It’s not accurate to say that Phoenix is blaming the refs’ incompetence for the Coyotes’ loss in game five of the Western Conference Finals. That would be merely embarrassing. (If that were their actual complaint, I would just point out — as I did to my 8 year old in his squirt game the other day — that refs make mistakes and those mistakes are part of the game; it’s the job of the players — especially the leaders — to deal with it, the same way you would deal with a bad bounce. I want my kid to be a good leader.
Like Shane Doan.)
But they’re not saying the refs are incompetent. They’re saying, (1) it’s intentional, (2) it’s been going on not only all series, but (wait for it) all season, and (3) they are defenseless because they have no owner to protect them.
Their owner is the NHL. But let’s move on.
First, here are the comments:
Keith Yandle: “It’s unfortunate, for us especially. They know we don’t have an owner. We don’t have anyone to back us up. For them, I don’t know if it’s an easy way to not make calls, not show up. I know they wear the same color jerseys, the refs as the Kings, but they didn’t have to play for them tonight.
Did you know the owners have influence over the officiating? I had no idea. I don’t even know how this theory is supposed to track. If only we had an owner, he would tell Bettman…not to..something something…but our owner is…Bettman…so…
Mike Smith: “The calls that were made and not made down the stretch, that just saps the life out of you. They said we’re complaining a lot about calls, but we’re complaining because they’re calls that have to be made in these games.”
Shane Doan: “Uncle. Are you fricking kidding me? Uncle. I can’t understand how you miss that [the Brown hit]. They played unbelievable and they beat us. And thank goodness their power-play didn’t score on all those power-plays they were handed, because it could have been really ugly.
I especially like this dig. Yes, the league tried to throw the series to the Kings, and the Kings couldn’t even take advantage of it. The league tried to make it a blow out, and the Kings could only squeak by with a…4-1…oh never mind.
How do you miss that when it’s after the whistle and it’s a knee? How do you possibly miss that? As a player, I get in trouble when I make a mistake. I get in big trouble. I get called out by [the media], I get called out by everybody. I get called out by my coaches, I feel accountable to my teammates. I don’t know how you miss it. I don’t understand it. I’m sure they will have a great explanation for it.”
The explanation is that the league told Brown he was to run Rozsival in the OT, the refs would look the other way, the Coyotes would freak out, and while they were freaking out the Kings would be free to score the series clinching goal. In order to disguise their scheme, the league instructed the refs to call several made-up penalties on Doughty, who was instructed by Bettman to make a big scene.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith was beside himself.
“When Brown gets away with something like that after the whistle, knee-on-knee, that’s a dangerous play,” he said. “If [Coyotes forward] Raffi Torres gets 25 games for his hit [on Chicago forward Marian Hossa], this guy should be done forever.”
[...]“It’s disappointing, for a season to end like that,” said Smith. “It’s disappointing that we not only got beaten by them, but by the officials, too.”
“It’s not just this game, it’s all season long,” added Smith. “It seems like they did everything they could to [prevent us from getting] to this position [...] when we battle as hard as we do to get to this point—it seems like everyone was against us.”
The players then pointed their fingers at the league and its officials, claiming that there was a conspiracy against them.
“It’s a crime scene, it’s unfortunate,” said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle. “[...][It’s] extremely frustrating. It’s something where you work for a whole season, a whole career, and for some guys, you might not get back to this. For it to be taken by some guys who aren’t playing, it’s tough.”
“Today was unfortunate, the bad officiating,” said Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris. “There’s no accountability with them, that’s the only problem. They don’t have anybody to answer to. They say that they do, but they don’t.”
Doan wasn’t far behind.
“I look back on the last two games and I still haven’t found where I got my three penalties,” he lamented. “I have absolutely no idea were they came from or what they were calling. [...] It feels awful, and you don’t want to be a part of it,” said Doan. [...]
And now you aren’t.
I think what we’re seeing here is a window into the Coyotes’ actual team psychology. They have been feeding for so long on the fact that they have been on the verge of bankruptcy, legal troubles, one foot out the door to other cities, playing in empty arenas — using all of that as a rallying cry — that their sense of persecution has become an ingrained and defining part of their collective identity. “Everyone is out to get us” — in its various iterations — has been their team motto, and they’ve used it to their advantage, until now. And their psychotic reaction to actually losing is the flip side of believing their own internal narrative.