Diving in Hockey: Is Embellishment Hurting the Sport?
After Tuesday’s game against Montreal, Habs forward Brendan Gallagher took to the post game podium to call out Tim Stutzle for being a chronic embellisher.
Earlier in the game, Stutzle was taken out in a knee-on-knee collision that led to a penalty for Nick Suzuki and the Sens scored on the ensuing power play. What bothered Gallagher more was that Stutzle needed a trainer to come to the ice to get him and that Stutzle ended up not missing time and played the power play. Here is his little tirade if you missed it.
The irony of this is obviously found in that Stutzle ended up missing the Sens next game against Nashville and he won’t be playing against the New York Rangers on Saturday either because of leg pain resulting from the incident. Brendan Gallagher is calling Stutzle out when he was legitimately hurt and drew a legitimate penalty. It’s not unheard of for a charley horse type injury to flare up the next day. If you have seen the replay of the incident, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this would hurt. I am personally relieved that there was nothing serious arising from the hit.
If you are looking for more irony, here are the top seven players for drawing penalties over the past three seasons.
Brady Tkachuk 😊
Of course, none of these players, save Connor McDavid, are strangers to the penalty box either. This doesn’t sift out how many times there were coincidental penalties. They typically take someone with them or irritate the opposition enough to get a retaliation penalty. These players aren’t typically associated with the word diving though Brady Tkachuk has been on the wrong end of an embellishment call. These players tend to get more colourful adjectives.
I can’t say that I think of diving when Stutzle’s name comes up, but this is not the first time I have heard this about him either. The only diving incident I associate Stutzle with is from October 23rd of this season against the New York Rangers. On this play, Stutzle was called for embellishment/diving and the opponent got no call at all even though his stick was clearly between Stutzle’s legs. It’s the only time I can recall watching a game where embellishment wasn’t called to offset another legitimate call. Personally, I think he got hosed and the Rangers scored the tying goal on the ensuing power play and went on to win the game. Apparently Stutzle had drawn a penalty earlier in the game on a partial breakaway and, in the eyes of the official, embellished a bit and made him look the fool. I recall the penalty being more than legitimate.
Unlike our soccer brethren, the NHL does at least pretend to take diving seriously. Here is the scale of how discipline is handed out. Coaches can even feel the pinch if things get out of hand.
Obviously, the reason for this kind of disciplinary structure is to protect the integrity of the game. I must applaud that much despite the fines being a mere a drop in the bucket. Other sports could take note.
There have honestly been times during the recent Canadian men’s soccer CONCACAF qualifying matches that I forgot why I didn’t care for the sport. Then, after watching our boys, in a qualifying game against Costa Rica, lose a player for a second yellow in the same game for this type of farce (see below), I must conclude there isn’t much to worry about in hockey from a diving perspective.
An interesting compilation was done from 2010-2021 which showed that of 105,639 penalties called during all games played, only 342 were embellishment penalties. That’s a whopping 0.32%. If you don’t believe me, check this out. Some guy on reddit summarized all 105 thousand penalties called in the NHL from 2010-2021.
Does embellishment happen? Undoubtedly. Does Tim Stutzle embellish from time to time? Most likely yes. It has been brought up too many times to believe there isn’t something behind this. An important question I would ask is:
“Do you blame them?”
I, for one, don’t blame star players for going down to ensure that a penalty that is deserved gets called. I don’t condone faking calls and going down for nothing because that speaks to the integrity of the game. However, if a player like Auston Matthews is angry when calls aren’t made, it might behoove him to allow himself to go down rather than using his amazing balance to save himself on every play.
Star players in the league take more abuse than anyone and are expected to play through it. It’s a combination of wanting to get them off their game and simply not being able to stop them legitimately.
Sidney Crosby has been called out as a chronic complainer and whiner. It has been suggested that he embellishes as well. I can also say, from having seen it firsthand, that he gets infringed upon in an illegal manner several times a game with no call and that’s the regular season. It is worse in the playoffs.
If there is one thing that doesn’t get tracked in the league it’s the number of missed calls on penalties. I don’t expect them to track or publish that. The officials doing the games get enough abuse as it is. However, I would wager that 90% of the missed calls are against the top 10% of players in the league. They are the ones that opposing teams are worried about, and Tim Stutzle fits that description or will within a year or two.
Referees could call penalties far more often than they do if they wanted to. Like Tim Peel’s incident revealed, there is a certain amount of game management happening out on the ice. I commented in a previous article that NHL referees have ironically managed to have a greater impact on the outcome of games by trying to stay out of the way and keep their whistles in their pockets at key times in games. However, if they took the soccer referees model and were far more stringent, this might invite more embellishment. If players believe there are calls to be had, this will incentive them to dive. It’s a truly slippery slope and I don’t envy the referees.
Perhaps a middle ground could be found. If a coach feels like his player has been the victim of a dive, why not allow him to challenge the call? The same rules would apply, of course. If he wins the challenge, it would be an embellishment call against the opposition. If he doesn’t, his player gets an extra two minutes or worse, he is down five on three for a full two minutes.
Regardless of what happens, diving appears to be one of the least of hockey’s concerns. An even lesser concern would be anything that Brendan Gallagher has to say about it. Tim Stutzle’s status as a role model for children watching is no less the day after his remarks as they were the day before.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey