Ladies and gentlemen, hockey fans of all ages, I wish to call to your attention the least logical rule in the NHL today: the diving rule.
Well, the rule itself isn’t bad, just the way the league chooses to enforce it.
In the NHL rulebook, it is known as Rule 64—Diving/Embellishment. It reads as follows:
64.1: Any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or reaction or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.
64.2: Minor Penalty—A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (diving/embellishment).
The rule itself seems straightforward and logical. But the way the league has enforced the rule makes almost no sense. You see, in the NHL, officials only call a diving penalty when they also call a minor penalty against the other team for tripping or hooking or some other infraction that results in a player being pulled down.
So, what the league is saying is, yes, there was a trip on this play, but since the victim embellished or exaggerated the affects of the trip, both players will be sent to the penalty box for minor penalties and the teams will skate 4-on-4.
Now shouldn’t diving penalties be called when a player is NOT tripped or hooked but just takes a dive in an attempt to draw a penalty? There is nothing in the language of the rule prohibiting this call, but I have yet to see an NHL official make the call this way since the diving penalty was added to the rule book. The league must be instructing the officials only to call them as coincidental minors in conjunction with another minor penalty.
Let’s face it, diving or embellishing will always be a judgment call. But the times the call needs to be made are when players fake being tripped or hooked but they actually AREN’T.
Embellishment has a long history in sports. Heck, even Yankees star Derek Jeter admitted he has faked being hit by a pitch to get a free and underserved pass to first base. Punters in the NFL try to make the slightest tap look like they were run over to draw a roughing the kicker penalty.
In hockey, diving has also long been part of the game with Flyers Hall of Fame winger Bill Barber being “credited” with perfecting the dive back in the 70s and early 80s. It may not be considered manly by hockey standards, but it is part of the game and a part the league wants to cut down upon.
Coaches also use diving as a way to bench jockey with officials. Earlier this week, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau tried to get the attention of the officials when he picked on Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos, two of Tampa Bay’s top forwards.
“If I’m a ref, I would never make a call on Steve Downie,” Boudreau said prior to Monday night’s showdown for first place in the Southeast Division. “He dives every two seconds. Steve Stamkos, he dives every two seconds. You start to get a hatred for guys like that.”
Did it work? We may never know.But Boudreau knew exactly what he was doing by bringing it to everybody’s attention, including the two referees and two linesmen who would be officiating that night’s game.
Diving will always be a judgment call. Hockey is a physical game and it is still played on ice. But call the penalty when it’s an attempt to draw a power play on a play when there is no infraction. That’s the diving the league really needs to be eliminating from the game.