The Buffalo Sabres average 15.8 penalty minutes per game. Last night, they had 16 PIM in their win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, their first game after an NHL referee used naughty language and made goalie Ryan Miller hug his security blanket a little tighter at sleepy time.
Corruption! Outrage! Something must be done to thwart the rogue element of the Zebra Conspiracy against Buffalo! This is like the NHL's own Tim Donaghy scandal, only with less game fixing and more potty mouthing.
Or so Buffalo would have us believe.
The fact that this Ryan Miller/"go [bleep] yourself" story actually had legs proves that no mole hill is safe from mountain status if fans and media decide to make it so. The Buffalo News has written three different stories about Ref-Bleep Gate, including one today that brings the NHL into it and sheds more light on what led up to Miller's virgin ears bleeding:
"There is no Ryan Miller situation," Frank Brown, the NHL's vice president of communications, said in an e-mail to The Buffalo News in response to a request for comment.
Miller said Peel cursed at him twice after he asked the official a question. Replays showed Peel stopping play two seconds after a faceoff and pointedly talking to Miller in the goal crease. Seven minutes later, an agitated Peel gave Ruff a bench minor for arguing an interference call on Thomas Vanek.
"When you get a bench minor, it's an accumulation of things but it was deserved on my part," Ruff said. " . . . There was no excuse for me saying what I said or how loud I said it. Those are commonly something that's ignored but something had stirred him to the point that I got the minor I got."
"There is no Ryan Miller situation" isn't an answer. If we can make a big deal out of Sean Avery and "Sloppy Seconds"-Gate then we can make a big deal out of this. There have been times in other leagues when referees have crossed the line and dished some verbal abuse at a player and they have gotten in trouble for it. NBA referee Joey Crawford was suspended indefinitely for challenging San Antonio Spurs C Tim Duncan to a fight during a game.
Now, no one is saying what Peel did is as bad as what Crawford did. But like anything else, if you let it go unpunished then you are saying, indirectly, that it is alright.
Referees have a tough job. That can be said about officials in any sport who must maintain order and enforce the rules of the game. But staying classy and not losing your cool is something that many referees do and many of them do it well, even when they are pushed to their limits.
However, I do not know what's worse: What Peel did or the league's silence on the issue.
Peel should, at the most, receive a fine or reprimand for his actions if this account is accurate. If the tables were turned, a player would face a certain punishment for being abusive to an official. So a punishment should be expected, albeit a reasonable punishment that fits the crime.
If there's a reprimand for Peel's actions, it shouldn't be anything worse than "hey, dude, try not to do that again." No fine, no suspension, no firing.
A player would have been ignored or given a misconduct penalty, because there is an acknowledged double-standard here. There isn't equal footing between rule enforcers and rule followers. Players can't make a citizen's arrest because a referee dropped an F-bomb during a conversation. Miller comes off as one of those yokels that follows city cops around with a camcorder to prove that sometimes they double-park.
In summary: There is no Ryan Miller situation. Unless you're talking about the fine Miller should receive for publically criticizing the officiating as being "slanted" against his team.
As for the NHL, congratulations on ignoring this joke of a controversy. Now you can get back to the usual routine of failing to punish clearly injurious actions and illegal hits. No suspension for Alex Burrows of the Canucks for jump-checking J.P. Dumont? What did he have to do, leapfrog over him?