Like all professional sports leagues, the NHL is not infallible. To commissioner Gary Bettman's chagrin, his officials have made mistakes in the past that range in magnitude from laughable to criminal in the eyes of some fans.
There is nothing worse for a fan (or a player, mind you) than having a game lost, a series surrendered or the Cup stolen due to a blown call. In some cases, the bad call might seem benign and humorous. But like in the case of Larry Leach's shootout, the ramifications were like a ripple in a pond that possibly prevented Bronco Horvath from claiming the 1959 scoring title. People laughed all they wanted then, though I'm sure Horvath probably didn't and still doesn't think it was so funny.
On most of these blown calls the players involved, their victories and reputations will now come with an asterisk of sorts. Some not so troubling, while others may cloud over a player’s entire career -- just ask Brett Hull.
Especially with today’s technology and all the different camera angles, one would hope that blown calls would be almost a thing of the past. And one continues to hope as there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of officials making terrible decisions.
Is the speed of the game to blame? Or in the case of the 2013 shortened season, did the break give refs the opportunity to go rusty? At least their critics that year seemed to think so. Re-watching tape from that season produces some glaringly bad calls; not necessarily Cup-stealing calls, but ones one would expect in a pee wee game and not an NHL contest.
It’s probably best to chalk bad calls up to Lady Luck or remind oneself “sometimes you win some, somethings you don’t,” which should be the Detroit Red Wing’s motto, because it’s part of the game. Human error.
However, when your team is dropped for an obviously terribly bad call, it’s hard not to gravitate towards conspiracy theories.
10 Duchene blatantly offside
At home against the Nashville Predators, Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche walked in all alone against goalie Chris Mason at 3:18 into the second period to give the Avs a 3-1 lead in an otherwise ho-hum February regular season game.
However, controversy was birthed as what was blatant to everyone in the Pepsi Center -- aside from linesmen Anthony Sericolo and Derek Amell -- was that Duchene's breakaway was the product of an egregiously missed offside call, possibly the worst in NHL history.
Duchene, waiting to be sprung behind the Preds' defence, was lobbed the puck by P.A. Parenteau. Duchene had at least a good three feet on the puck when it crossed the blue line into the offensive zone. Assuming the play would be called, all the players started to coast waiting for the whistle, including Duchene. When it wasn't blown, he put a quick shot over the glove of an understandably unprepared and confused Mason.
Nashville put up a meek fight but their complaints, coincidentally, fell on deaf ears.
The Avalanche would go on to win 6-5 in regulation. This instance was often used by critics to say that the officials slacked off during the 2012-13 lockout and were ill prepared for when hockey started up again in January of that season.
9 Nothing but net
With 26.1 seconds left in regulation in a game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Kings on January 19, 2014, Niklas Kronwell scored the game tying goal in an unorthodox, albeit prohibited fashion.
On the power play and with the goalie pulled, the Wings were plying the pressure with six on four, cycling the puck in the Kings' zone, when it was dished to Kronwall at the point who let off a slap shot that was directed skyward off of a defending King's stick.
Searching for the puck, Kings net minder Jonathan Quick, like a scared cat, darted his head left and right while backing into the net. Unbeknownst to him the puck had gone over the glass behind the goal into the netting above, which sprang the puck back into play. However, it took a trajectory that hit Quick in the numbers causing it to fall behind him and over the goal line.
Though many of the players on the ice saw what happened, none of the officials noticed that the puck had hit the netting, which would have ended the play. As the goal was called on the ice, there was no replay and the referee's call stood forcing the game into overtime.
Of course, Detroit would win in the shoot out.
8 The phantom smother
While the last blown call fell in the Red Wings' favour, this one certainly did not.
It was Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference semifinals. Down by a goal to the Anaheim Ducks, the Red Wings pulled their goalie in the dying minutes of the game for the man advantage. With 1:06 left in regulation, Kronwall dumped the puck behind the net from the point. Forechecking, the Wings forced Anaheim defenceman Scott Niedermayer to cough it up (an amazing feat on its own) and the puck ricocheted off the side of the net making its way to the crease, where both teams made a mad dash to gain possession. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller sprawled out attempting to smother it underneath him. The puck, lying to his right, was just inches from the goal line with a wide open net. A diving Marian Hossa tapped it in, effectively tying the game 2-2.
However, the Red Wings' jubilation lasted nanoseconds as immediately after the puck went in, referee Brad Watson was waving it off as he had blown the whistle, not to indicate the goal, but that he had lost sight of the puck. As the call was made on the ice it was deemed a no goal becoming one of the most infamous blown calls as Detroit would end up losing that game 2-1 as well as going down 2-1 in the series.
It could have been much worse, however. If Detroit had lost the series, that moment might have been blamed as the momentum shift in the Ducks' direction. That would not be the case though as the Red Wings would end up taking the series in seven.
7 The oddest penalty shot
For this blunder, you have to go back -- way back to November 8, 1959.
At the old Boston Garden the Bruins were squaring off against Bobby Hull's dreaded Chicago Black Hawks. In the last third of the game Al Arbour committed an infraction by knocking the puck away from a Boston player by throwing his stick. Dalton McArthur, the referee for the game, made the right call by awarding Boston a penalty shot. For whatever reason, MacArthur then checked his trusty rulebook which read that the player to take the penalty shot would be selected by the coach of the non-offending team. Well, according to MacArthur, the non-offending team was Chicago because they were defending at the time of the call.
As newspaper reports state, the Chicago players tried to convince their head coach, Rudy Pilous, to select the Boston goalie to take the shot. Meanwhile, the Bruins were trying to send out leading scorer Bronco Horvath to center, but he was turned back to his bench by MacArthur.
Going against his teams suggestion so as to not hint to MacArthur that something was awfully wrong with this call, Pilous picked little-known Larry Leach to take the shot. Which he missed. Though Boston would still take that decision 5-3, what adds insult to injury here was that by season's end, Horvath, who would have most probably scored on that opportunity, ended up losing the scoring championship to Bobby Hull by a single point.
6 Gloves it to the line
In an October 16, 1993 game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks, Jet forward Nelson Emerson thought he'd employ some handball techniques to accomplish one of the most ludicrous game-winning goals in NHL history.
It was scoreless going into overtime, which would last less than a minute. The Jets dumped the puck into the Blackhawks zone. Ed Belfour went behind the net to play the puck and tried to ring it off the glass. However, Emerson on the forecheck, squeezed the boards and reached up, catching the puck. Now with the puck in his closed fist -- which is a penalty -- he wrapped his arm around the right post and dropped the puck not over but on the goal line.
Referee Denis Morel called it a goal. However, the goal judge hired by the Jets never turned on the light as he never saw the puck actually cross the line.
The remarkable aspect of this is that after the call on the ice, it was reviewed and still deemed a goal. This caused the Hawks to erupt at center ice. Even head coach Darryl Sutter left the bench to accost Morel against the boards.
Apparently the commotion didn't end there. After the game Sutter allegedly pinned Morel outside of the officials' dressing room just spitting obscenities into his face.
5 John LeClair rips one
Now we get to one of the most impressive goals that shouldn't have counted.
In Game 2 of the 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo was up by one going into the second period, but that didn't last long as Philly was awarded a power play -- one that John LeClair would capitalize on with a steaming shot from the top of the left circle that seemingly beat Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek.
Minutes later, still confused how he was beat, Hasek examined his goal and found a tear in the netting. It was too late, however, as the goal had counted and the damage, literally and figuratively, had been done.
Airing his frustration, Hasek would later take a roughing call after attacking Flyer Keith Primeau.
This wasn't the first time that Hasek and the Sabres had been the victims of a blown call, but we will get to that soon enough.
4 Most controversial call in Maple Leafs history
This one will live on in infamy for infinity in the hearts of Leafs fans worldwide.
Many still have not forgiven Wayne Gretzky for his transgression.
Game 6 of the Campbell Conference Final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Los Angles Kings. Overtime. The game tied at 4. The Leafs need to score one goal to eliminate the Kings and make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1967.
However, the Kings were on the power play.
The Kings were working the puck in the Leafs zone with Toronto in box formation. Wayne Gretzky to the right of the rink took a shot and doubled back to get his own rebound. In the process he high-sticked Leafs center Doug Gilmour cutting his chin open. Back then a high stick resulting in a cut was worth a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which would have thrown Gretzky out of the game.
However, he wasn't called on the play as ref Kerry Fraser didn't see what happened and thought Gilmour was hit with the puck.
Moments later, with seconds left on the power play, Gretzky scored the game winner, forcing a game seven -- a game where he would score a hat trick and earn an assist in the Kings' 5-4 regulation win that eliminated the Leafs and put the Kings franchise in its first-ever Stanley Cup final.
3 The neglected offside that won the Stanley Cup
It was the beginning of a dynasty -- a dynasty that began with an atrocious blown call.
In Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers, Duane Sutter scored to put his team up 2-1. On the rush, Clark Gilles dropped the puck back to Butch Goring, however the puck had left the defensive zone into the neutral. Goring than moved the puck to Sutter who put it home.
Linesman Leon Stickle had waved the pass clean to the vitriol of the Flyers' bench. Similar to the other blown offside call, the Flyers players coasted during the play expecting it to be called. Though not the game winning goal, the Islanders would end up taking the game, and the Stanley Cup, 5-4. Later, Stickle admitted that be made the wrong call.
And now there are those who ask; would the Islanders dynasty of four consecutive cups have ever been born if that go never counted?
2 In and Out
It's going to be a long time before Calgary Flames fans forgive this one.
During Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final between Calgary and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flames were robbed of a goal that may have secured them the Stanley Cup that season.
In a tied 2-2 game during the dying minutes of the third, the Flames were on the power play when Oleg Saprykin blitzed with the puck from his own end, working his way to the Tampa net. In close, he banked the puck off goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with the deflection bouncing off of Martin Gelinas's skate while he was charging the front of the net.
With a swift right leg kick, Khabibulin seemingly made the save of the game. However, on further review the puck had crossed the goal line before Khabibulin's pad even had a chance.
The series was 3-2 for the Flames and if that goal had counted, they might have secured the game along with the Stanley Cup. Instead, the game went to overtime where the Lightning would force a game seven, which they would also take along with sports' most difficult piece of hardware to win.
1 Hull's foot-in-crease disease
Welcome to the blown call of all blown calls in NHL history.
It was Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final and the Dallas Stars were up 3-2 over the Buffalo Sabres in the series.
The game, tied 1-1, would go to triple overtime. Dallas got the puck into the Sabres end and were tiredly cycling it when Stars forward Brett Hull made his way to the front of the net. Jere Lehtinen was able to get Hull the puck who took a shot. Dominik Hasek made the save. The puck then left the crease and Hull kicked it to his stick. Hull got the rebound and scored. The Stars erupted in cheers and those on the bench stormed the ice.
The problem was when Hull kicked the puck his skate entered the crease while the puck left it. When he shot the puck the second time the toe of his left skate was still in the crease. Rule 78-b at the time explicitly said that as long as the puck isn't in the crease, neither can an opposing player. And many times throughout the preceding season goals were called back for this very reason.
To the anger of the Buffalo Sabres, this one stood and gave the Dallas Stars the most controversial Stanley Cup victory in NHL History. All because of a blown call.