Gather around folks, gather around. Give me a second to drag my soap box into position. O.K. now spread out, give me room to climb up on there… I’ve got a lot to say.

All right. Thank you all for coming. I’m going to take a swig of water here first before I say anything further.

(Gulp, Gulp, Gulp…. ahhhhh) O.K… I’m ready….

Let me begin by speaking directly to the NHL. Yes, the NHL, and by NHL I mean every executive from Gary Bettman on down. I mean the folks who work every day in your Manhattan office as well as the denizens of the replay room in Toronto.

I’m speaking to all of you as one.

STOP INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE!

Damn it, this isn’t the first time either. You’ve been at this charade of trying to pull the wool over my eyes for more than a decade.

But I see through your arrogance. I see through your false wisdom about what’s best for the sport. In fact, I see you are the emperor and you have an insecurity about the fact that you have no clothes.

Frankly, your rules suck.

The Flyers had two goals overturned against them last night because of these rules – written by some league lawyers. The vagaries of the language intentionally used by the lawyers to leave room for interpretation allow you, NHL, to cover your ass with every bad call.

And there were two bad calls Thursday that could have led to a completely different result than the Flyers 5-4 loss in Ottawa.

Now, I am not naive, NHL. I know that this game wasn’t completely about your incompetence – although I plan to expose your continued effort to tell people that what they are seeing with their own eyes is wrong.

No, the Flyers had a miserable first period, dug themselves a difficult hole, and although they did a nice job of fighting back, fell victim to more turnovers, more blown coverages, more odd-man rushes against and most importantly – more bad goaltending.

So, NHL, you are not 100% guilty concerning the outcome of the game, but you are guilty nonetheless. You are guilty of ineptitude. You are guilty of ignorance. You are guilty of fraudulence.

And I’m going to tell you why.

So the Flyers lose by a goal but had two goals taken away from them, so technically they should have won, right?

Well, not exactly. If either goal would have stood, there’s no guarantee the flow of the game would have been the same. There’s no saying how differently each team would have played afterward. The first goal was when the Flyers were trailing by two. The second one would have tied it and likely forced overtime, so it’s probably safe to say the Flyers were screwed out of one point – but to have both calls go against them so ridiculously, it’s easy to feel like there were two points snatched from them.

And for a team that’s going to reside right on that playoff bubble for much of the season, that’s a tough break.

On the NBC Sports Philadelphia post game show, Al Morganti was praising the Flyers for not letting these calls be their focus when they talked about the loss, choosing instead to identify their own shortcomings as the reason for defeat. Morganti was saying that it’s only 10 games into the season, and it’s too early to have a freakout about officiating costing your team a game.

Except it isn’t.

Yes, it’s admirable that the Flyers’ young players aren’t letting the emotion of a tough loss where they were so obviously victims of bad hockey legislation get the best of them, but the fact is we are now 12 percent through the season and the Flyers have had at least two points and as many as four points stolen from them by blatantly stupid NHL rules.

Yes, the first one or two points may have been self-inflicted by their own coach when Dave Hakstol never should have challenged a too-close-to-tell offside that wasn’t called. He knew it was a gamble, lost, and the Flyers lost the game in regulation because of it.

The rule issue there though is the excessive result of a failed challenge – a power play? Seriously? Just because a team wants to check if a call in a game going 100 miles per hour may have been missed?

I posited then that the rule was put in place just so the most substandard officiating in the NHL would have their calls or non-calls called into question less frequently, showing a ridiculous level of insecurity on the part of the league.

And that was amplified even more yesterday, when the Flyers had another potential point or two shaved off their standings total.

Here’s the first absurd call:

https://twitter.com/CFJastrzembski/status/923727607996264448

So, Brandon Manning scored what would have been his first goal in almost a calendar year, but had it taken away because Jordan Weal interfered with Craig Anderson’s ability to make a save.

First thing’s first. The refs called this a goal.

Steve Kozari was standing right there watching the play and with his own eyes saw that Weal did not interfere with Anderson and allowed the goal to stand.

It wasn’t changed until the Senators challenged it and it went to the Toronto war room for review. It was a long review, so they obviously looked at it several times.

Me? I only need to see it once to know that it’s not interference, but hey, let’s call everyone over to have a look, right?

I mean, I’m picturing that war room:

Replay official #1: Uh… they did make contact, but it’s really incidental. Hey Mike, come check this out.

Replay official #2 (Mike): Yeah they did briefly bump and the goalie initiated the contact from behind. Hey Gord, come over here and tell us what you think.

Replay official #3 (Gord): Well, yeah, both you guys are right, but the rulebook says that even if the goalie initiates contact the player is still interfering with him. But this is sooooo close, I’m not sure if it really applies. Let’s ask Wayne.

Replay official #4 (Wayne): Well, the issue is Weal is in the crease. By being in the crease, he technically is preventing Anderson from being in the proper position to make a save. Although in this instance, I don’t think he interferes at all. But Duncan, he’s our best rules interpreter, he took an ethics class once at McGill. He’ll make the right call. Dunc, what say you?

Replay official #5 (Duncan): Geez, I’m even stumped on this one. I mean, really there’s no interference, but you remember that memo that went around at the start of the season?

Replay official #1: Oh yeah, I got it here somewhere… here it is, let me wipe off the crumbs from my Tim Horton’s maple dipped doughnut. Sorry, it has a stain from my coffee mug. I didn’t have time to wait for a steeped tea at Tim’s. You know how traffic is on the 401, eh? I didn’t want to be late tonight.

Replay official #5 (Duncan): No worries… Yep, I thought that’s what it said… If a play can be interpreted by the wording in the rule book, then follow the rule book. If not, just make it up and we’ll figure it out later.

So… what does the rule book say:

As Bill points out – this is the relevant section – and the words the NHL is going to hide behind on this call. But here are the key words:

“…results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal.”

Watch the replay again if you have to and see if you can identify an impairment… go ahead, I’ll wait.

Don’t see it? Neither do I. Therefore, it should have been a goal for Manning and Ottawa’s lead trimmed to 4-3.

Needless to say, it wasn’t, Ottawa scored a goal soon there after making it 5-2 and it appeared to be one of those nights.

OK… that Hextall reaction didn’t occur after the goal was overturned last night. But it was appropriate for this call.

However the Flyers got it back to 5-4, and then, in the waning minute of the game had this happen:

Need a closer look? Our Chris Jastrzembski has you covered:

https://twitter.com/CFJastrzembski/status/923735292443537408

I mean, there’s no doubt here right? Everyone else is seeing what I’m seeing. The puck, although in Anderson’s glove, is across the goal line. So, it’s a goal.

They replayed this one too.

And the ultimate determination:

It wasn’t reviewable because even though he didn’t blow his whistle yet, referee Steve Kozari told the replay officials he was thinking about blowing it before the puck was in Anderson’s glove because he lost sight of the puck.

So, no matter what you see with your own two eyes, it really didn’t happen.

But here’s the kicker… that’s not an official rule in the NHL.

Nope. It used to be. And even the NHL deemed it too ridiculous – that an official on the ice could usurp the replay process to assure he got a call correct just because he was thinking of blowing his whistle before the goal was actually scored.

But, no longer. Back to Bill Meltzer on Twitter:

Oh, but wait Bill, the NHL, in its infinite wisdom, has two different rules in two different parts of the rulebook that contradict each other! Fun!

https://twitter.com/jsaquella/status/923759176014290944

So wait, the NHL doesn’t even know its own rules? And as an explanation relied on a rule that was so dumb before that they had to change it? And justified it last night by doubling down on said non-existent rule? Only because they changed it in one part of the rulebook but not the other?

Why?

  1. Because they’re stone cold incompetent at running a league.
  2. Because they don’t want their refs to look bad, that’s why. And it’s a joke. It’s why this league is considered a Mickey Mouse operation by so many. It’s why hockey will always be a niche sport and not mainstream.

Not that the mainstream sports don’t have their share of rules problems. The MLB has turned plays at the plate into a hot mess. And the NFL catch rule is now reaching a decade of no one knowing what the hell a catch actually is or isn’t anymore.

But baseball and football have been long established sports in the fabric of our culture. Hockey has lived on the fringe for too long – because it can’t get out of its own freaking way.

And yesterday was another example of that.

NHL… you’ve reached your freaking nadir with this one.

I miss the days when Ed Snider would come out and put the league on a spitfire and roast it like a pig after something this egregious.

I miss the days when Bob Clarke would be waiting outside the officials locker room to tell them directly what he really thought.

But that isn’t the case these days. All we’re left with is this:

and this:

https://twitter.com/CFJastrzembski/status/923736075520151553

Wait… that still isn’t the correct timing of Hextall’s reaction? Damn. I’ll keep trying.