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Watching Saturday's Flyers-Canadiens game, Montreal's Brendan Gallagher was called for holding in front of the Flyers net in the second period. The colour analyst then said Gallagher - a perennial crease crasher - is in the officials' books when it comes to guys to 'watch for.'
If such directives are sent, who sends them to the officials and were there such 'listed players' back in your day? Names!
If there is an internal published list of players for the officials to watch for, it's a well-guarded secret at this point. Directives sent to the referees and linesmen originate from the desk of Stephen Walkom - V.P. of Officiating or his counterpart in Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.
Regardless of whether a directive has been sent or not, based on what I have observed and previously commented on, Brendan Gallagher has earned a rightful place on the Referee's "Ten Most Wanted" list.
Even after committing the holding infraction against Braydon Coburn, Gallagher completed a theatrical dive with both skates into the net in an attempt to fool the referee(s) and as the puck went past Ray Emery. Good for referee Dan O'Rourke for being dialed in from the neutral zone to make the correct call. I can assure you it was no accident or lucky catch by O'Rouke. A refs' list of known offenders is nothing new and Gallagher is not the only Habs player to be drawing special attention from the ref's this season. No one likes to be embarrassed—Diving/embellishment is near the top every ref's list!
Anyone can check the boxscores on a nightly basis and compile their own list of players that are assessed a diving penalty throughout the season. The refs received direction at their training camp in September to be more vigilant in this area. Several players are already on the radar screen for having been assessed a diving/embellishment penalty. A letter of warning was issued by Hockey Operations to the players so penalized for their first offense as per rule 64.3. As a result of the epidemic-like proportions displayed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season this rule was revised prior to the start of the 2014-15 season to include a graduated fine schedule to be assessed against the player and eventually his head coach to a maximum of $5,000.
Hockey Operations has the authority, as in the past, to determine that a player is guilty of embellishment regardless as to whether a penalty is assessed by the referee. The fine imposed against the head coach kicks in after the player's third diving/embellishment offense.
Prior to my final season on the ice in 2009-10 there was a concerted effort by Hockey Operations and the referees to address the diving issue that was snowballing out of control. The NHLPA opposed Hockey Ops on the subject of sharing an internal list of offenders with the referees for fear of potential "targeting." A public list was totally out of the question for fear of any 'embarrassment' it might cause the player. For these reasons Andrew, we never received a specific list of known offenders. What the PA failed to recognize but Hockey Ops did, was three of the oldest forms of communication—telegraph, telephone and tell a Ref!
Each member of the officiating staff had his own list of players that duped him or attempted to and wouldn't hold back on sharing the information around the pre-game lunch table or in the dressing room prior to a game. The adage, "Fool me once—good for you: Fool me twice—shame on me" was adopted by the core group and a "known offenders list" was mentally compiled and shared freely amongst the referees. There was never a rash of diving penalties called but more of a conscious awareness not to be fooled into calling a penalty as a result of embellishment. It could also work against a known offender who would seldom receive the benefit of the doubt if fouled. This was much easier to accomplish with a veteran staff. There has been a large turnover of the staff through attrition and diving/embellishment has become more prevalent requiring drastic measures to stop the trend.
The League is definitely attempting to put a stop to embellishment. I applaud and support Hockey Operations, the Officiating Department and the referees for their efforts. There have been some penalties assessed for diving that I felt were unwarranted but in the big picture it might force players to work harder at staying on their skates.
While the game continues to be suffer the embarrassment of diving it is now time for Hockey Ops to publish a list of all offenders who receive a letter or are fined for subsequent offenses—whether penalized on the ice or not. The time is now to publicly expose the players guilty of embellishment and move the known offenders list outside of the referee pipeline. This might go a long way in an effort to deter players from attempting to cheat the game through embellishment — after all, no one likes to be embarrassed.