There are things you learn to accept when you are unlucky enough to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks.
The first and biggest one is that God hates the team that you stupidly root for year after year. How else do you explain 42 years of abject fucking failure? And, no, the three fruitless cup runs and various president's trophies don't count for anything. They only pour Sifto salt into a gaping wound. Even during those rare years when the team has been great, Vancouver has never won the cup, and probably never will.
The second one is that the rest of Canada hates Vancouver's most-loved team. Which, quite frankly, is no big deal. Hands up if you'd rather do a pub crawl with Brad Marchand and Matt Cooke than watch the Toronto Maple Leafs escape the first round.
What might suck the most, though, is that morons at the National Hockey League's head office clearly hate the Canucks as much as everybody else. Why else would Clueless Kelly Sutherland be allowed within a 10-mile radius of the Shark Tank in San Jose last night? The Richmond-raised "referee" can take a deep bow for completely and utterly assbanging Vancouver hockey fans during Game 4 of the Canucks-Sharks opening round series.
Sutherland didn't cause Vancouver to lose the round in four straight. What he did do is cost them the game that ended the round.
The Sharks simply outplayed Vancouver, who never bothered putting in a 60-minute effort during the entire painful-to-watch series. Had there been a Game 5, the smart Vegas money would have been on San Jose. The Sharks had superior hustle and scoring, a better power play, and better goaltending. Vancouver had little to give until last night, when the team at least showed up for the first and third periods.
Given that the series' result was a foregone conclusion before Game 4, what was the NHL doing assigning Sutherland to ref a Canucks game, especially one in the playoffs? Was Stephane Auger not available?
The NHL has done a bang-up job of making sure that the only consistent thing about its refereeing is complete inconsistency. Following the lockout of 2004, the league announced a sea change in the way games would be called. In an effort to put an end to the clutching and grabbing that characterized the decade-long dead-puck era, all penalties were supposed to be called.
Flash forward to 2013 and what's a penalty and what's not evidently changes at the discretion of who is on the ice. Last night, the Minnesota Wild's Cal Clutterbuck annihilating Chicago Blackhawk Brent Seabrook against the boards was considered a great hockey play. (So great, in fact, that the NHL has highlighted it on its web site).
Widely loathed serial offender Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins delivered a mammoth against-the-boards hit that set up a Brandon Sutter goal in the game against the New York Islanders, with no penalty on the play.
Down in San Jose, meanwhile, Kelly Sutherland—who was 80 feet away from the play—decides that a shoulder-to-shoulder hit by noted thug Daniel Sedin on Shark Tommy Wingels is a penalty. In overtime. In an elimination game. In a game where the refs had already called a soft penalty against Kevin Bieksa for "crosschecking" with five minutes left in the third, leading to a tying goal. And, yes, everyone on TSN's Hockey Central panel called the Bieksa penalty soft.
With Daniel off for boarding in OT, the Sharks scored. Evidently of the opinion that the enraged Canucks needed one final kick in the cojones, Sutherland finished off the game by slapping Daniel with a game misconduct for abusive language. Good thing he didn't hear Henrik Sedin describe the call as "bullshit" in the dressing room just minutes later.
What makes all this doubly maddening? Consider Sutherland's history with the Canucks, and then ask why the NHL would assign him to the series for a crucial, deciding game.
This is the same referee who, this past March 3, gave Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault a two-minute bench minor in a game against the Calgary Flames, leading to a goal that cost Vancouver the game. The flashpoint for the penalty?
As a livid Vigneault explained later: "That penalty that was given to me in the third period, all I did was stand on the bench and say, 'That's an elbow.' Not one g-damn word. Nothing. I didn't use the f-word. I stood on the bench for .5 seconds and I said, 'That's an elbow.' And that's how I got two minutes and that's how they scored the goal.”
He added: "The same accountability that is demanded of players and coaches is demanded of referees and that's not acceptable. There's no way we should lose this game on a call like that."
Sutherland is the same ref who ended up handing the Canucks five straight penalties in Game 4 during Vancouver's 2011 playoff meeting with San Jose, including two five-on-threes. He was one of two refs on the ice when Chicago Blackhawk Duncan Keith concussed Daniel Sedin—who was in the neutral zone without the puck—in a March 21, 2012 game against the Canucks. Sedin missed the rest of the regular season, and the first three games of the playoffs. Keith was assessed a two-minute minor.
And let's not forget that Sutherland is the ref who, during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins, fucked up a Game 6 call that Stevie Wonder and Helen Keller would both have got right. You might remember Boston Bruin Brad Marchand using Daniel Sedin's head as a speedbag, later explaining that he repeatedly punched the Canuck star in the head because "I felt like it."
Sutherland was right there in the middle. Sedin asked Sutherland why he wasn't calling a penalty. Sutherland responded with "I will," causing Sedin to respond with "When—after the fifth punch?"
True to his word, Sutherland then gave Sedin a 10-minute misconduct for being punched repeatedly in the head.
The point of all this? Well, from all the evidence here, the appearance is—rightly or wrongly—that Clueless Kelly Sutherland hates the Canucks as much as God and the rest of Canada.
And given there's that perception, why would the NHL slot him in for an elimination game featuring Vancouver, leading to a call that even San Jose Sharks fans are describing as a blown one? A blown one that immediately bounced the Canucks out of the playoffs.
What do we have today? Message boards lighting up with hockey fans amazed that the clowns who run the NHL can't seem to get anything goddamn right, especially when it comes to refereeing. The NHL, which quite frankly doesn't need any more bad press at this point in time, now has another PR nightmare on its hands.
The sad thing is all this could have been avoided. Even without the divine intervention of Clueless Kelly Sutherland, the Canucks would have lost the series.
Why, one last time, did Sutherland get the nod to ref a game where he clearly has an antagonistic history with one of the teams? Blame God.
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