Before I answer and post Friday's Question of the Day, I want to share some quick final thoughts with all of you and finish this debate about Wednesday's Philadelphia/Tampa Bay game as referees.
You responded in mass to the questions I posed in the initial column. Your thoughtful opinions on the subject as "acting Commissioner for the day" generated 16 pages of potential solutions relative to various team defensive systems that are employed to those that might refuse to advance the puck on offense. I found your comments and suggestions as "fans" highly entertaining and insightful.
What I want you to do now is remove any bias that you have for one particular team or the other and become the referee with me to make the final assessment on this play under the present rules that are available to us. This is how you and I must handle this situation on the ice in that game.
i) The first time that a player abstains from advancing the puck you or I would shout at that player to move/advance the puck and if no movement results blow the whistle to conduct a face-off on the spot nearest to where play was stopped! (Rule reference: 72.1 - This would take place after no longer than 10 seconds of inactivity NOT 30 seconds.)
ii) Prior to the linesman conducting the face-off you and I would both go to the offending team's coach at his players' bench. This is what we would say, "Coach whether you hate the other team's defensive system or not they are entitled to defend however they wish so long as their players don't violate any rules while doing it. The team that has puck possession must advance the puck through continuous motion as per rule 72. Please advise your players to do so when they gain possession of the puck.
The next time (and each subsequent time) that we have to stop play because your team refuses to advance or play the puck a delay of game penalty will be assessed under rule 63! If you have any issue with this you can take it up with the League but right now this is how it is going to be. We are going to give you a moment to call your players over and advise them of our decision before we drop the puck so you can avoid a delay of game penalty if you choose.
iii) Make good on this promise if it were to recur. As the referee it is incumbent on us to enforce the current rules that are at our disposal to produce continuous action.
There is no rule in the book that dictates how a team must play defense or how they fore-check. There is a rule however that applies to the team that has puck possession.
iv) If the need results for us to assess a delay of game penalty and following that the coach protests from the bench (which I expect would happen) immediately assess a bench penalty. If the coach persists- eject him from the game!
This is how you and I as referees in that game would have taken control of the situation and not let it get even close to the tidal wave that resulted. If we did our job, I am sure that the game and the fans would enjoy "continuous action."
Stay tuned for my Friday Question of the Day to be posted later. Thank you all for your participation. You refed a great game...