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The Five-Minute Misconduct

May 30, 2014, 10:51 AM ET [14 Comments]
Paul Stewart
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As a rule of thumb, I am usually not a big believer in creating new penalties as a way to try and deal with failed attempts to solve problems in the game. However, the scourge of diving is not going to go away unless we think of a new way to handle the problem -- and then actually see it through.

Recently, I submitted a proposal to the NCAA for the creation a new penalty: the five-minute misconduct, which would be used exclusively for players who dive or otherwise embellish would-be fouls. Some key facets:

* Unlike a five-minute major penalty, the player's team would not play shorthanded. However, the offending player would be removed from the game for the equivalent time.

* It is a harsher penalty for diving than the current two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct minor, which would make players less likely to take the risk. Meanwhile, it is less harsh than a 10-minute misconduct (an alternative option that is, of course, already on the books) which would better encourage officials to penalize divers.

* It is a unique call, which cannot be obfuscated or mistaken for any other type of penalty. A few weeks ago, I talked about NHL Rule 64.3, which calls for players to be suspended after a third diving penalty in a season. Unfortunately, the League has failed to enforce its own rule. If leagues adopted the five-minute misconduct, there would be greater accountability for seeing a disciplinary protocol through if this penalty category was logged on players' records.

* Currently, only a referee can call a diving penalty. Under my proposal, linesmen can also make the call. This would further deter players from taking the risk.

Of course, no rule can be effective unless the league stands behind its officials who make the call. People gripe about why there are so many offsetting minors in which a restraining foul is called on one side and an embellishment penalty is called on the other side. You know why that happens so often? It's because officials get little or no support from the powers-that-be. As a result, they take the path of least resistance.

Yes, there are some situations where there is both a legitimate hook, hold, high stick etc. but the player exaggerates its effect. He may flop to the ice or snap his head back. In this instance, the player's team would still get its two minute power play but the player would be tagged with the five-minute misconduct for his embellishment.

Back when I was refereeing, I would tell the coach of the offending player that he'd better start coaching the guy to cut out the diving or the team would be playing the entire game on its knees. That usually put an end to the problem. However, diving is more widespread now -- and tacitly encouraged -- than it was the past. That is true in every league around the world, not just the NHL.

By the way, it sure was nice watching Game Five of the Western Conference Finals and last night's Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals. That was great hockey where both teams simply played the game hard and went all out to win. They cut out the after-the-whistle nonsense, and we saw two great games. Congratulations to the New York Rangers for earning their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1994.

The Stanley Cup Finals are actually the easiest of all rounds to officiate. Players play the game and no one wants to risk needless penalties. Have a good weekend folks, and enjoy the rest of the Western Conference playoffs as we find out which team will play New York for the Cup.


Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.
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