Deep Sigh Diving
DC) -- Back in 2000, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated
did a short 24-player survey to determine who the most
prolific diver in Major League Soccer was.
The runaway winner was Diego Serna of the now-defunct
Miami Fusion; one anonymous player responded to the
question by stating that "Diego Serna is the Greg
Louganis of our league, bar none."
Luckily for us, Wahl was a sports journalist and not a
blogger, so he actually confronted Serna with the
slanderous news about being named the league's top
embellisher. And for once in his career, Serna didn't
take it lying down.
"If I was diving, they wouldn't have called the fouls," he
said. "I'm smart enough to know that I don't want to get a
reputation for taking dives, because then I'll be a marked
man. All your survey does is tell me that these players need
to work harder on their defense."
In fact, Serna said the accusation was an insult to his entire
profession: "Taking dives is anti-soccer."
In a perfect world — you know, the one where all seven games
of the Stanley Cup Finals are on NBC and the Islanders are
playing in Las Vegas next season — diving would be considered
"anti-hockey," too; but flailing around like a paramecium
after every bump or hook has been accepted over the decades as
"drawing a penalty."
Of course, the irony in the NHL is that diving is illegal,
earning a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The league has been vocal about getting rid of "serial diving"
in the regular season; a few years ago, it literally
distributed a list of those constant floppers to referees and
team locker rooms.
When the rules changes were ushered in with the new CBA, one
of them clearly targeted diving as being a problem in the
sport; most likely because the competition committee knew that
draconian enforcement of interference and hooking would lead
to players recreating the goldfish-out-of-water scene from the
end of that Faith No More video, trying to draw penalties on
nearly every shift.
Fines and suspensions loomed for players that were identified
by Hockey Operations for having embellished a fall or feigned
an injury. The move was met with applause from hockey fans, as
an NHL Fan Association poll showed 44% of respondents
"Strongly Agreed" with the rule — 14% more than "Strongly
Agreed" with the implementation of the shootout.
There's no telling how many players were handed down warnings
or fined for diving this season because the NHL keeps the
names and numbers under wraps.
Never underestimate the league's shortsightedness: publicly
calling out these cheaters would have embarrassed them and,
perhaps, eliminated diving from their bag of tricks. Yet the
NHL wanted their names kept out of the papers. It's the same
sort of logic Major League Baseball used for the last 10 years
of its steroid policy.
One player that copped to having been fined for diving was
Little Mary Sunshine, a.k.a. Sean Avery of the LA Kings.
"How can a guy sitting in an office in New York determine if
you dived or not by watching a tape," Avery asked the Los
Angeles Times at the time of the incident. "They don't
know if you had a bad ankle or torn bursa sac or something."
(And really, how many times has a fan come close to calling
out a player for diving and then held back in consideration of
his bursa sac?)
Avery didn't have a chance to ply his pathetic trade in the
postseason, and perhaps that's to his benefit: Commissioner
Gary Bettman came out strong at the start of the Stanley Cup
Playoffs, directly threatening referees who "swallow their
whistles"” with unemployment. The "new" NHL playoffs would, in
his mind, have the same number of power plays as the regular
season (as in "too many").
Obstruction, hooking and holding have been called throughout
the postseason by jittery referees.
Diving? Not so much. Through Wednesday night's conference
semifinals, there have been five diving calls reported in the
box scores over the course of 56 games and 22 overtime
sessions. Only one diving call has been made in 43 periods of
conference semifinal hockey. The guilty parties, according to
the box scores:
Buffalo's Derek Roy, Game 3 vs. Philadelphia
Anaheim's Sean O'Donnell, Game 7 vs. Calgary
Detroit's Brett Lebda, Game 3 vs. Edmonton
Carolina's Martin Gerber (!), Game 1 vs. Montreal
Ottawa's Patrick Eaves, Game 3 vs. Buffalo
Are we to believe that the NHL's crackdown on obstruction
during the regular season didn't lead to its elimination from
the postseason, but its crackdown on diving actually worked?
Of course not.
Diving has been a pandemic in this postseason, in nearly every
series. It was comical hearing announcer John Davidson lash
out at Carolina diver Justin Williams in Game 2 of the Devils
series, only to bite his tongue and add a little nuance to his
comments lest he actually be honest and call a dive "a dive."
Maybe he was worried about Williams's bursa sac…
Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay told the Dallas Morning News
that diving is up because "the referees want to call more, so
the guys are going to be a lot more aware when they have a
stick on them. It's just the nature of sports. If you can get
away with something, you'll try to take advantage of that."
The question is: Why are they allowed to get away with it?
Diving wasn't just called in the regular-season, it was
reinforced with monetary damages. Has either policy carried
over to the postseason?
Despite all the verbiage about not swallowing whistles during
the playoffs, referees clearly don't want to influence these
games too much. That's why penalties are about as rare in
overtime as Marty Brodeur victories, and that's why diving —
the most subjective call a ref has to make — isn't being
called at all.
Go back and look at the players flagged for diving thus far
this postseason. Notice anything? Like, for example, that none
of them will be featured in a "My NHL" ad campaign any time
soon? Or that none of their total ice times will be kept on a
running counter at the top of the screen? Far be it from me to
traffic in black helicopter conspiracy theories, but are we to
believe that none of the top 50 players in the postseason have
taken a single dive?
Back to the root of the problem, which is that diving doesn't
carry the severity of other penalties. When a dive is called,
it negates a powerplay but it's never called as a standalone
penalty: whatever caused the dive is also flagged, so the
worst that happens are matching minors.
The idea has been floated that diving should carry a
double-minor or a 10-minute misconduct penalty; as if there's
a chance in hell these referees who don't have the cojones to
call diving in the playoffs will begin to pluck embellishers
off the ice for half the period. There are only two constants
in hockey, my friends: Peter Forsberg on injured reserve, and
referees having a spine like a bowl of lime Jell-O.
The bottom line is that there have been as many penalties for
diving in the 2006 playoffs as there have been for
instigating. How ironic: a pathetic exploitation of the rules
has been called as many times as the penalty that restricts
players from policing against that exploitation in an "old
And they wonder why diving is on the increase.
Thanks to reader John Williams for pointing out his hilarious
goof from online ticket broker Stubhub.com, in its e-mail
"The Flyers took a big step toward Stanley Cup glory last week
by eliminating the Sabres. But can Simon Gagne and company
survive the next three rounds of the NHL Playoffs? Get your
tickets from StubHub, and find out – live!"
Maybe they're talking about next postseason...
...Carolina's Ray Whitney is evidently known as "The
Wizard." How appropriate, considering that Harry Potter is
going to backstop the Hurricanes to the conference finals.
...Lance Armstrong has filmed a "My Stanley Cup" ad for
the NHL which will debut this weekend. In it, he says, "No one
remembers who came in second. There is no immortality for
second best. No champagne bath . . . No engraving." Well,
unless you're Jean-Sebastien Giguere, that is.
...OLN has given fans close to seven hours of hockey on
most nights, and should be applauded for it. Year One has been
a success, but if the network comes back next season with the
same inconsistent camera work and tedious studio analysts in
support of the surprisingly good Bill Clement, let the
backlash begin. Two pieces of advice for the Comcast boys:
watch TNT's basketball studio show, which is the best in
sports, and steal liberally; and hire Brett Hull to join the
team at any cost, in order to have your own Charles Barkley.
...Speaking of OLN, Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State
Journal had high praise for hockey on television in
relation to the sports competition. "The NBA is a night at the
symphony. It is dancing girls, unceasing music, courtside
celebrities and arguably the greatest athletes in the world.
The NHL is a night at the rock concert. It is Zamboni drivers,
a relentless pace, a savage atmosphere and arguably the
toughest athletes in the world." He went on to break down the
two sports' postseasons, giving the nod (naturally) to the
...Finally, Reason No. 1,454,988 Hockey Is Different Than
Golf: John Daly's physique makes him "a heroic everyman"
the fans love to support, while Keith Tkachuk's physique
earned him a suspension for being "physically unable to
Wyshynski, also the Sports Editor of The Connect Newspaper, is
a columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Washington
Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.
His book, "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports
is now on sale.