Carolina Hurricanes fans have been in the news a lot lately and don't seem to be the most popular people in the NHL right now. For instance, Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy Blog looked at one entry from one blog yesterday, and labeled everyone in the Caniac Nation as "conspiracy theorists".
I happen to know the author of the article in question, (East of Here), and he is a knowledgeable, die-hard hockey fan. He also has an incredible sense of humor, so I'm not sure how serious he was with his story. But if he was being serious, I disagree with him about there being a grand conspiracy in this case. For one thing, the "powers that be" in NHL headquarters are not savvy enough to pull a successful major conspiracy off.
In my opinion this situation can all be attributed to one thing that practically every fan in the NHL would agree with. The problem is, incompetent, inconsistent officiating.
Carolina fans are not much different from any other fans out there. They just want fairness. They want the appearance of objectivity. They want consistency.
And do you know something else? Players want the exact same thing.
When penalty calls seem tilted in one direction and one team seems to be taking advantage of the situation, some fans are going to cry "conspiracy". In the meantime, some players may rely on a little vigilante justice, which is what might have happened Sunday night in Boston.
This quote from General Manager Jim Rutherford.indicates how Carolina management feels about the refereeing in this series:
"We are satisfied with the league’s ruling," said Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford. "After our team received several punches throughout the series leading up to Game 5, it was a matter of time before one was going to be thrown back."
Caniacs are not delusional, just look at the hard numbers. They don't lie. The Hurricanes have had 14 powerplay chances in this series and the Bruins have had 21. Does that sound equitable? It seems to some fans like the refs are trying to even up the series, and who can blame them?
The strangest thing about all of this is that Carolina is known as a non-physical, clean team. They had the fewest penalties of any team during the regular season. They were awarded 26 majors during the year, compared to 46 for the Bruins. But now suddenly, they are the bad guys who have no discipline?
On the otherhand, the Bruins are happy about finally playing "their game", an admittedly rough and physical contest which entails semi-legal crosschecks, interference, and gloved punches after the whistle. Whether you consider that "playoff hockey" or not, it is typically not the Hurricanes game.
For those of you still up in arms about the league's decision yesterday to "unsuspend" Scott Walker, you should take some time to read the rules concerning the instigator penalty. The intent of the rule is to keep coaches from putting their goons on the ice in the final minutes of a game for the sole purpose of starting fights. That is obviously not what happened in this case. Walker was playing on the same line he had been all game and he was coming to the aid of a teammate during a skirmish that he did not start. The NHL made the right decision, as described by several unbiased experts, including Bob McKenzie.
Now you could argue that he should have been suspended because of his reckless action, instigator penalty or not, but this is not the first time an ungloved punch has gone unpunished. Canes fans will remember back a year or two ago when Andrew Ladd was being held back by a linesman and Sean Avery paid no attention to that and blasted him full in the face. Unlike Aaron Ward, Ladd really did suffer from a broken orbital bone from the incident and missed several weeks. Was there ever a mention of a suspension from anyone back then? Nope. Not one peep.
Which leads us to game 6 tonight. Both teams want to put the past behind them and concentrate on this all important contest, but will they be able to? Marc Joannette and Kelly Sutherland are the referees scheduled for this game. Bottom line, if they do their jobs and call things evenly for both teams, there will not be a reason for conspiracy theorists, controversy, or vigilante justice. We will see what happens.
Don't forget the earlier start time of 7PM.