Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My No(contact) Hockey League

In what was regarded as one of the more interesting sun-plots in the NHL this season, Super Joe Thornton made his return to Boston on Tuesday night, but his stay lasted a little more than five minutes after the San Jose Sharks forward was tossed from the game on a ridiculous checking from behind call after Thornton hit Hal Gill early in the game at TD Banknorth Garden.

Kind of tough being a hockey fan in Boston these days. Of the 17,901 that paid to bid Thornton a proper goodbye, some may have missed him altogether if they showed up late to the game. Referee Chris Rooney said NHL rules call for a game misconduct on such plays (assuming the infraction actually occurs).

"From my view, where I'm standing on the ice, it's a direct hit from behind," Rooney said. "The player that got hit is defenseless."

The only thing that was defenseless in this case was Rooney’s explanation. Boston’s hockey faithful paid to see Joe Thornton play. Replays contradict the official’s assertion, and Gill’s post game comments seem to allude that Rooney flat out got this one wrong.

"Maybe it's a penalty, maybe it isn't," said Gill. "I think what he got was too much."

On this night, the league’s “My NHL” marketing campaign left out a few words. “My, the officiating stinks in the NHL tonight” is far more appropriate.

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