Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bet on It: Race Skews Referee Calls in the NBA

Older article but interesting how race effects calls in the NBA-- check it out.

Bet on It: Race Skews Referee Calls in the NBA

L.A. Laker Derek Fisher with referee Steve Javie.
Lisa Blumenfeld

L.A. Laker Derek Fisher with referee Steve Javie. Getty Images


The Bryant Park Project, May 22, 2008 · Last year, Justin Wolfers set the basketball world abuzz when he co-authored a study that showed racial bias among NBA referees. Coaches, players and refs piled on to debate its central conclusion, namely that officials tend to favor players of their own ethnic backgrounds. Over the course of a season, the study reported, a white referee will call more fouls on a black player and vice versa.

Wolfers took that as a call to put up or shut up. The Wharton professor took his statistics to Las Vegas — virtually — and bet on them. He calculated what would happen if you placed money on the outcome of NBA games solely on the racial makeup of the players and the referees.

What would happen, Wolfers reports, is that you'd turn a profit.

"Our estimate is that the outcome of up to 3 percent of all games would have been different with a different refereeing crew," Wolfers says. "Some people feel that 3 percent's not a lot. Some feel outraged that even that many games could be affected by something so arbitrary. But when you talk to team owners, if you could guarantee them another 3 percent of wins, they will tell you directly that's worth millions of dollars to them."

The NBA has questioned the results of the original study. Wolfers credits the referees for being highly trained and dedicated to getting calls right. What he'd like to see is an acknowledgment from the NBA that bias exists in its workplaces, just at it does in others. He'd like to work with the sports league to improve the situation on the court.

Some evidence suggests that "mixed-race refereeing crews may do a better job than either all-black or all-white crews," he says. "A mixed-race crew acts as a bit of a discipline on this. So I think there's definitely something that could be done."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NHL talk with hockey-hottie Nicole

Dallas Stars Fire Head Coach

Report: Stars Fire Coach Dave Tippett

When Joe Nieuwendyk was named the new Dallas Stars general manager nearly two weeks ago, speculation was he would probably retain coach Dave Tippett. After all, he knew Tippett and had worked with him in the past. In terms of performance, the Stars' injury-riddled season -- one year after a run to the Western Conference finals -- seemed to be a good reason to keep the coach around.

Instead, it appears Nieuwendyk wants his own guy. TSN is reporting that the Stars have fired Tippett after six years on the job.

The report also mentions that the Stars appear interested in veteran NHL coach Marc Crawford, who was out of the league a year ago.

While TSN ran with the story, Mike Heika, who covers the Stars for the Dallas Morning News, has been unable to confirm it. He spoke to Nieuwendyk, who issued a "No comment" when asked about Tippett, who is not returning phone calls.

Heika does note that he believes the report to be accurate.

Obviously, a new general manager is going to evaluate everything. While the Stars did make the conference finals a year ago, they were awful for a good chunk of the season's first half. They did find a way into the playoff race, but a late-season fade ruined their chances.

For Nieuwendyk, it's an interesting move. Yes, the temptation is to hire your own guy. However, the tough part is making sure the guy you want is better than the guy you have. In the Stars' case, one consideration has to be the fact that some sort of move toward younger players is coming, as the team does not plan to spend to the salary cap for 2009-2010.

NHL, Canadian billionaire square off in crucial Coyotes court hearing in Phoenix

wayne gretzky image,coyotes,phoenix coyotes,,ref you suck

NHL, Canadian billionaire square off in crucial Coyotes court hearing in Phoenix
Last update: June 9, 2009 - 2:19 AM
PHOENIX - Attorneys for the NHL and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie prepared for a court showdown Tuesday over whether the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes can be sold and moved to southern Ontario despite the league's objections.
The hearing centers on the crucial question of whether U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum should grant the sale of the franchise to Balsillie for $212.5 million, a bid that is contingent on moving the team.
The NHL is fighting the move, saying it wants the team to stay in Arizona, where the league insists it could be valuable with better management and a better team.
The Coyotes have lost $314 million since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Counting to Six Is Hard for NHL Officials

Posted Jun 03, 2009 10:30AM By BRUCE CISKIE (RSS FEED)


When the calendar flips to June, and the Stanley Cup Finals start, it seems to be a tradition for NHL officials' whistles to suddenly malfunction.

So far in this year's series, we've seen plenty of evidence that the officials are determined to "let the players play." This has been
endorsed by members of both teams, but may have helped lead to a rather embarrassing display during Game 3 Tuesday night

During the latter stages of the first period, the 
Penguins -- trailing 2-1 at the time -- were able to sustain some puck possession in the Detroit zone. As the Penguins cycled the puck, Versus analyst Ed Olczyk noticed that they had six players on the ice.

He noted that they had for some time prior to his mentioning it, and it was another ten seconds or so before defenseman 
Mark Eaton slithered to the Pittsburgh bench.

Olczyk estimated that the Penguins had six players on the ice for "at least 20-25 seconds." After the game, forward 
Maxime Talbot joked that "with six guys we cycled the puck a little bit." 

All kidding aside, and all talk of letting the players play aside, it's hard to laugh about such officiating ineptitude. Referees Paul Devorski and Dennis LaRue were joined by linesmen Derek Arnell and Pierre Racicot for Tuesday's game. All four are working Finals games based on merit. This isn't a random draw of officials to work games on the league's biggest stage, no matter how it might seem to be.

Instead, these are said to be the league's best. In this case, the best the 
NHLhas to offer put on a shocking display of obliviousness. The four men in striped shirts didn't notice the six players on the ice. Not at all. Since Pittsburgh had possession of the puck, a whistle would have been instantaneous.

Red Wings didn't cry about it after the game, to their credit. They may have felt a bit responsible for not noticing themselves until Eaton was on his way to the bench. It's not their job, however, to notice rules infractions on the ice. 

Of course, they may have remembered their own extra-player gaffe. It happened late in a regular-season game against Nashville, and just like Tuesday night, four officials somehow missed the obvious.

There's no turning back for the league. They can't retroactively give Detroit a man advantage. They can't apologize and just make it go away. Instead, it's up to the selected officials to avoid such embarrassment in the remainder of the series, whether that ends up being two, three, or four games.

NHL GMs Turn Down Headshot Proposal

NHL GMs Turn Down Headshot Proposal

Hits to the head have been an issue in college hockey for some time. Three years ago, a brutal hit in a conference tournament game left a North Dakota defenseman with a broken neck, and led to supplemental discipline against a Denver forward. As a result of this hit and the subsequent two-minute minor penalty that was assessed, a rule now exists in college hockey that calls for the automatic ejection of any player guilty of a hit from behind.

Rest easy, NHL fans. As well-intentioned as this rule may be, it's not coming to the pro game.

While hits to the head have gotten a lot of attention in these playoffs, thanks to a couple of high-profile incidents, the league's general managers aren't ready to take the next step.
"The general managers don't feel a need to make a change there," (Maple Leafs general manager Brian) Burke said. "We feel that Colin Campbell does a good job going after the players with supplementary discipline when the hits are high or when the hits are late. We don't want an automatic penalty where a legal check results in contact with the other player's head."
(Insert Colin Campbell jokes here.)

Safety can be important without people going too far with the rules. While I don't agree that Campbell does a good job with the supplemental discipline, I will concede that it's a harder job to be consistent than your or I may think it is. 

While the general managers seem united on this front, the players' union still has a fundamental disagreement with their stance.
"The system we have been using simply hasn't been sufficient to deter these type of potentially career-ending injuries," (NHLPA chief Paul) Kelly said in an interview Tuesday night. "I would think, frankly, that many of these GMs would feel some obligation to protect their star players ... Our veteran players have strong views about the matter."
The idea of an automatic penalty for a hit to the head sends a shiver down my spine. After all, the officials have a hard enough time counting how many players are on the ice

In all seriousness, the way to stop hits to the head isn't to overlegislate. No matter what rules are put in place, guys are going to get hit in the head once in a while. Until no player skates into traffic with his head down, or makes a sudden movement to try to avoid a hard hit, we're going to have incidents. The last thing the league needs to do is penalize legal hits because of some minor contact to the head

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The best/worst postseason in NBA history

The best/worst postseason in NBA history
May 31, 2009 @ 5:24 pm by Mark Heisler · Filed under David Stern, Derek Fisher, Rajon Rondo

Stop me before I suspend again.

Before I get into NBA Commissioner David Stern for the umpteenth time this postseason… which he came perilously close to tainting with his over-the-top legalism… I should note I have always had great respect for the way he has run his league.

He has brought labor peace after the wars of the ‘90s, and actually enhanced the profitablilty of the industry in the post-MJ era, while beset by all manner of calamities.

It’s hard to imagine the NBA without this little giant running it…

Although I have to admit I was trying to a few weeks back, when his minions looked this close to suspending Rajon Rondo for Game 7 of the Boston-Chicago classic.

That was the tip of the iceberg, in a crackdown on fighting and flagrant fouls… although there haven’t been any fights or bad flagrant fouls…. so it had become, play the game, await the league review with its upgrades and downgrades, and see who was available for the next game.

The most competitive postseason the NBA had seen in years… or ever… has had to struggle for attention with the perception the league is also in the midst of a crime wave, or merely refereed by boobs.

There were boobs, all right, but they’re the NBA officials, who are now always over the refs’ shoulders, telling them to call all those ticky-tack T’s and flagrants, until the consequences became so alarming, even an NBA lawyer could figure out they had to lighten up.

Midway through the Conference finals, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are both sitting on five T’s, two short of what they need to be suspended.

Howard had six, which given his inclination to celebrate, which is now thought-crime, meant he was a dead man walking, until the league quickly rescinded his last one from Game 4 of the East finals.

How close they came to suspending Rondo in the first round, we’ll never know, but it came down to a league review.

Rondo, en route to averaging 19-12-9 in the series, had gotten tangled with Kirk Hinrich in Game 6, and had slung him by the arm into the press table.

As far as actual violence, it was no biggie, but it was clearly discernible and prompted Hinrich to come back and shove Rondo.

Coming off an incredible 128-127 Bulls win in three overtimes, the run-up to Game 7 was dominated by the review, as the Bulls lobbied behind the scenes for Rondo’s suspension, and Chicago papers took up the cry.

Wrote the Sun-Times’ Ron Allen:

After watching the replay, it seems obvious–this is clearly more of an egregious display of unsportsmanlike conduct than Dwight Howard’s errant elbow… Rondo’s gotten away with another flagrant foul in this series when he fish-hooked Brad Miller. After reviewing the play, league officials somehow determined that because Rondo didn’t wind up, he was going for the ball. Perhaps these same league officials are due for a makeup call?

Actually, it wasn’t close to being as bad as Howard’s elbow to Samuel Dalembert’s head, for which Howard was suspended, even if that would have only been a T or a flagrant in the old days… like five years ago.

Ending the suspense, the league announced it would take no action on Rondo.

Boston won, and everyone moved on to bigger and better things, like the dramatic Houston-Laker series when Derek Fisher was suspended for throwing a body block into Luis Scola, which was definitely intentional but hardly menacing.

There can be no doubt the league is ordering the refs to call this ticky-tack stuff. The Antoine Wright-Carmelo Anthony play in Game 3 of the Denver-Dallas series showed that.

With a foul to give, Wright gave Anthony a little bump, which Mark Wunderlich didn’t call, before Melo’s game-winning three.

I thought it was a no-call. As an intentional foul, it was a disgrace. At the very least, it was arguable.

Nevertheless, within hours NBA counsel Joel Litwin announced it was an error.

Not only did the NBA sell out its own ref, it told everyone on the staff they had better call every touch or twitch, or they could be overruled in public.

Not that this was an unintended consequence. It was the message Stern wanted his refs to get.

Stern is on an ongoing mission to mollify his owners, who constantly complain about the officials, and demonstrate to all the system is on the up-and-up, as opposed to the oft-alleged conspiracy to get the right teams to the Finals.

Unfortunately, the complaining never stops, it just moves around according to which owner is losing.

And the harder Stern tries, the worse things get, as if he’s thrashing around in quicksand.

With TV replays a plus at games — where their use is limited to easy-to-see, objective judgments, like whether a shot was in time, or a toe was on a line — Stern now wants the use of video expanded.

Aside from its use at games, it’s already a disaster.

Every time the league reviews an incident, be it minor or major, it makes it bigger, by a factor of, say, 100.

When it happens several times a week… or a star is suspended for a minor infraction at a climactic moment, like Amare Stoudemire for Game 5 of the 2-2 Suns-Spurs series in 2007… the NBA looks like a league of fools.

Thank heavens for a postseason so goood, it rises above the league holding it.

Let’s just hope we get to see it resolved by the players, not the lawyers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Ice Sheet: Instigator Won't Sideline Malkin for Game 3

The Ice Sheet: Instigator Won't Sideline Malkin for Game 3

The Ice Sheet: Instigator Won't Sideline Malkin for Game 3

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Late in Sunday night's 3-1 Detroit Red Wings victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot helped set off a melee that could have very well wound up costing him and his teammates dearly if NHL disciplinary czar Colin Campbell had followed the letter of the law when it comes to the infamous instigator penalty.

How did it happen? With only 19 seconds left and Pittsburgh pressing to score with an extra attacker,Evgeni Malkin let go with a slapshot from the right wing faceoff circle that was handled pretty easily by Detroit goaile Chris Osgood. 

Then, after the whistle had blown, Talbot jabbed at the puck, hitting Osgood in the chest. Whether Osgood was actually hurt or not, he fell to the ice, and his teammates came to his aid. In all the confusion, a clearly agitated Malkin sought out Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg, perhaps to exact some payback for the way he has been shadowing Sidney Crosby throughout the first two games of the series. The video is after the jump.
Red Wings 3, Penguins 1: Recap | Box Score 
Red Wings Lead Series 2-0


When the dust finally cleared, Talbot got two minutes for slashing, while Malkin and Zetterberg both got five for fighting. Usually, a skirmish like this one in the waning seconds of a game that had already been decided would have mattered little, except for the fact that the officials tacked on two minutes for instigating for Malkin. And, asthe rulebook says in section 47.22:
A player or goalkeeper who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime, shall automatically be suspended for one game. The Director of Hockey Operations will review every such incident and may rescind the suspension based on a number of criteria. The criteria for the review shall include, but not limited to, the score, previous incidents, etc.
So what's next? In a rather swift piece of decision-making, the NHL issued the following statement:
Following that review, Campbell said: "None of the criteria in this rule applied in this situation. Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded."

NHL Hockey Operations also determined that Malkin should have been assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.
So, did the Penguins get a lucky break? Sure they did. Just like the Wings did when Zetterberg wasn't called for covering the puck in the crease in Games 1 and 2.

Babcock Calls Crosby a Headhunter

Babcock Calls Crosby a Headhunter

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It's been proven many times over in years past. Coaches in any sport will say just about anything to work over game officials. Hockey is no different.

During a chat with the media prior to Sunday's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcockuncharacteristically said a bit too much. He was talking about Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and apparently mistook him for assistant captain Evgeni Malkin.
Babcock was commenting on the much-discussed matchup between Crosby and Red Wings two-way ace Henrik Zetterberg (all Zetterberg so far, by the way), and hedropped quite a bomb on the assembled media.
"I thought he went head-hunting right off the top (in Game 1)," Babcock said of Crosby. "I think that's a game within the game. If you're a hockey purist and you like superstars who bring it, that's a nice matchup."
The coach of the defending Stanley Cup champions was quick after the game to offer an apology.
"I misspoke or I didn't speak well," Babcock said. "To me, speaking unfairly about Sidney Crosby is wrong. That wasn't my intention. It's an unfair comment on a classy player who plays hard."
I'm far from the biggest Sidney Crosby fan on the planet. That said, about the last thing I would call Crosby is a "headhunter."

Babcock knows he did wrong. This isn't meant to scold him. He's usually pretty good with the media, and he isn't at all known for saying stupid stuff to get attention. If anything, this should show how hard coaches will work to get the attention of the officials.

If saying something like this gets Sid called for a hook or a dive at some point in the series, it will be worth any negativity thrown Babcock's way over the comment. Power plays appear to be at quite a premium in this year's Finals, and that might put more pressure on the two coaches to work officials for all they can get.