February 2, 2012
Stopped clock, big problemExtra point could decide playoffs
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - The NHL is investigating whether the integrity of the game was violated by a league official who may have opened the door for a game-winning goal by the L.A. Kings that never should have counted.
And while NHL VP Colin Campbell says there’s nothing that can be done in terms of changing the outcome of the game Wednesday night at the Staples Center, he wants to get to the bottom of how the game-clock appears to have stopped in the dying seconds just long enough to allow the host Kings to win the game over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After all, the extra point the Kings were gifted could have serious implications on a tightly-contested playoff race in the West.
Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson acknowledged that while the one or two points essentially stolen from the lowly Blue Jackets is irrelevant to his team’s playoff hopes, the irony is it may help the last-place team solidify its hold on the first pick overall this summer. Either way, Howson was so furious over the injustice he outlined his disgust in a blog he later decided to pull down from the team’s website.
“It is an amazing coincidence that with the Kings on a powerplay at Staples Center and with a mad scramble around our net in the dying seconds of the third period of a 2-2 hockey game that the clock stopped for at least one full second,” wrote Howson.
“I can only think of two ways in which this would have happened. Either there was a deliberate stopping of the clock or the clock malfunctioned.”
The NHL’s war room did, in fact, review the goal, which clearly crossed the goal-line with 0.4 seconds left. After ruling it was a good goal, it was pointed out by Blue Jackets officials the clock clearly stopped for at least a second at the 1.8 second mark, giving the Kings just enough time to score and avoid overtime.
Campbell said Thursday the clock did indeed stop for a second and the goal never should have counted but that the outcome of the game is in the books and cannot be altered regardless of his investigation.
Many were quick to suggest that not only should the timekeeper be fired, but the Kings should be sanctioned. Fact is, the timekeeper is an NHL employee who makes a whopping $100 a game for his efforts, and even if it’s determined he is a homer who tainted the league by essentially hitting the pause button on purpose, it essentially boils down to being labelled human error.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi offered up an interesting take on the situation as other team officials quietly grumbled about the embarrassing turn of events.
“Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs,” he told ESPN.com.
”Given the rapidity and volume of electrons that move through the measuring device, the calibrator must adjust at certain points, which was the delay you see -- the delay is just recalibrating for the clock moving too quickly during the 10 10ths of a second before the delay. This insures that the actual playing time during a period is exactly 20 minutes. That is not an opinion -- that is science. Amazing device, quite frankly.”
Amazing explanation, frankly, and most league officials rolled their eyes at it. Those who should be most upset are those who are chasing — or who are being chased by — the Kings in the standings. Several such GMs declined comment yesterday, but Howson’s blog spoke for them.
“This extra point in the standings could have an enormous impact both competitively and economically. What if the Kings make the playoffs by one point or gain home ice advantage by one point? We could be talking about a team not making the playoffs and missing out on millions of dollars in playoff gates. No one can ever convince me that this result does not matter.”
Flames GM Jay Feaster didn’t seem concerned about it.
“There is nothing the NHL is going to do, or can do, to correct the situation if, indeed, there was a mistake made in that game,” said Feaster, whose club is eight points behind L.A.
“Rather than crying over what happened in a game in which we did not take part, our time and energies are devoted to our own team and doing everything we can to win the games we play and, in so doing, qualify for the post-season.”
An NHL game night official who has worked in Calgary for many years said yesterday the pause could either have been human error (“maybe he thought he heard a whistle”) or pure mischief, which would be hard for the league to prove.
But it will be even harder to forget if it affects the standings at season’s end.
On Twitter @ericfrancis
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada