By Graeme Perrow
As I mentioned in my write-up on the Championship game, the reffing was pretty good on the whole, with the exception of one notable play. There were no significant in-game repercussions of this play, and I don't know if there will be any coming, but their certainly could be. The player in question certainly needs to take responsibility for what happened, but I think that a big mistake was made by the ref and without that mistake, the whole incident could have been prevented.
It's near the end of the first quarter, and the Rock are up 3-1. They have possession in their own end, but are having trouble getting the ball out. Just before Blaine Manning crosses the centre line, the ref blows the whistle for a 10-second violation. Everyone on the floor stops, and Manning turns around and heads towards the bench, still holding the ball in his stick. Kyle Sorensen must not have heard the whistle and ran from well beyond his own restraining line towards centre, and knocks Manning down while trying to get the ball out of his stick. This must have been at least five seconds after the whistle. It's not like he hit Manning overly hard, but Manning certainly wasn't expecting it since play had long since been whistled dead.
At this point, several players from each team approached the centre circle where this was happening and there were a couple of shoves. This is when the mistake happened. For some reason the ref, standing less than ten feet away from the scuffle, blew the whistle to start play. Kyle Ross immediately cross-checked Sorensen in either the neck or head, and Sorensen dropped like a rock (no pun intended). The ref blew the play dead again, there was a little more shoving, and Ross was sent to the box for five minutes. Sorensen remained on the ground for several minutes before being helped back to the bench by the trainer. He remained in the game. (For those fans sitting near me calling for a diving penalty, watch the replay and then STFU.) At the same time, the Stealth were given a too-many-men penalty.
I have three questions about this play:
- Perhaps Sorensen didn't hear the whistle, but did he not wonder why none of his teammates were going after Manning – or moving at all? Manning was not looking at the defenders, and was walking slowly back towards the centre line, neither of which he would do if the play wasn't dead. So why did Sorensen run so far to go after him? Did he really think that the ball was live?
- Sorensen hit Manning before the whistle (i.e. while play was dead), and then a small scuffle began. Why did the ref blow the whistle to start play at that point? Why not wait until things had calmed down a bit?
- If the Stealth were getting a penalty (too many men), why did the ref begin play at all? Possible answer: Another ref was about to call the bench minor and didn't blow his whistle because the play was dead anyway.
For me, number 2 above is the biggest question. Ross waited until the whistle was blown before he hit Sorensen. If the ref had not blown the whistle, would he have hit Sorensen at all? Obviously there's no way to know, but instead he's in the box for five, and could have been thrown out of the game. In addition, there may even be other repercussions (i.e. a suspension) for this blatant hit to the head. Sorensen was down for a long time and if there was a concussion involved, he may not even know about it for a few days.
It's amazing what one little mistake in judgement can lead to.
One slip, and down the hole we fall.