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Stricter officiating has not tamed game

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


How is the NHL's crackdown on stick and obstruction penalties going?

Depends on whom you ask.

Colorado's Peter Forsberg said tightly called games have produced greater room to maneuver on the ice. But Phoenix's Jeremy Roenick said inconsistent calls have cut into any reforms referees have made.

First, the scorecard.

According to the NHL, in 113 games there have been 237 slashing and 601 obstruction calls (holding, hooking interference). The numbers from last season's opening 113 games: 95 and 325.

"We're trying to create more speed on the ice. We're trying to make things easier for the talented players," officiating supervisor Jim Christison said.

"We don't want to take hitting out of the game, but we want to take things that are injurious to the players out of the game -- slashing, hits from behind, hits to the head."

That's just fine with Forsberg.

"There is not a lot of holding and grabbing," said Forsberg, who had eight goals and five assists in nine games. "It helps to create a lot of opportunities."

Roenick, however, was steaming Tuesday night at a series of what he considered no-calls by referees Blaine Angus and Don Van Massenhoven during a game with the Flames. Particularly galling to Roenick was Robyn Regehr's pancaking Phoenix's Keith Tkachuk against the boards.

After the Coyotes howled in vain for an interference call, Roenick fought Regehr, got an extra two minutes for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.

"I think the refereeing was very poor tonight," he said. "There was no way that I get an extra 10-minute misconduct on top of that. I've seen guys not get one for doing something twice as bad as that.

"I think the refs have to realize they get graded, too, on their performance. It determines if they (work) the playoffs or not. And in my opinion, it was a poor performance by the refs."

PRESSURE POINT: Goaltender Brian Boucher was the Flyers' savior in last season's playoffs, but carried a 2-3-1-1 record, a 4.52 goals-against average and an .830 save percentage into Thursday night's game against the Rangers.

He also is carrying a chip on his shoulder.

After a poor performance Tuesday in a 5-4 victory over New York, Boucher was asked about a soft 50-foot goal by Valeri Kamensky with 13 seconds left.

"I misplayed it," Boucher snapped. "If you guys (reporters) want to make it a headline, then you guys can do what you want with it. But a win is a win and it's not an important factor."

During Wednesday's practice, Boucher had trouble on a three-on-one drill. To blow off a little steam, he pulverized his stick and then did a Roger Clemens with a hunk of the shaft.

"I was awful today, but everybody has a bad day," he said after calling reporters a------- to an acquaintance. "You guys keep asking me about this stuff, but it's practice. Ever get angry? You ever want to break something?"

The second-year goalie was much more affable after Thursday's 3-0 shutout.

"Everyone has a bad day and you get mad," he said. "But for that to be a story? It's obviously a slow news day. It just goes to show you, it's a crazy game when you can go from a bad day one day to a good day the next."

MINE OR YOURS?: Senators rookie forward Martin Havlat is in the middle of an interesting tug of war. Seems his team in the Czech Republic is unhappy with the 12 minutes, 36 seconds of ice time Havlat is averaging and wants him to come home.

"Yes, there have been some debates," Petr Husicka, general manager of Ocelari Trinec, told a newspaper in Prague. "We are in regular twice-a-week conversations with (Ottawa general manager) Marshall Johnston. There is hope he will come back. The Senators seem to be afraid he might stall.

"It doesn't help his development if he sits on the bench and plays but a few minutes a game. If that's how he's supposed to work in the NHL, then the Czech Extraleague is a much better option."

Senators coach Jacques Martin said Husicka should mind his own business.

"Obviously they are going to say that because they want him back," Martin said. "But he's playing more than 10 minutes a game and coming along well."

Said Havlat, who scored his third goal Friday night against the Lightning: "I want to stay here."

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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