Change of Scenery in NHL: Crackdown on Theatrical Falls – New York Times

Winnipeg’s Bryan Little, left, was penalized for holding and the Islanders’ Matt Martin for embellishment.
By JEFF Z. KLEIN
November 1, 2014

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen felt a stick blade jab him in the face during a game last week against the San Jose Sharks. Vatanen fell and lifted his hand to his mouth, either to draw attention to the foul or simply as a reaction to being stabbed by a stick.

The referee Tim Peel blew his whistle for a high-sticking penalty against the Sharks — but he also penalized Vatanen for embellishment. Anaheim Coach Bruce Boudreau protested, but to no avail.

Peel judged Vatanen to be exaggerating, a violation of N.H.L. Rule 64, which calls for a two-minute penalty against “any player who blatantly dives” or “embellishes a fall or a reaction” to influence a referee. The call against Vatanen was part of a crackdown on what the league sees as rampant fakery among players.

“Embellishment in the game is a real problem today,” Colin Campbell, the N.H.L.’s senior executive vice president for hockey operations, said in June. “We understand players are trying to draw penalties. We feel it’s out of control.”

In England, Chelsea’s Branko Ivanovic, far left, was ejected after fouling Manchester United’s Ángel di María, who exaggerated his fall.

Or, as the bombastic hockey traditionalist Don Cherry once observed, “We’ve got to watch that we don’t start acting like those goofy soccer guys.”

To combat this perceived scourge, the N.H.L. has directed referees to be stricter about penalizing violations of Rule 64, even changing the designation of such penalties from diving, as they were called last season, to embellishment, as they are all termed this season.

The crackdown is clearly underway. Last season, N.H.L. referees called 52 diving penalties, a rate of one every …read more

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