If Scott Hartnell or Jeff Carter had been set up in front of the Calgary Flames' goal Friday in overtime, the Philadelphia Flyers probably would have won.
But Chris Pronger was the big body screening goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, and his reputation as an agitator likely was the reason for the horrendous call that cost the Flyers the winning goal and, subsequently, a point in the standings.
Pronger was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for putting his arm up while in front of Kiprusoff. Pronger claimed he was directing teammates, while referee Ghislain Hebert said Pronger was intentionally using his arm to block the goalie's vision.
The call was blatantly incorrect. The league's http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3346729">2008 addendum to the http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=26486">unsportsmanlike conduct rule stated that "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
Pronger was not facing the goalie. It was a bad call.
But aside from forgetting that part of the rule, the referee also decided that Pronger moved his arm for the purpose of blocking the goalie's vision.
That's where Pronger's reputation hurt him.
Most players would have gotten the benefit of the doubt.
But Pronger has spent most of his Hall of Fame career getting under opponents' skin. As recently as this spring, he angered the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals by taking the pucks after two Chicago wins.
That was just one year after he was voted the dirtiest player in the NHL by fellow players in a http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1155319/index.htm"> Sports Illustrated poll.
He has been suspended eight times in his career.
Referees are aware of all this. Any time there is a borderline play involving Pronger, the call likely will go against him, perhaps rightfully so.
Friday's call was not borderline. Pronger did not "position himself facing the opposition goaltender," so it shouldn't have mattered whether he was "waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender."
But the call was made anyway, and likely would not have been if it was almost any other player.