Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Penguins administer their own justice after Sýkora’s trickery

It’s a nightmare situation for any referee: a player who should be sitting in the penalty box has just scored a short-handed goal. This exact situation happened during an NHL game between the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins on October 22. The Devils pulled a fast one on the officials and scored an unfair tying goal.

Patrik Eliáš (left) and Petr Sýkora, shown here after
the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. Photo:
The goal scorer who was supposed to be in the penalty box was Patrik Eliáš, the Devils star veteran. Eliáš was penalized when his high stick struck Pittsburgh’s Steve Sullivan in the face. Because Sullivan suffered a bloody gash, New Jersey’s number 26 was sent to the box.

At that moment, a 34-year-old veteran Petr Sýkora, Eliáš’s long-time friend and linemate, had an idea that he thought would help his team. He tricked the officials and went to the penalty box to serve a double minor penalty for his teammate’s foul.

Despite loud protests from Pittsburgh, the referees let the game go on and, 70 seconds later, Eliáš scored a goal to tie the game at 1.

After the game, Sýkora explained his actions, stating that he wanted to help his team. "It was disrespectful to the referee on my part, but I didn't want to have Eliáš go to the penalty box for four minutes," Sýkora said on the NHL’s website.

“I just got the idea, and it worked out and Eliáš actually got a goal there. After that, the referee came up to me. He wasn't happy and I apologized to him,” he added.

The question is why Sýkora apologized to the referee if he knew what he was doing, but the main thing is that justice did not remain blind. Actually, the Penguins played as if they were intent on administering their own justice and scored three goals in the third period to win 4-1.

Because they won the game, the Pittsburgh players didn’t show any anger about the incident. "You could see it pretty clearly it was the wrong guy in the box," said the Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury to, "but I guess it turned out alright in the end."

The wording of the rules:

If the same situation were to occur in any European league or IIHF tournament, no goal should be allowed, according to Rule 562 of the IIHF rulebook:

…1. If a player shall illegally enter the game from his own player's bench or from the penalty bench by his own error or the error of the Penalty Bench Attendant, any goal scored by his own team shall be disallowed, while he is illegally on the ice, but all penalties imposed to both teams shall be served….

Unfortunately, the NHL rulebook does not have any similar provision in the case where a player scores a goal while he should be in the penalty box. Still, it seems that the officiating failed at some point, because the referees had informed the official scorer that Eliáš was the player who should serve double-minor penalty, but nobody corrected the situation before play resumed. The closest applicable rule states:

70.4 Leaving the Penalty Bench
…In the case of a player returning to the ice before his time has expired through an error of the Penalty Timekeeper, he is not to serve an additional penalty, but must serve his unexpired time. …

This rule deals with leaving the penalty bench prematurely due to an error by the  penalty timekeeper’s error, not a situation where the wrong player is in the box from the beginning.

However, this incident demonstrates the NHL’s need to change, or at least clarify, the rule. Fortunately, in this case, the incident did not affect the final score and the Penguins won the game, but hopefully steps are taken to ensure no similar goal is allowed in future.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Australian makes history in Extraliga debut

With information from Petr Polák of

Australia's Nathan Walker made history on Sunday when he played for Vítkovice, becoming not only the first Australian to play in the Czech Extraliga, but to play in any European professional hockey league.

The 17-year-old left winger, who normally suits up for Vítkovice's junior squad, dressed as the pro club's 13th forward in their home game against Mladá Boleslav. Despite his minor role in the game, he saw more ice time in the third period as his team built up a large lead, and assisted on Denis Rehák's goal, which gave Víktovice an 8-2 lead. They held on for an 8-4 victory.

Walker only found out earlier in the day that he would be making his professional debut. "The coach called me this morning to tell me to come to the game," he said. "I was immediately sure that this was a great chance. I felt a bit nervous, but it was not too bad, because I already played with Vítkovice in training camp and I knew my way around the team."

Walker, who has played in the Czech Republic for five years now, first made news when he scored 6 goals in a Junior Extraliga game last December. Overall, he recorded 40 points in 35 games last year at the junior level. He later represented Australia in the Division 2 World Championships in Melbourne, where he recorded 6 points in 4 games, helping the host nation win the group and qualify for the Division 1 tournament  in 2012 in nearby Krinyca-Zdrój, Poland, where he will presumably play again.

"I doubt that anybody notices in Australia, because there football and rugby are really popular," said Walker about his history-making feat. "Nobody cares about hockey, especially now with the World Cup of Rugby, but for my career it is great to play in the Extraliga," he said, smiling. "It's definitely better competition than in Australia."

Walker hopes that the Czech Extraliga isn't the final stop in his career. "I hope to play the NHL, but it remains to be seen." According to Vítkovice captain Jiří Burger, that's not out of the question. "I think we will hear it mentioned more," he said. "Sure, Nathan is on the small side, but he makes up for it with great skating."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Extraliga after round 8

by Petr Polák

The eighth round was filled with many close games. Vítkovice tied its game in the last ten minutes for the second-straight time, Tomáš Hertl scored an amazing goal for Slavia, Třinec won thanks to 4 goals in 4 minutes, Mladá Boleslav scored with 7 seconds left to win (and earlier tied the score with two goals in 28 seconds) and finally, Pech scored 4 goals in one game. The only “ordinary” game was the battle for first between Plzeň and Zlín.

Round Eight: Oct 4-5

Vítkovice – Brno  2:3 SO

Vítkovice did it again. On Sunday, Vítkovice came back from 2 goals down in Karlovy Vary in last ten minutes of the third, and they did it again Tuesday on home ice against Kometa. In the first period, Vítkovice out-shot Brno 15-6, but went to the dressing room down 1-0. Brno added another goal in the second period and held that lead until the 50th minute, when Tom
áš Kudělka gave hope to the home side. Later, just 63 seconds before the final horn, Viktor Ujčík sent the game to overtime, but in contrast to the game in Karlovy Vary, this time the Ostravian team wasn’t able to take the extra point.

Kladno – Slavia Praha  1:4

Slavia ended a 4-game losing streak with the win in Kladno. The most interesting moment of this game was the opening goal by Tomáš Hertl. Hertl’s shot missed the net, rebounded off the end boards, hit the skate of Kladno goalie Jan Chábera and went into the net.

Litvínov – Třinec  0:4

It looked like Třinec players were in a hurry to wrap this one up. They scored all four goals in the first period – in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th minutes. Another would not be scored over the last 40 minutes. The defending champions wouldn’t have had such an easy time of it, however, had Litvínov
’s Martin Ručínský not hit the post on a 2-man advantage early in the game.

Plzeň – Zlín 3:2 SO

The game in Plze
ň featured one of the pre-season favourites against the current (and unexpected) leader of the standings. Thanks to the 2 points they earned from this game, Plzeň is a little bit closer to the top. The Indians now sit in second place, just 1 point behind Zlín.

Pardubice – Mladá Boleslav  2:3

This was really unbelievable game. Pardubice opened the scoring after only 30 seconds and then made it 2-0 in the 8th minute. But the lead was erased in a span of 28 seconds in the 15th minute. From that point, the snipers from each team took most of the game off, with the 2-2 score lasting into the final minute of regulation time. The decisive goal was scored by Jaroslav Bala
štík with only 7 seconds left on the clock. What makes the result more surprising is that Mladá Boleslav entered the game in last place with a record of 1-1-0-5, while home team Pardubice was in 4th with a 3-1-0-2 mark.

Sparta Praha – Karlovy Vary  3:5

Petr Kumstát scores one of his 4 goals Tuesday. Photo: Jan Beneš,
Hockey is a team sport, but sometimes one or two players is enough to win a game. Petr Kumstát scored 4 goals on the road at Tesla Aréna, earning his first career hat trick. Lukáš Pech assisted on 3 of Kumstát’s goals. The two linemates sit first and second in individual scoring after the eighth round.

Liberec – České Budějovice  4:2

On Wednesday night, veteran Petr Nedvěd scored twice early to give Bílí Tygři the early two-goal lead at home, while Milan Bartovič added 3 assists to help Liberec double visiting České Budějovice 4-2.


Team Leaders:

Offence: Plzeň (26 goals)
Defence: Vítkovice (11 goals)
Power Play: Vítkovice (16.2%)
Penalty Killing: Třinec (96.5%)
Shooting Percentage: Plzeň (11%)

Individual Leaders:

Points: Lukáš Pech (Karlovy Vary) 12 in 8 games
Goals: Lukáš Pech (Karlovy Vary) 6  in 8 games
Assists: Jiří Burger (Vítkovice) 6 in 6 games
Game-Winning Goals: 4 players (Holík; Bartek; Bárta; Hanzlík) 2 in 7 games
Power-Play Goals: Petr Čajánek (Zlín) 3 in 6 games
Short-Handed goals: Yorick Treille (Sparta Praha) 1 in 5 games
Penalties in Minutes: Petr Kalus (Slavia Praha) 45 in 6 games

Save Percentage: Luboš Horčička (Zlín) .946 in 6 games
Goals-Against Average: Luboš Horčička (Zlín) 1.71
Shutouts: Peter Hamerlík (Třinec) 2 in 7 games

More information