Montreal Canadiens center Scott Gomez (91) is dumped by Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky (23) in front of referee Eric Furlatt during 2nd period action in Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semi-final at the Bell Centre in Montreal, on Thursday, May 6, 2010. Fans eventually showed their displeasure with the refereeing by trashing the ice during the 3rd period.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, THE GAZETTE
At the risk of driving my guru, Pierre McGuire, into a sputtering rage, I'm writing two words he hates to read:
And here's a double-negative my high school English teacher would hate to read:
Just because Montreal hockey fans are paranoid doesn't mean the referees aren't trying to hose the Canadiens in the playoffs.
What other conclusion might a reasonable person draw after Game 4 at the Bell Centre? Paul Devorski and Eric Furlatt delivered what one of my far-flung email correspondents calls "the worst officiating since Josef Kompalla in the 1972 (Canada-USSR) series."
"To Kompalla's credit, he was an amateur ref," the outraged fan adds. "I am told that NHL refs are pros. Can that really be correct?"
Maybe we'll find out tonight in Pittsburgh during what has to be a bounce-back game for the officials. Devorski and Furlatt were that brutal - criticized by Dany Dubé, CKAC's sober and cerebral analyst, and Don Cherry, who is no fan of your Montreal Canadiens.
The officiating was bad enough to send conspiracy theories into overdrive.
In essence, the theorists believe the NHL wanted a dream Eastern Conference final matching Alexander Ovechkin against Sidney Crosby. So referees jobbed the Canadiens, to no avail, in the Washington series. And now they're helping Crosby, who has yet to score in this series and becomes more of a whiny (insert word meaning female dog) as the drought continues.
Preferential treatment for superstars was not invented by the NHL. As the other McGuire, CKAC's Martin, pointed out on L'Attaque à 5 this week, baseball umpires tend to give 20-game winners larger strike zones. And NFL refs flag any pass-rusher who breathes on Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
McGuire Primo will be relieved to learn I don't really buy into the SOS (Save Our Sid) scenario. Although the threshold of paranoid plausibility has been low since 1964 - Is Woody Allen still working on his "non-fiction version of the Warren Report"? - let's try to be serious:
How can a sports league running the Phoenix Coyotes plan a viable conspiracy?
Mike Knuble on the grassy knoll? I don't think so.
But unless officiating improves - and tonight would be a good time to start - paranoia will continue to rage unabated.
Hockey's premier showcase should not be tainted by officiating that has some fans wearing tin-foil tuques to protect them from alpha waves beamed down from Gary Bettman's death satellites.