I’ve been following the Devs since 1981, been skating in Montclair since 1968, and really donned my first pair of double runners in South Orange sometime around 1955. Ice runs in the family, you might say.
Today has been a blue day. I am trying to remember what it felt like in 2001, against the Colorado Avalanche. It wasn’t as bad, probably because I had a soft spot in my heart for the old Quebec Nordiques, and I lucked into seeing the Avalanche play in a Cup Final in 1996.
This time is worse. I have to admit that the LA Kings were the better team. Their special teams ripped the Devs to pieces. And even with an injured #17, somehow the Devs managed to stay in the fight. And then came last night’s officiating.
I’ve listened to all the blather on NHL Home Ice, all the talking heads. But to me it boils down to this. Steve Bernier is no Matt Cooke. There was no intention to hurt or injure. Rob Scuderi turned the wrong way, and that cost Bernier and the Devils dearly.
If the rules were different, if players were allowed to defend themselves with a high stick (you would put up your arms if someone was charging at you around 30mph, wouldn’t you?) – this penalty would not have happened. Scuderi might have gotten two minutes. The score would probably have remained tied – or maybe not.
So, one bad call – and it WAS a bad call. And before that, one non-call (the hit on Steve Gionta) – and the floodgates opened up. The series was done the moment the first LA goal went in, on home ice.
The refs influenced this outcome and that will forever mark this series as tainted. Sure, the LA power play did the damage. But taking a player completely out of a Stanley Cup Final? This decision cannot be the spirit of the NHL regs.
Give me Old Tyme Hockey, any day. Let players decide the outcome. Like last year’s Cup final, like the Conference finals against the Blueshirts, that’s the hockey that I want to see.
NHL, get the message – officiating is in decline, and some way has to be found to develop and train better refs. Maybe simplify the rule book? Hey, that’s a radical idea.
For now, I applaud the Los Angeles Kings on their tremendous playoff run. They are the Champions. And I commend the New Jersey Devils for taking their game to the limit. In my book, they are Champions too – but only for half the league, here in the East.