Colorado Avalanche Fans Disgruntled by New Penalty Emphasis

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 19: Teemu Pulkkinen
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 19: Teemu Pulkkinen /

The Colorado Avalanche were seven-time victims of the new focus on calling faceoff violations and slashing penalties.

Colorado Avalanche fans at Pepsi Center and watching on TV had to endure 16 penalties last night. Half of those came in the first period alone.

Six of those were slashing penalties, and an additional two were delay of game related to faceoff violations. There were no calls for goalie interference even though Vegas Golden Knight players twice collided with Avalanche goalie Spencer Martin in his crease.

According to Michael Blinn of Sports Illustrated, the NHL has decided to officially crack down on slashing and faceoff violations. A major area of focus is players lining up hehind the L-shaped marks around the faceoff dots — doing so is considered cheating.

Here’s the information of rule 76.4 in the NHL rulebook:

"When the face-off takes place at any of the nine face-off spots, the players taking part shall take their position so that they will stand squarely facing their opponent’s end of the rink, and clear of the ice markings (where applicable). The sticks of both players facing-off shall have the blade on the ice, within the designated white area. At the eight face-off spots (excluding center ice face-off spot), the defending player shall place his stick within the designated white area first followed immediately by the attacking player. When the face-off is conducted at the center ice face-off spot, the visiting player shall place his stick on the ice first."

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Why is the league taking a stand on this rule all of a sudden? It makes no sense. Yes, you can get a slight advantage in how you line up for the faceoff. And, yes, since the dawn of hockey players have creatively used faceoff shenanigans to gain a quick breather, especially for star players.

That’s called strategy. That’s called some of the fun of the game. We all know it’s happening — it’s a little kick to see the players do it, even if they’re from the opposing team. It barely slows the game down at all — not like, say, calling a bench minor and having to designate a player to go to the penalty box.

It’s like the NHL says it wants to promote the game and make it more fun for viewers and then proceeds to do the complete opposite of what will achieve these goals. Calling the rule frustrates the fans by slowing the game down and calling a penalty on something we can barely see — and certainly care little about. It’s not a rule that’s protecting the players either in any way.

The players also don’t care for the new emphasis. Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins told the Boston Sports Journal that the new rule is “an absolute joke.”

Now, the rule against slashing has always existed, and with good reason. Remember when Pittsburgh Penguin forward Sidney Crosby slashed the tip of Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot’s finger right off? However, this infraction is generally a lot less dangerous to players than, say, boarding, charging, elbowing or even, you know, running the goalie in his crease.

Yet for some reason NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and new Player Safety head George Parros have chosen to take a stand against slashing.

They also called Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon for, essentially, being a hockey player:

MacKinnon brushed up against Teemu Pulkkinen as he skated by because, you know, it’s a hockey game. It seems like referee Reid Anderson just wanted to get a little fame by admonishing the star to “get in there” like he’s a recalcitrant child.

All this new emphasis on calling penalties — and officials drawing attention to themselves rather than keeping it on the game — resulted in seemingly less 5-on-5 action than special teams’ play.

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The hope is that the referees are calling the preseason games tight so that players adjust their styles for the regular season. For one thing, hockey fans don’t want to watch penalties called for technical fouls, or we’d be watching tennis.

Second, Colorado Avalanche and other hockey fans certainly don’t want to see the officials start to effect the outcome of games.