Kerry Fraser (and me) on those horrible divers

Before we get to Kerry Fraser’s take on the Brown “embellishment”, let’s look at the video.

My feeling is, (1) yes, it’s true, Brown suckers people into taking penalties and one of his techniques is to hit someone and then go down easy when the player retaliates; (2) the key here is “WHEN THE PLAYER RETALIATES.” If you don’t want the penalty, don’t retaliate. If you retaliate on Brown a little, he’s going to make it look like you retaliated a lot. Too bad for you. Don’t do things that are a little illegal if you don’t want Brown to, um, direct the ref’s attention to your illegal actions. After all, it’s not like little retaliatory cross-checks/elbows/punches/etc. are allowed. They’re not allowed at all; (3) if the refs think Brown is diving/embellishing, which he sometimes is, then they should call it. If they don’t call it, then why shouldn’t he continue to do it.

Here’s Fraser:

Fraser: How to deal with players who dive to draw penalties

I have always admired the quiet leadership and aggressive, hard-hitting play that Dustin Brown has demonstrated throughout his NHL career. […] Last night, [Brown successfully drew] a penalty by embellishing the push/shove of the stick by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Brown’s reaction was not proportional to the force exerted by Ekman-Larsson but was rewarded with a power play in a city where Oscar’s [sic] are given for outstanding performances. […]

For tough, hard-nosed players such as Brown, Neil and others, it is most unbecoming when they employ this tactic. It does harm to their reputation and they join an undesirable list of known offenders when their embellishment causes embarrassment to the referee and the game. Once a player skates down the slippery slope of embellishment, I can assure you it causes every referee to question that player’s honesty when determining a legitimate foul. I would have to suspect that previous history and reputation had something to do with the embellishment penalty that was assessed to Dustin Brown in Game 2 after taking a hard slash to the back of his knee from Mike Smith.

Certainly. Just as last night’s embellishment might have been ignored because the refs so obviously screwed up in the opposite direction in the previous game.

I am often asked how two penalties can be imposed on the same play; whatever the initial foul was identified as and then followed by a diving penalty? Shouldn’t it be one or the other, you ask? Sometimes there is a ‘stand alone’ diving penalty but most often there is a legitimate foul through contact that the referee identifies by raising his arm. Following the initial infraction and when embellishment results from the player fouled in an effort to “sell the call”, that is when both players are sent to the box.

Exactly. And since “most often” the embellishing player is embellishing to draw attention to a legitimate penalty which the ref was going to call anyway… well, you can see where I’m going with this. The art of embellishment requires  exercising good judgment. If the embellishment calls attention to something the ref already sees, the embellishment is penalized. If not, not.

This is, of course, demonstrably different from a Ryan Kesler command performance in which he reacts to an infraction that hasn’t occurred at all.

In theory, the loss of a team’s power play opportunity when their player is found guilty of embellishment is supposed to be a strong deterrent for players engaging in this practice. It’s really not working all that well as we have seen.

I don’t think we have seen that. In the Brown example Fraser cites, there was no call. In order for the loss of power play to be a deterrent, the refs would have to call the penalty.

Diving is often a difficult call for the referee to make. Often, there is some form of force exerted on a player that could cause him to fall and create the referee’s need to consider it a legitimate penalty infraction. The referee must take into account not only the action and force exerted by the player potentially committing the foul, but also the reaction of the player that received the contact to determine if embellishment resulted.

Or — stroke of genius — refs could rely less on players’ reactions to judge whether an infraction occurred. If a guy punches someone in the face, call it. Don’t call it if the punch is sufficiently forceful, but not if not. Otherwise, the player who is being punched in the face is in effect being penalized for being bigger and stronger than the guy punching him, or roughing him, or cross-checking him, or whatever. This kind of thing happens all the time. Two players arrive at the puck at the same time, and the guy who is smaller, with worse balance, or who skates less well, falls and the other guy gets a penalty for being a superior hockey player.

I exaggerate. But not by much.

A law of physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Not the case when Ekman-Larsson shoved Brown with his stick at 13:22 of the third period of Game 3. Brown’s reaction was unnatural and excessive to the force that had been exerted on him by Ekman-Larsson.

Newton’s Laws do not apply to Brown. He is exempt, so great is his power.

I think the dive is often worse that the legitimate foul in terms of damage that is done to the integrity of the game. As such, I would like to see the dive worth a double minor when it is preceded by a penalty infraction the referee had identified. Rather than just evening up the numerical strength, the diver would put his team at a distinct disadvantage.

I don’t have a problem with that suggestion. But it wouldn’t get rid of diving or embellishment. It would just make diving called less frequently than it already is, and/or would cause divers/embellishers to further refine their skills.

Not to be too glib about this serious subject, but I think if a player embellishes plausibly and/or convincingly, then more power to him. He is rewarded for his cleverness and ability. If he’s stupid and obvious, like Ryan Kesler, give him two minutes for being stupid and obvious. After all, if all Brown does is dive, and everyone knows it, the calls will eventually go against him more often than not, and his behavior will be rooted out. But if it’s well-disguised and the refs can’t figure out what’s happening out there, that’s not Brown’s fault.

And if any of that bothers you, seriously, I suggest that refs call the action, not call the action based on the reactions of the players. After all, how many times have we seen the ref miss the infraction but raise his arm once the crowd roars its disapproval? Why does that happen exactly?

Call what you see. The issue of embellishment goes away. Since it’s a penalty, they can call the dive, too.


  3 comments for “Kerry Fraser (and me) on those horrible divers

  1. Garrett79
    May 18, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I think Brown was called for diving on the play with Smith not because of that play but because of the preceding play. When Doan boarded Lewis, Brown’s arms went up in outrage to draw the referees’ attention (which they don’t like), and it was only seconds after he had done the exact same thing on a play where he was slashed. Both penalties were going to be called anyway. I think the referees were making a point to Dustin Brown, that being “We’re not blind and we are perfectly capable of calling the game ourselves. If you want to show us up, then we will be happy to let you sit in the box for two minutes.”

    As this was not their literal explanation and I haven’t heard anyone else suggest it, I don’t think they got their point across, but I heartily believe it’s what happened there.

    They should have just called Brown for unsportsmanlike conduct on that very play. If I was reffing it, I would have.

  2. DougS
    May 18, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Dustin Brown = Odysseus, famed for his cunning?

  3. May 19, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Nowhere in this debate does anyone mention the missed high-sticking calls on Rosival (vs. Williams/Voynov) in the 3rd period. Whether Brown dived or took advantage of a young and frustrated player, or both, is besides the point to me. Everything evened out in the end, as usual.

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