrate on the game, and let the league deal with it after the fact, as supplemental discipline.

Some argue that it’s hard to tell if someone flopped or not, but that’s not a valid reason to not try. The same goes for questionable hits or slashes, but the league doesn’t just throw up its hands and say it’s impossible, it tries its best, punishes the clear transgressions.

Do the same for the floppers and thespians. Guys who jump into their dive, Shawn Thornton when he’s all noble and a guy who plays the right way play-acts a full-body spasm two seconds after getting emelined, stick them with a suspension and fine.

Hit the coaches and teams with graduated fines and suspensions as well, along with the GM’s, punish these guys with loss of drafting privileges somehow, the more their team dives the more it affects their draft picks. Now diving isn’t just something that Claude Julien can make a big stink about while Brad Marchand embarrasses himself with the same histrionics, it’s something the Bruins coach actively stamps out, there’s no two ways about it. A player could dive himself off the team and back down to the AHL in a hurry, if a Peter Chiarelli gets told that his second-round draft pick now got bumped down to the third round, and the next instance will mess with the first-rounder.

The argument that the players will just flop a little less, be more sly about it, misses the mark. None of those guys are trying to overact, they just put on a little extra mustard to draw the eye of the ref. They do their best to act natural, for their flop to go undetected, but it’s often so evident, it’s like the four-year-old who says he didn’t steal the chocolate but the proof is all over their face. If a player can fall just right after a hook, and not get caught, good on him I guess, but the next time he’ll probably set off the alarm. Make the punishment harsh enough that no one will dare try.

Players will go the extra mile, bend or break the rules to try to win, we’ve all done it, deflated footballs, put gunk on our necks or forearms while on the mound, luciced someone in the groin. The way to deal with that is to make that action a losing proposition. Make the risk and reward analysis easy for players: the chance of getting caught should be too great and the penalty so costly that players will not try to dive anymore.

And for Pete’s sake when a goalie acts as he’s been shot after being brushed by, send him to the quiet room for the mandatory check. If he’s shaken up, take him out of the game. He can return once the protocol has been completed. No more will players theatrically lie on the ice for a minute, wait for the trainer, check to see if the ref has called a penalty, skate to the bench for a breather, and then get back on the ice for the resultant powerplay.

There’s no downside: the cheaters will stop pretending to be hurt, and the truly rattled players’ safety will be enhanced by ensuring they’re sent to the Room, where it can be determined if they suffered mild brain trauma, or just got the breath knocked out of them or banged up their shoulder.

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