Take a deep breath: The refs are not out the get the Tampa Bay Lightning
There have been some highly questionable calls against the Tampa Bay Lightning this second season of playoffs in the NHL. And fans are rightly up in arms over this. It seems as if the Lightning just can't quite catch a break when it comes to the officials.
But would it surprise you to find out that every single team's fans in the NHL feel exactly the same way about how officials call things against their team?
Yes, the on-ice officials have called things against the Lightning that didn't happen - some of them even on players not named Steve Downie. Yes, some of those calls have taken place at very wrong times for the team. (Although, when exactly is a good time for a penalty?) And yes, some of those penalties have cost the Lightning dearly at times.
But that happens to every other team in the NHL. I'm sorry, but the Lightning aren't that special. They aren't targets of some nefarious Gary Bettman grand master plan that's out to keep Southeast Division away from the Stanley Cup. If that were the case, then why have both Carolina and Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in the past ten years?
It's time to take off the tin foil hats, and to stop drinking the Oren Koules and Len Barrie Kool-Aid. There is no conspiracy. The referees and linesmen just suck - for everyone.
It's all well and good for the team to feel cornered, to feel like it's them against the world. That's some serious motivation for them to play well. But fans don't need to. It's our job to be supportive, and not to be paranoid.
To put it simply: We're in a relationship with the Lightning, and fans need to stop acting like the crazy, possessive girlfriend.
The on-ice officials have sucked. All. Season. Long. You've seen all of the stupid penalties being called, the inconsistent suspensions. We've all complained about Colin Campbell's Wheel of Justice. We all know that goes on - and not just to the Lightning.
I think that there are two major factors for bad calls. One, the on-ice officials just can't keep up with the speed of the players. Not in terms of how fast the play goes, but just skating up and down the ice. How can they see something happen if they aren't there when it happens?
Another factor is education. The league seems to change its mind hourly on what certain rules mean, and how they should be called. If the NHL isn't sure what interference is, then how can a referee know? And if the refs don't know, then how are the players supposed to know?
If the league and the NHL were truly out to get the Lightning, they wouldn't have made it to the conference finals. Likely, they wouldn't have even made it into playoffs. In fact, they probably wouldn't have Jeff Vinik as a majority owner. Moving them wouldn't have been such a hard thing to do a year and a half ago, after all.
So take a big step back from the ledge, and put down your pitch forks, torches, ice picks, machetes, and chainsaws. And think about taking some yoga lessons or something to calm down. Seriously. We're all going to need couple's counseling after this is over.