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I saw what I wanted to see: coincidental minors

Walkom call reveals another NHL failure



It's almost never totally fair.

Lots of random things can conspire to do in a team. An injury to the wrong player. A bad bounce at the wrong time. A bad call.

Hardly in hockey, or in most sports, is the outcome perfectly fair. So we do the best we can.

A key player gets hurt? An unintentional deflection beats your goalie while your tip hits the post? That's the way it goes.

Surely the Chicago Blackhawks' griping had they lost to Detroit Wednesday night after being robbed by referee Stephen Walkom of a late third-period tiebreaking goal would have approached record decibel-levels. This was no lucky bounce.

Neither was it a "bad call". That's not a nice enough term for it.

What it was -- Walkom's coincidental-minors call with 1:47 to go -- was a contrived effort to do what officials in sports long have been suspected of doing: Evening it up.

The way the play happened leaves only one deduction: Walkom wanted to send off one player from each team. Why do that, you may ask? Because it leaves no team an advantage, something officials are thought to dread doing late in games, especially elimination games.

But why not just let the whole thing go? Because officials with their ears close enough to the public know that refs also get criticized for being too lenient in these situations. (Heck, who in hockey hasn't heard that. We all know it.) Walkom is a former head of officials for the NHL. He knows all the criticisms up and down. And in a perfect world there are penalties on the scoresheet when all is said and done. Why call anything? Because if you don't, guys like me can't mock the league for players being legally tackled late in close games.

Late in the third period of a 1-1 tie, Detroit's Kyle Quincey was planting Chicago's Brandon Saad into the Detroit bench while the Blackhawks were pulling together the go-ahead goal. Referee Walkom, trailing the play, had a perfect view of all of it. When Quincey shoved Saad into the bench, Walkom called no penalty. He simply filed it in his brain and waited for retaliation so that he could get what he wanted.

When Saad punched at Quincey, Walkom had the result he'd been waiting for. And as Niklas Hjalmarsson buried a perfect shot he'll never get credit for, Walkom made the disastrous call.

Chicago won in overtime. Crisis averted, I guess.

For years -- for as long as I can remember -- conscientious hockey fans have complained about referees changing the methodology of officiating late in games. Here that was, controversially, exposed.

This is what happens when you put getting penalty calls even ahead of getting them right.

Most referees would have let the whole thing go. Walkom wanted to do better than that and the result was he did worse.

Hey, that was boarding on the winning goal. Right?

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : ChicagoDetroit
People : Brandon SaadKyle QuinceyNicklas HjalmarssonStephen Walkom
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