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Dive masters

Players already are taking advantage of the new NHL

Posted: Wednesday October 26, 2005 12:38PM; Updated: Wednesday October 26, 2005 5:07PM
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Martin Gerber
Martin Gerber displayed gold-medal form in his dive against the Senators.

There was no need for ice at Monday night's contest between the Senators and the Hurricanes -- many of the players involved acted as though they would rather have been doing swan dives into a pool.

The league warned from the start that players would need to quickly adapt to the new rules or else -- and it's all too obvious that they have. Recognizing the pressure on-ice officials are under to enforce zero tolerance on interference, a number of players are doing everything they can to catch their attention and draw a call with dramatic embellishment.

Nowhere have the divers been more evident than the Carolina-Ottawa game. Talk afterward should have centered on the end of the Senators' six-game win streak. Instead, both sides pointed fingers at the diving offenses committed by the other.

Some players were dropped by a tap on the pants. Others apparently were felled by the gale-force winds of an opponent skating by. But the only real pains were suffered by those who had to watch the mockery some of these guys were making of the game.

The most egregious offense was committed by Carolina goalie Martin Gerber who, after being brushed by Ottawa's Chris Neil, took to the air like a modern-day Daedalus, only to fall to the ice, apparently mortally wounded by his brush with the Sen.

It's easy to blame the officials in these situations, but it's also unfair. The fakery that seems clear on the TV screen or from high in the stands can be virtually impossible to detect from 30 feet away at ice level. The fact that the refs catch as many offenders as they do is impressive.

Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock recently told reporters in Toronto that some players are taking advantage "of the good things that have been given to them" by diving. Added Hitchcock: "If this keeps happening, they end up eroding the integrity of the game. I'm very concerned about that."

He should be. So should the rest of us. That's why the league needs to use the hammer it won in CBA negotiations to crack down immediately.

According to the CBA, incidents that go unpenalized during a game can be reviewed after the fact by the league's Hockey Operations department, and discipline -- ranging from a letter of warning for a first offense to fines and a suspension by the fourth -- can be meted out.

That hasn't happened yet, but the Ottawa/Carolina debacle may give the league a chance to prove they're serious about protecting the game from the staged contortions of these Louganis wannabes.