It’s tough when you step on the ice and, after playing for a few minutes, you realize that the opposing team isn’t the only team out there you need to beat. If you’re going to win, you’re going to have to beat the zebras too.
I know, I know, it’s hard to see the game through the rose-tinted glasses of a supporter’s eyes. For parents and, perhaps for some coaches too, the calls that are made are seldom on the side of their team and calls that should be made are never for the other team.
Of course, blatant disregard is often given to the dirty play their players resort to while the play has moved on. The forward movement of the puck is where the action is, with eyes rarely lingering behind to see the little nastiness – the slashes and cross checks handed out by defensemen or attackers slow to leave the zone. If you don’t believe me, try to be a delayed observer. Watch the action behind the play, and see if your view of hockey changes.
Our team’s battle today for a place in the final was an example of battling a two-in-one. The teams were both on their “A” games because the stakes were so high. Losing meant packing up and going home. When the puck was dropped to start the first period, our team gained control, went deep in their zone when one of our passes was intercepted and pushed on to a cherry picker outside of their zone.
The resulting break away netted a top-net goal, the first shot-on-goal of the match. That meant that in under 20 seconds, we became the underdogs, needing to play catchup.
A few minuted further in, that’s when the referee began to influence the game. It wasn’t offsides, the linesmen did their jobs well, but it seemed the guy with the red stripes around his arms was on “their” side, not our’s. As soon as we regained momentum and were in their zone, one of our kids would be sent to the bench, even though the other team had kids doing the very same thing down in our end.
My son got called out for a tripping penalty in a battle for the puck in our zone. He and one of their forwards were racing for the puck and Nic dove to touch the puck first, pushing it into the corner. The player behind him fell, and Nic got a 2:00 tripping penalty; the other team’s player got nothing. When two of their players did the same thing in their zone — a diving play to keep the puck from one of our players — no whistle was blown, no 2-minutes handed out.
As the game continued, uglier calls began. Our top scorer was in front of their net, trying to put the puck in when the referees whistled the play dead, even though the puck was still alive. One of their players cross-checked our man in front, pushing him behind the net – and a skirmish ensued. We ended up with a “hit to the head” 4-minute penalty on top a 2-minute roughing; their player was given a 2-minute for roughing and another 2-minutes for cross checking. Since the 4-minute could only be served after the 2-minute was finished, a second player from our team was pulled into the box to serve the first two minutes. All in, we were short-handed for two minutes, but with a team of 13 (including 2 goalies), having two players in the box meant an extremely stressful penalty kill.
At the end of three periods, the score was tied at 3-3, so a 4-on-4, 10-minute overtime ensued, but this time, penalties were handed out to both teams. Strangely enough, the Sometimes it was 4-on-4, sometimes 5-on-4, but finally back to 4-on-4, the attackers on our team ended up being a right-winger from our second line with a left-winger from the first line.
The puck was in our zone, passed out and across the ice to the right-winger. The right winger took it in, trailed by the left-winger. Their goalie deflected the initial shot, which rebounded and was picked up by our left-winger, who tapped it in.
I know you can’t have a game without the officials. I know the higher the calibre of play, oftentimes the calibre of officiating is elevated. Sometimes you need to shake your head, swallow hard and just keep trying.
That’s what our team did, and that’s how we won.