Tuesday, September 30, 2008



Welcome to the world of injury prone NHL hockey players ladies and gentleman. What took several months last season has now taken only a couple of weeks. With both Campoli and Sutton on the mend from "undisclosed" injuries, the Islanders reached on to the Waiver Wire for some help in the form of Thomas Pock. As far as defenseman go, Pock is a capable 6th or 7th guy but this is certainly just a band-aid on the gaping wound the Isles defense has suffered in the past week.

One can only sit and wonder whether or not the training regimen's these players are on and the stress their bodies are under during game situations is beginning to break them down earlier and earlier in their careers. Campoli is no older than I am (I'm 24) and already he has had season-ending shoulder surgery and now this "below the neck" injury as Coach Gordon so eloquently put it. Sutton on the the other hand was fairly injury free until last season got cut short by a torn hamstring. Who or what can be blamed for the rash of injuries not only on the Islanders but around the league?

Some of the blame lies with the speed of the game. In the clutch and grab era of hockey, the game progressed much slower. It's the freakiest thing when you're watching the old games and witnessing the sloth-like pace compared to the games of today. With the increased speed and size of the players, injuries are bound to occur. One situation in particular really explains the validity of the point quite well.

The prime example I speak of is the hit by Randy Jones on Patrice Bergeron. In a situation where Bergeron was left defenseless and Jones was turning to follow him, an injury was inevitable because of the speed and proximity to the boards. Unfortunately for Bergeron it ended his season with a severe concussion and the ill effects that he will have to live with the rest of his career. I will endeavor to post the video sometime this evening of the hit. But why are other injuries such as torn labrum's (hips) and knees also so prevalent?

We saw last season's Islanders squad decimated by these types of injuries. From Jon Sim, Mike Sillinger and Rick DiPietro to Mike Comrie and Brendan Witt, all of these players suffered from what the league called "lower body injuries". Is it the ice that they skate on? Is it the physical demands of the game? At this point as fans we're left guessing due to the new injury policy implemented by the GM's. As a fan of this Islanders team I can only pray that this season doesn't start on the same sour note that last season ended with (save for the win over the Rangers in a shootout in the final game).

Thoughts and Notes: With the need to fill so many holes on the current roster, it's a wonder that Garth Snow hasn't gone out and gotten more capable players for certain positions. One in particular is DiPietro's backup. With Khabibulin on waivers, is it plausible to think that Garth might go after him in a trade? It would seem that Chicago will follow Anaheim's lead, considering how they handled Schneider. Chicago will most likely not bring him back up through re-entry waivers if he clears the first time due to his large salary. If he were to come through re-entry Chicago would be obligated to pay half of this season's salary. So us Isles fans might have to just sit back an see how Joey Mac does to fill the role.

Next up on the docket, I'll be tackling the goalie situation between Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis and who should grab that backup spot.

For Questions, Comments and Bonehead Calls e-mail me @ DougD84@optonline.net.

Monday, September 29, 2008



After a rainy weekend, it's nice to see the sun shine on this little Island of ours. The other thing that's nice to have around these parts again is the New York Islanders. After an impressive 4-2 victory over Florida on Saturday on an equally beautiful island, P.E.I., the boys are back where they belong and began practice this morning at Islander Iceworks in Syosset, NY. Now that they're back, it's time to start speculating who will make the opening night roster.

As Greg Logan reported on his blog and Chris Botta on Islanders Point Blank, the Isles management have trimmed the roster to 31 players. Several players in particular caught my eye as potentials for the opening night roster: Jack Hillen, Brandon Sugden, Josh Bailey and Tim Jackman. Let me share my opinions as to why each should be given a shot at cracking this lineup.

Jack Hillen has been an impressive pickup from his two games at the end of last season against the Rangers and now at his first NHL training camp. His puck moving ability and speed might lend to the new system that Coach Gordon has installed as the basis for the team. He displayed his excellent first pass in his two games with the big club and he could lend a sure hand on the 2nd unit on the power play. With Chris Campoli out for the foreseeable future with whatever it might be (check out Chris Botta, Greg Logan and B.D. Gallof's reactions to the new injury policy on their blogs), it may be the opening that Hillen needs to get in and make it stick.

As for Josh Bailey, this is a dream come true. He's 18, coming off a phenomenal year in junior and competing hard for an opening night NHL spot. Many people have stated that Islanders management will give Josh every opportunity to make this team. Whether or not he can compete at the NHL level for an extended period is of course yet to be seen. But I don't see why the Islanders wouldn't sign him and play him for the first 9 games so he can get a taste of the NHL and possibly push him to play harder back on the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

However, the two players that I think have the best chance of making the team for at least the first bit of the season are Brandon Sugden and Tim Jackman. Anyone who has read anything in the past month about the Islanders knows about Brandon Sugden's saga, so I won't reiterate it (but you can read it here). As an Isles fan, I too cried for an enforcer to protect the kids from the big, bad wolves of the NHL. If Brandon can keep up his play and contribute other than in a pugilistic fashion, he might not only win a spot but the hearts of Isles fans everywhere.

Tim Jackman will also be auditioning for the same role as Sugden. In my opinion, due to the fact that he has shown in the past that when called upon he can skate and show off his nasty side that he might have the edge over Sugden at least for the start of the season. In that sense, Jackman might be the best combination of speed and grit that can be inserted on the 4th line in the new system. As for who is odd man out in this situation, unfortunately I have to bring myself to bash on Andy Hilbert one last time.

Don't get me wrong, Andy is a good hockey player that knows his role. But, there needs to come a time when Garth and Scott have to say that they have too many players on the team who are defined as a penalty kill specialist. Richard Park, Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter, Jon Sim and even Sean Bergenheim can fill the roll and still have offensive upside. I just think that it might be Hilbert's time to either take a back seat or hit the waiver wire. That's just my opinion so don't think too far into it.

At this point, I'm just glad that the beginning of the season is less than two weeks away and we've got the Devils on Wednesday at the Coliseum. I hope that many of you can get out to see the boys in action prior to the drop of the puck on the regular season.

For Questions, Comments or Bonehead Calls e-mail me @ DougD84@optonline.net.

Thursday, September 25, 2008



Tonight, in London, Ontario the boys finally hit a speed bump. A dominating performance by some of Philly's top young guns extinguished what was a very confident Islander team tonight 4-0. Although, it was nice having such a run of success to begin the camp, this negative can be turned into a positive that should not be overlooked. I'm sure that Coach Gordon had a few words with the team after the game but this is why there is preseason. It's better to have the lousy games now so that the team can push through and learn from their mistakes. I hope they have TV's on the bus ride back to Moncton, there's plenty of game tape to watch.

Also, I want to send some well wishes out to Brandon Sugden who played in his first NHL exhibition for the Islanders. With the drastic need for an enforcer and the determination of Brandon to get to The Show, I hope that everything comes together and he gets his shot. Now, I have for you the final piece of the NHL Standard of Play puzzle that I've been putting together for the better part of two weeks. In this last installment in the series I'm going to cover Slashing and Tripping.

To begin, let's take your ordinary, garden-variety slash:
Photo courtesy of starsmedia.ign.com.

No, no, no. Not that kind of slash. Geez, what kind of sick, twisted mind would bother to upload that picture to a blog. Anyway, on to the traditional hockey themed Slashing.

As far as the Standard of Play initiative goes, Slashing is definitely something that officials are specifically directed to look out for. The most common slash is up around the hands or upper portion of the stick. This poses a direct danger to an opposing player's well-being and frankly the league cannot stand idly by as their superstars are getting hacked to pieces. Where are you allowed to slash someone you might ask? Well, to best explain it, think of the human body split into an upper and lower portion by the waist. Pretty much all harmless taps or gentle nudges with the blade or lower portion of the stick to the lower portion of the body and opposing player's stick are legal. Anything going over the threshold of being a part of hockey such as the Tomahawk Chop, the Two-Hander or any variation of these maneuvers will be strictly penalized.

However, the same can be said for the upper body but with some slight differences. Due to the fact that the Standard of Play is in place to keep the game moving and to keep the safety of the players as the number one priority, special attention is given to stick contact above the waist. Again the taps to a players arms and waist area are a part of the game of hockey. It's almost like announcing your presence so the other player knows that you are there. Once a player steps over that line and goes into the aforementioned nicknames for the slash, it becomes a penalty situation.

Also note, that slashes to the goalie while he has the puck, breaking the stick of an opposing player due to a slash and slashes to the unprotected back of the leg/knee are also strictly enforced. These actions pose a danger to everyone on the ice and are not tolerated in the game of hockey. Alright, enough violence for one post, let's move on to something I've always found amusing and that's the Tripping penalty.

Photo provided by ScarlettIce

Now, why you ask is this amusing to me? Well, I guess there's always been something funny when you kick out another guy's skates and he does the Superman dive followed by flopping around like a fish on the deck just after being caught. I don't really need to go into what a Tripping penalty looks like; I just added the picture above for stylistic effect. Seriously though, there are two points of emphasis that are filed under Tripping that may not be quite as obvious as the picture.

First, a player cannot place his stick in front of an opposing player's legs for the purpose of impeding progress, even if on the ice, with no effort to play the puck. That's straight from the rulebook. Basically what it means is a player cannot use his stick to block an opponent from going to the desired point on the ice surface. A good example and one I've used before, deals with an attacking player dumping the puck past a defenseman who is backing into his defending zone. That defenseman not only has to keep his foot speed and established skating lane, but also cannot extend his stick out against the boards prohibiting the attacking player from getting to the puck. Also, as I stated in my Hooking post, the player being fouled does not need to fall to draw a penalty. Even a slight bobble that causes that attacking player to slow down can be called a penalty.

The second point of emphasis was brought about because of a man who used to be on the New York Islanders and still lives here during the offseason. Bryan McCabe, prior to the lockout, had perfected a defensive strategy I'll be calling the Caber Corkscrew/Can Opener. The essence of the move is keep an attacking player from moving in the desired direction. By placing a stick in between a player's legs, in effect you can immobilize any kind of straight forward or lateral movement. Obviously if employed correctly this move can manipulate an opposing player or even cause him to fall. The basic message coming out of the Corkscrew/Can Opener enforcement again deals with impeding the opposing player and that is not how the "new" NHL works.

In the modern NHL, the emphasis is about skating and skill and no longer will fans be subjected to the dreaded "Trap". The point of bringing down a stricter enforcement is based a lot on the entertainment value of the game of hockey. You wouldn't see Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby put up the monster numbers they are able to without this officiating system in place. So the next time you're watching a game live at the rink, take notice of what's going on, on the ice. There are so many things that happen in a split second that it is hard to keep up with everything. Just remember, the officials who skate along with the players in the NHL got there because they displayed their skill and knowledge of the rules. They are not there to ruin the experience, but to make it safer and smoother for everyone involved. Sure, there will be some nights where the officials will call it tight and it might seem like an endless parade to the Box, but remember the Standard of Play points of emphasis that I've touched on in this series and you will be a more educated and knowledgeable fan for the future.

Please feel free to ask me any Questions or leave any Comments you would like. To get in touch with me and talk some hockey and maybe some Bonehead Calls, my e-mail is DougD84@optonline.net.



As of last night, the newest addition to the comprehensive coverage of New York Islanders hockey began in full force. Chris Botta, former VP of Media Relations, opened the doors on his brand spanking new blog page Islanders Point Blank. I'd like to wish Chris the best and it's good to have him back in an "official" capacity.

I'll be back later on tonight with my final piece on the NHL's Standard of Play. Unfortunately, family kind of took precedence over the blog last night and I couldn't finish the piece.

For Questions, Comments or Bonehead Calls e-mail me @ DougD84@optonline.net.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



With the third day of camp wrapped in Moncton and an impressive win for the Rookies, 4-1 over the University of Moncton Blue Eagles, it's time to keep this blog series rolling. It's 18 days and counting until the puck drops on the 2008-2009 season for the Islanders and now in this installment of the NHL's Standard of Play blog series I'm going to cover the penalties that don't necessarily need a stick: Holding and Interference.

These two categories of penalties are very different from each other in the sense that most fans know what a Holding penalty looks like:

Thanks to the Ottawa 67's Blog for this pic

In this example you have the typical bear hug. Now the buzz phrase which I brought up in my Preview to this series that will be heard most regarding a Holding penalty is "free hand". A player is no longer allowed to use his free hand to steer or manipulate an opponent in such a way that the opponent can't move in the desired direction (how's that for paraphrasing out of the rulebook, LOL). Essentially, players are no longer allowed to pin their opponent against the boards, hold or twist any part of the upper body with the free hand causing the opponent to lose control of the puck or the ability to shoot or pass the puck in the desired direction.

Holding, much like like Hooking which I spoke about in the previous post can be very recognizable. What may not be so recognizable are the subtle tugs of the jersey let's say that may cause the opponent to bobble just enough so the offending player can close the gap between the attacking player and himself. That kind of movement will not be easy to spot with the naked eye if you're a fan in the stands, even at ice level. As a fan of the game you have to realize that because you are stationary and the game is moving past you that things will seem to move faster. Officials who are on the ice and in the thick of the play have the ability to slow down their surroundings and this allows them to see something you may not. This brings me to one of the most difficult penalties to call in traffic: Interference.

We all know what Goalie Interference looks like:

Photo courtesy of Sportsnet.ca

I couldn't help but bring this up. What happened in the Rangers vs. Devils Playoff Series was unprecedented in the history of the NHL. Never has a rule been drawn up and implemented mid-stream, let alone in the midst of the Playoffs. What Sean Avery did in this picture reshaped what Goalie Interference was in a single game and this rule has filtered down even to the USA Hockey level where it is filed under Unsportsmanlike Conduct or Goaltender Interference.

Beyond the mere distraction aspect of the rule, therein also lies the physical contact. This especially applies to an attacking player when the contact is avoidable. In other words, if the attacking player has ample opportunity to not hit the goalie and does so, a penalty must be called. Where there may not be penalty for goalie contact is on a disallowed goal. If a player impedes the goaltender in such a way that the goaltender can't defend his position and the puck is shot into the net, it is a disallowed goal. Nevertheless, let's not forget the other types of Interference that involves the skaters that you might see in a game.

There are two other types of Interference that I will cover: Offensive and Defensive. Most likely you are more familiar with the Defensive type of Interference more so than the Offensive. The best example I can provide for Defensive Interference is when an attacking player dumps the puck past the defenseman who is backing into his own zone. If the defenseman stops and changes direction to impede the attacking player's progress, this is a situation where a penalty will be called. In the same breath, if the defenseman stays within his established skating lane and keeps his feet moving and checks the attacking player into the boards, this is ruled as a good defensive play. Remember that the main difference lies within the skating lane of the defenseman. Once he changes his skating lane he's asking for a penalty.

Offensive Interference is not a penalty you will often see called. However, with the tighter enforcement, it is on the books and is mandated by the league to be strictly enforced. The only way I can describe it is by providing you a basketball reference. This is a picture of a moving pick (a legal play in basketball):

Thanks to eHow.com for posting this pic

Though this is a legal play in basketball, it is not in ice hockey at any level. Yet again, if a player impedes the progress of his opponent it is a penalty. In this case the puck is not involved with the situation that results in a penalty. Like I stated before, this is not a situation that you will often see called due to the fast pace of the game. But every so often, you'll catch it be able to recognize the situation. Hopefully the referee does too.

Well there you have it, only one more installment of the NHL Standard of Play to go. Next up on Wednesday, I've got Slashing and Tripping on tap. These are two penalties where you must ask yourself this fundamental question: "What the heck was that stick doing there?" Until next time...

For Questions, Comments and Bonehead Calls you can e-mail me at DougD84@optonline.net

Friday, September 19, 2008



There's a chill in the air this morning driving to work and that could only mean one thing...hockey is back. That fresh air of Fall is making it's way on to Long Island and it's time to get down to business. The boys in Orange and Blue are flying up to Moncton tonight and the day Islander fans have been waiting for this entire summer in the doldrums is finally here. Training camp begins at 9 AM tomorrow and the Pre-Season schedule begins next week. In an effort to shore everyone's knowledge up before the season gets into full swing, I'm presenting the first of a series of blogs on the NHL's Standard of Play initiative beginning with Hooking.

What is deemed as a Hooking penalty in this day and age is drastically different from what it was 10 years ago. In the modern NHL (and even USA Hockey) the phrase to watch out for is "impeded progress". For those fans who don't really know what this might mean in a hockey sense let me quote from USA Hockey's Rulebook (which is similar if not exactly mirroring the NHL):

"A player cannot use his/her stick against an opponent's (puck carrier or non-puck carrier) to gain a positional advantage. Examples include:

  • tugs or pulls on the body, arms or hands of the opponent which allows for the space between the players to diminish
  • placing the stick in front of the opponent's body and locking on-impeding the opponent's progress or causing a loss of balance
  • stick on the hand/arm that takes away the ability for the opponent to pass or shoot the puck with a normal amount of force"
As I stated in the Preview to this series, there are several things that officials need to look for especially when assessing a Hooking penalty. First, is it an obvious tug or pull? Second, does it impede the opponent's progress? Third, where is the stick in relation to the opponent's body? Is it on the hands, around the ankles, knees, thighs or stick? That's alot to process in a game where speed is at a premium. Now let's go over some situations where you might find a penalty to call or a good hockey play.

Let's say a winger off the draw is attempting to get to the defenseman at the point after the opponent wins the faceoff back. If in any way his counterpart on the opposing team either slows him down or prevents him completely from reaching the intended destination with a stick to the midsection or on the legs or hands, this situation requires a penalty. IT IS NO LONGER A REQUIREMENT THAT THE OPPOSING PLAYER GO DOWN AS A RESULT OF THE HOOK! It could be the slightest tug or pull and that's considered a penalty.

A situation where a player would most likely not be called for a penalty might look like this: a defenseman is backing into his zone with a forward bearing down on him. The defenseman is allowed to keep his established skating lane and defend is area of the ice. If the forward were to chip the puck past the defenseman and tried to pass on the outside the defenseman in an effort to keep that attacking player in check reverses direction and is now skating with the attacking player. The defenseman then extends his stick in front of the attacking player, keeping it on the lower half of the body but is not impeding the attacking player's progress of trying to regain control of puck. This is a legal hockey play and is encouraged as it requires skill to keep that established skating lane.

Finally, let me address the most common misconception for a hooking Penalty. As fans, we have all heard the phrase "parallel to the ice". It is assumed that as soon as the stick reaches this position and is within a general distance of an opposing player that a penalty is automatically assessed. This is certainly not the case. Just because the stick is parallel to the ice doesn't mean it is being used to pull, tug or impede the opposing player in an effort to close the gap between the players. This is something to watch out for early in the season as you might see officials react too quickly to this action by the players. Trust me everything is a learning curve and the Situation Manual I have for the several levels I officiate is twice the size of the actual rulebook.

Things to take away from this post are: Hooking is either a really obvious penalty to recognize or it can really be difficult as it is the most common of the stick infractions and can appear in many forms. As an educated fan, you'll be able to understand what a penalty really is and what a good hockey play looks like as it develops. For the next installment of the Standard of Play series, I'll be addressing both Holding and Interference and what they mean in today's wide open style of the NHL.

Paul Stewart demonstrates the signal for Hooking

Photo Courtesy of NHLOfficials.com

For Questions, Comments and Bonehead Calls you can e-mail me at DougD84@optonline.net

Tuesday, September 16, 2008



For those of you Islanders fans who have never had the distinct pleasure of meeting Chris Botta, ex-Veep of Media Relations, then now you get a chance to meet him, up close and personal. As of September 25th the BlogFather will be posting from a new website: Islanders Point Blank ( www.islanderspointblank.com) This move will allow Mr. Botta to share his opinion, knowledge and contact with the NHL community with the rest of us in an official capacity. Thanks Chris for all the great coverage you've already provided on your original blog (http://nyipointblank.blogspot.com/) and here's to looking forward to a great run on your new site.


Monday, September 8, 2008



Hockey fans across the world acknowledge the fact that the NHL is the premiere league to play in. What most people never really consider, is the fact the NHL is probably the most difficult league to officiate. When you're in my shoes and you get a chance to meet the extraordinary people that uphold the integrity of the great game of hockey at the NHL level (most recently Brian Murphy, Ian Walsh and Kevin Collins), you understand the kind of dedication and self-less devotion it takes to do what these men do on a daily basis.

The biggest misconception that fans have about referees and linesman are that they are there to completely control the game. While this is true in some respects, the best officials are those that do not effect the outcome of the game, rather they manage the proceedings in what can only really be referred to as an art form. In this respect, hockey officials have the most demanding job of any sport officiating crew. This is not basketball, football or baseball. In those sports, the officials are generally out of harms way. In hockey, the object of the officials is to be in the thick of the play and thinking and reacting as fast as the players do. To put it lightly, not everyone can be an ice hockey official at the highest level of the sport. First and foremost, physical fitness is an absolute necessity. Not far behind are the needs of being an elite skater and knowing the myriad of rules so that when assessing a penalty or explaining a situation to a captain or coach, one doesn't come across as not doing they're job. The fitness and the skating I can't address through words, but with the rules I can, specifically with the Standard of Play initiative that began after the lockout.

First, let's go over some of the basics. Obviously hockey is a game of hitting, passing, shooting and even fighting. The biggest thing that some fans of the game struggle with is the penalties and why they are called. In this "new NHL" landscape everything that fans knew of the teams in the 80's and 90's, playing "clutch and grab" or "trap" hockey, has given way to a faster, more skill-oriented game where players are rewarded or penalized based on their ability to read and keep up with the play. Today's NHL sees so many more penalties being called because of the fact that opponents are now no longer able to simply slow a player down using their stick, free hand or body. This brings us to the Standard of Play of the modern NHL.

There are several buzz phrases that you'll often see to describe the new enforcement: "impeded progress", "established skating lane", "parallel to the ice", "free hand", "lower portion", "on the hands" and "just a tug". These are the basis for recognizing what is and possibly what is not an obstruction penalty in the NHL. As an official you're looking for any one of these situations and properly making the judgment call in a split second is a necessity. In the following series of blogs I will go over each of the penalties of emphasis and give a better explanation as to what determines a penalty and why fans have certain misconceptions about the calls that are made.

By the time the Islanders training camp begins in Moncton on Saturday 9/20/08, I'll bring you the first installment geared towards covering the five areas of emphasis: Hooking, Holding, Interference, Tripping and Slashing. To begin the series of blogs, I'll address the oft misinterpreted penalty of HOOKING and the different situations and actions that attribute to a player either being called for a penalty or what is allowed and a part of the game of hockey.

For questions, comments and bonehead calls e-mail me at DougD84@optonline.net.