NHL will continue calling it by the book

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

There's no secret that National Hockey Leaguers rachet up intensity at playoff time, but they're about to meet the zero tolerance officiating clampdown.

The two philosophies will clash now that playoff teams are steeling themselves for April and May. Judging from the fallout of the Leafs-Canadiens match on Tuesday, it won't be a smooth transition.

In a much-hyped game with obvious playoff ramifications, there were a numbing 16 power plays, 11 against the Habs, who gave up four and lost 5-3. While the visitors weren't thrilled at being assessed seven consecutive minors, the strongest condemnation came from national and local TV, radio and newspapers, continuing yesterday in the large Toronto hockey media market. Even former NHL referee Ron Hoggarth, a guest on AM 640, thought brethren Dean Warren and Craig Spada went overboard.

But NHL hockey operations vice-president Mike Murphy and league officiating director Stephen Walkom both vowed their staff will keep calling games tight right through the rough and tumble playoffs.

"Our motto is to stay the course and the playoff intensity will still be there," Walkom said. "I don't look at just one game. I'm very pleased at the way the guys have called it all year. The players dictate whether there will be a lot of calls or not."

One of the biggest criticisms from Tuesday's game was the number of consecutive calls, which led to a series of 5-on-3s.

"In the old culture, the old way of thinking, a rule broken in certain situations was not called," Walkom said. "The difference is our guys see it and they call it, regardless of the situation. Do that, you have consistency; if you don't, you fall back the other way and it's clutch and grab again."

Murphy said no one should be surprised at how games are being called.

"We're in unchartered waters as far as the playoffs go, but we're not backing off," Murphy said. "We've warned the players and coaches and educated the fans. It only takes a slight tug to prevent a skill player from getting position. Stephen's mandate is to eliminate that, especially on players moving up and down the ice.

"That job is never completed and I don't think we'll ever get it 100% right. But many of the fouls (Tuesday) were earned and the team that won deserved it."


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