Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Unfair NHL Referees throughout Series Contributed to Riot in Vancouver
A native guy in his sixties came into McDonald's restaurant at Main & Terminal at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, where people were sitting on the stools in front of the big screen televisions waiting for Stanley Cup Game 7 to begin. As he grabbed the last available stool, he told us, "The word is that if the officiating is unfair again tonight, people are going to riot. That's the word." He said it twice. The Downtown Eastside is different than other neighbourhoods: people have more time than in other neighbourhoods and talk to one another on the street, they stand on street corners and talk.
I've been enjoying watching the games with this guy at Mcdonalds, because he knows hockey like nobody else I know. He grew up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan -- 100 miles north of Saskatoon -- where people are immersed in hockey. He told me it's common for kids there to play on two hockey teams, one at school and one outside school.
I knew what he meant about the officiating being unfair in the Boston vs. Vancouver playoffs. I've noticed a bias. Even a sports reporter from Boston noted that the officiating "has favored Boston" in the finals, when he was interviewed on Tuesday by a Vancouver radio station. I won't repeat all the examples that have been discussed on Canuck-obsessed talk radio, but when you see a penalty given for a shove at one end of the rink and five punches to Sedin's head going unnoticed at the other end of the rink, something is not right.
At the end of the first period, when the score was 1-0, the native guy turned to me and said he thought the Canucks could come back. Early in the period, the players knew where one another was, "but by the end they seemed to be looking for each other." He thought they would come out in the second period and function more as a team again.
When the Canucks lost, he said, "I'm gonna feel bad now for two or three days." Then tears welled up in his eyes.
The Canucks may have let their Stanley Cup chance slip away even if the refs hadn't been handicapping them throughout the series. Luongo after all should have stopped at least a couple of tonight's goals. Tim Thomas was a stellar performer. The Bruins were the better team tonight.
I've talked to several devoted hockey fans now about Brian Tuohy's book, "The Fix is In", about fixing in the NHL and other sports, and they have all said they believe it's going on. On Tuohy's website, he publishes a quote Patrick Hruby on ESPN.com about his book, "Tuohy makes a compelling, fact-based argument that not everything in the sports world is as it seems." Rick, a homeless tennis player and avid recycler who is mad about hockey, told me after Monday night's game that he has no doubt there is fixing going on in hockey.
The native guy had the same response when I asked him tonight. He pointed out that allegations of betting on hockey against Wayne Gretzky's wife and assistant coach, although no charges were laid, did nothing to inspire confidence in the integrity of the NHL. "Do you notice they don't have him on [tv] talking about the game anymore? They don't want nothin' to do with him. He's tainted."
The mainstream media generally avoids discussion of suspicions of fixing. A couple of weeks ago, CKNW's Bruce Allen, who has crafted an image as a straight talker, was guest-hosting a talk show and instantly hung up on a caller who said of the playoffs: "It's fixed."
Canucks' GM, Mike Gillis, did hint at it in a press conference in April as the Canucks battled the Chicago Blackhawks. He pointed out that in the previous four games, Chicago had 69% more power plays than Vancouver. In the previous four games when the score had been tight, a one or two goal difference, Chicago had 100% more power plays than Vancouver. As Gillis read a list of statistics to support his claim that there has been nowhere near "a level playing field", I suspected, "The Fix Is In".
Gillis suggested this week that he has been muzzled. At a press conference, when asked about the fact that there had been no penalty for Boston for the hit that broke the back of Canuck Mason Raymond, he said, 'I can't talk about. I'll get in trouble.'
Tonight, after the Canuck's final 4-0 loss to Boston, when the first car in downtown Vancouver was turned over and burned, many of the people rocking that car until it turned over were wearing Canucks jerseys. Although some of the rioting and looting was started by a small group of people wearing black balaclavas, fans in Canucks jerseys were quick to join them and were clearly enjoying the emotional release. They were not all youths either.
Everybody involved "will be held accountable", the Mayor said. But the NHL which have pumped these fans up throughout the series and then allowed refs to cheat them? Don't expect any accountability there.