Want to get a hockey fan mad? Just talk to them about the officiating in the NHL playoffs.
Even for those who often defend the referees – myself included, I understand that they're human – it's hard to excuse what we've seen in the playoffs this year. Tyler Bozak's slewfoot in Game 5 on Boston's Noel Acciari was the latest example, with St. Louis scoring on what was essentially a man advantage with Acciari down and out after hitting his head on the ice.
As you can imagine, Bruins fans weren't pleased. The goal gave the Blues the 2-0 lead, with the Bruins unable to come back in an eventual 2-1 loss. It's just the latest controversy in a list of PR disasters the NHL has had to deal with, whether it be the hand pass that led to a Western Conference final victory for the San Jose Sharks, Cody Eakin's crosscheck on Joe Pavelski that led to a five-minute major and a big rally by San Jose or the offside call against Gabriel Landeskog and the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. Fans just love to rip on referees, and there has been more than enough examples of that this post-season.
Of course, with high stakes on the line, the Stanley Cup final is no stranger to controversial moments. Here are some of the more notable examples from the past 40 years:
Missed offside – New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers (1980)
The New York Islanders were the team to beat in the early 1980s, winning the Stanley Cup four years in a row to kick off the decade. It all started with the team's 1980 playoff run, one Philadelphia Flyers fans have a reason to be bitter about. In Game 6, an offside Clark Gillies dropped a pass back to Butch Goring, who was just entering the zone at the time. The replay showed that Gillies was offside by the time Goring touched the puck, with Duane Sutter going on to score on the play. The goal stood and the Isles went on to win the game and the series, but had it not counted, the Flyers likely would've been able to force Game 7.
McSorley's illegal stick – Los Angeles Kings vs. Montreal Canadiens (1993)
The Montreal Canadiens were favored in the 1993 Cup final, but they almost found themselves down 2-0 in the series against Los Angeles. The Kings won Game 1 with a dominant 4-1 effort and were on their way to winning Game 2 with a 2-1 lead late in the game. With nothing going the Habs' way, Canadiens coach Jacques Demers asked for the officials to measure the stick of Kings defenseman Marty McSorley. The blade's curve was ruled to be illegal and McSorley was given a two-minute minor, with Eric Desjardins scoring the tying goal shortly after to force overtime. Desjardins then scored the overtime goal to give the Canadiens the lead, setting the charge as Montreal went on to win the next three games. The loss was devastating for an emerging market in Los Angeles, who didn't win another playoff game until 2001.
'No Goal' – Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo Sabres (1999)
Perhaps the most infamous example of a controversial playoff goal was the one that handed the Stars an overtime victory to claim the championship 20 years ago. Back then, players couldn't score with a foot in the crease, which is exactly what Hull did. The goal was scored in triple overtime of Game 6, so maybe the officials were a little woozy after a long night on the job, but it was enough to give Dallas its only Stanley Cup in franchise history. Sabres fans have had a rough 20 years since then, with the club failing to return to the final (and struggling to make the playoffs most seasons). But they have a legitimate reason to be mad about 1999, especially since the rule was abolished shortly after.
Over the line – Calgary Flames vs. Tampa Bay Lighting (2004)
Flames fans love talking about this game, but only if you define talking as shouting expletives in the comments section of any post involving Game 6. But can you blame them? Replays show that Martin Gelinas' redirection just crossed over the goal line, beating Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin by a hair before entering back into the play. At full speed, it was hard to tell if it went in, but video review shows the puck clearly passing over the red line. The goal wasn't reviewed and Flames fans were left steaming. The game remained tied at 2-2, with the Lightning eventually scoring in double overtime to force Game 7, which they won to claim the first Cup in franchise history. The Flames, meanwhile, have not made it to the final since.
Burrows' bite – Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks (2011)
Before Brad Marchand was infamous for licking his opponents, the Bruins found themselves on the painful side of one of the strangest moments in recent playoff history. In the opening game of the 2011 Cup series, considered by many to be one of the more chaotic ones in the post-lockout era, Alex Burrows and Patrice Bergeron had a shoving match following a whistle. Bergeron was able to get his arm around the intervening ref in an attempt to shove Burrows, but the Canucks pest wasn't having any of it. As Bergeron got his hand close, Burrows promptly chomped down on Bergeron's index finger, with Bergeron pleading for a penalty to be called as a result of Burrows' attempt at having a late-night snack. Burrows got away without supplemental discipline, something fans around the league were furious about, but the Bruins battled back to win the championship, with Canucks fans rioting after a Game 7 loss.
What controversial call do you hate the most?
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