Crackdown on diving may reduce Ribeiro-like antics

The NHL routinely suspends players for dangerous infractions as a means of maximizing the game’s safety.

Perhaps it’s time to add injury-faking to the list of offenses punishable by suspension, in order to preserve some of the sport’s integrity.

In the third period of last Wednesday’s game at American Airlines Arena between Dallas and Toronto, Stars’ forward Mike Ribeiro goaded referees Gord Dwyer and Dan O’Rourke into calling a high-sticking penalty on Leafs’ defenseman Mike Komisarek. On the play, Ribeiro jerked his head backwards as soon as he saw Komisarek’s stick come up to shoulder height, even though no part of the lumber actually made contact.

The ensuing, undeserved penalty gave the Stars a 5-on-3 power-play on which they capitalized. The two teams would eventually decide the game in overtime with Dallas prevailing. Undoubtedly, Ribeiro’s fraudulent actions played a factor in the outcome.

“The stick didn’t even make contact,” fumed Leafs head coach Ron Wilson after the game. “Ribeiro was acting. The officials must be sure of that stuff. ”

Ribeiro has certainly perfected the craft of method acting during his hockey career. While playing with Montreal in the 2004 opening round playoff series against Boston, he fabricated an apparent seizure after colliding with then-Bruin Mike Knuble, writhing on the ice in contrived agony.

Such theatrics have no place in the game, and make a mockery of the job assigned to the on-ice officials.

Diving should be subject to the same disciplinary process that the league employs for reviewing stick fouls and hits from behind. While senior VP Colin Campbell would have to allot more time to peruse video footage, the investment in preserving the game’s dignity would be worthwhile.

If, for example in 1995, teams had the option of sending a tape to the league to review a dive, perhaps the NHL would not have been so quick to vilify future Hall-of-Fame referee Andy Van Hellemond for disallowing a Quebec Nordiques goal to tend to a seemingly-injured Alex Kovalev.

Instead the process may have exonerated Van Hellemond for his premature whistle and either fined or suspended Kovalev, for dropping like he’d been hit with a sniper’s rifle after a receiving a love-tap on the leg from the Nordiques’ Craig Wolanin.

Maintaining the game’s integrity should be as high a priority as keeping its safety. The game’s referees and linesmen already have a challenging enough job to do. The difficulty of officiating shouldn’t be compounded by the dishonest fakery of players like Ribeiro, the Rangers’ Sean Avery and Buffalo’s Derek Roy.

Suspending offenders for diving, and faking injuries, would serve as an adequate deterrent.


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Blue And White Beat, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

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