Commenting on the late second period melee that marred last Saturday’s contest between Yale and North Dakota and resulted in the suspension of four men’s ice hockey team members and four Fighting Sioux players, Bulldogs head coach Tim Taylor said that fighting of that nature had no business in college hockey — or any hockey, for that matter.
And there also is no place in college hockey for officials who guess at the culprits when they dole out penalty minutes. It is time to put in place a system in which the process of punishing the guilty in college hockey games will be much more efficient and accurate. No longer will post-scrum penalty minutes be the guesswork of three on-ice officials who are often too consumed with trying to break up one fight to see what is taking place elsewhere on the ice.
The Bulldog-Fighting Sioux (talk about living up to your nickname) brouhaha contained more fights than referees. Do the math — how can three referees, vehemently attempting to break up one brawl each, know what happened in the other cases? They can’t. Never mind battles which require more than one official to contain, as was the case Saturday night.
All eight expelled skaters were given the same punishment — game disqualifications and an automatic one-game suspension to be served during the team’s next game. Those are incredibly high stakes in the ultra-competitive realm of college hockey. In the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, which encompasses the six Ivy League hockey programs, just four points separated third place from 11th at the end of last season.
And in a league that is so competitive, it did not help the Bulldogs when Saturday night, the officials threw out at least one player — Yale blue liner Stacey Bauman ’03 — who did not throw a single punch.
As I watched from the press box, I was utterly shocked that Bauman received the same penalty as everyone else, and when I reviewed the videotape of the incident at intermission, it was clear he had not thrown a punch. Was he in a scuffle? Yes. But scuffles of that kind do not usually warrant game disqualifications and suspensions.
The referees on the ice simply cannot be the ones solely responsible for determining the penalties in these situations, because some guesswork clearly occurred.
But the calls cannot be changed now unless the specific official admits he made a mistake. And we all know the chances of that happening.
At each Yale home game and at most every ECAC game, there is a supervisor of officials who sits in the press box, but cannot consult with the officials during play. Let’s get this straight — a supervisor of officials with a bird’s-eye view of the entire ice surface is not allowed to consult with the on-ice officials, who, through no fault of their own, are not in position to make the right call.
Even the supervisor of officials, though, cannot focus his two eyes on four different incidents at the same time. That is why there needs to be a new policy for instances where the on-ice officials want to penalize players in such a severe manner.
Some might argue that this would prolong the game, but in reality, how much longer would it take for the supervisor of officials to analyze the film and relay it to the on-ice crew than it would for three referees to huddle together and make up their own conclusions?
What good is a system in which a player who is exonerated by irrefutable film evidence still remains punished because of a heat-of-the-moment decision from an on-ice official? The ECAC prides itself on the ultra-competitive nature of its league play. And in a league that is so competitive, on-ice officials should not base such serious decisions on assumptions rather than concrete evidence. The current procedure is a farce and detracts from the legitimacy of the competition.
Instead, take a page out of the NFL’s playbook and go the videotape. The extra minute or two it takes to get things right is nothing compared to what will happen if nothing is done to improve the system and players continue to miss entire games for bogus reasons.