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Memorabilia Memories with Rick Ackerman

You might recognize the "Memorabilia Memories" (formerly "Lighting the Lamp") feature from the Game Time paper. Rick Ackerman has been nice enough to send over his column for the website. "Memorabilia Memories" will be featured every home game day.

signed copy of The Golden Jet (by Bob Verdi) with HOF puck signed by Bobby and Brett Hull. Yes, I put that picture of me and Bobby in the book.
signed copy of The Golden Jet (by Bob Verdi) with HOF puck signed by Bobby and Brett Hull. Yes, I put that picture of me and Bobby in the book.

Here we go again!

This will eventually become a column about how embarrassed I am to have a lot of Blackhawks' memorabilia and how, nonetheless, I am proud and happy to have these items in my collection. First, though, especially after suffering through Tuesday's loss to Winnipeg, I want to continue my appraisal (and condemnation) of officiating in the NHL that I started in the March 28th and 30th editions of Game Time. And yes, I know beating a dead horse is counter-productive, yet still feel  is worth sharing with my faithful readers.

The referees Tuesday were Steve Kozari, a 12 year NHL veteran who officiated in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals and head instructor at his referee school in Penticton, B.C., and Graham Skilliter, a four year veteran who also teaches at Kozari's school. Both are highly respected and experienced, yet nevertheless called one of the worst games I have ever endured in six decades now. It wasn't because the Jets had four power plays and the Blues only two, either. It had more to do with the missed calls and the uneven handling of calls  that helped give Winnipeg that slight overall edge needed to dominate the game, especially in the second period when  they out shot the Blues 17-8.

Actually, the first half of the game was pretty good as the referees let the boys play. Obvious penalties by both teams were ignored, which was fine. The Jets dominated the second period and scored early, not at all tired despite playing Monday night. The Blues battled back and appeared to score at 14:59, but instead Paul Stastny was called for slashing the stick out of Tyler Myers' hands and the goal disallowed. Why? Actually, Myers only had one hand on his stick, gripped loosely at the very end. As Steve Ott passed the puck into the middle of the ice, and as Stastny stick-checked Myers, lifting up as players have done since hockey was invented, Myers dropped his stick. How is that a slashing penalty? A slash is a downward motion after all. It was a simple hockey play, a player lifting an opponent's stick, not a slash at all.

If it makes Blues' fans feel any better, Nashville also had a goal disallowed early in the third period of a 2-2 tie at Colorado Tuesday. A questionable incidental contact penalty was called on Pred's forward Paul Gaustad to nullify Roman Josi's apparent go-ahead goal. The Avs went on to win the game, 3-2. And for those with Center Ice, these kinds of calls are being made in many games around the league. It isn't just Blues' fans who feel there is no true level playing field and the refs favor certain teams.

Around two minutes later, T.J. Oshie was assessed a double minor for high sticking Jets' defenseman Mark Stuart. Why? Oshie's stick never made contact with Stuart's head.

Kozari called something he didn't actually see. What mostly everyone else saw was two players attempt to check each other after a previous encounter seconds before in which Stuart and Oshie collided. As Stuart tried to hit Oshie again, T.J. reverse-checked him, his shoulder driving into Stuart's chest as they bumped heads. Kozari saw blood running from Stuart's nose and made the (wrong) call.

The same high sticking call was not made in the third period. Right off a face off in front of both referees, David Backes took a high stick. If they are calling the game fairly, the refs either don't call Oshie because they didn't see what happened, or they make the Backes call even if they didn't see it. How can any NHL referee have such a double standard? Nor was there an obvious tripping call when Jaden Schwartz went down, leading to a breakaway for the Jets which Jake Allen thankfully stopped. Of course, Schwartz was penalized earlier in the period for tripping Lee Stempniak.

And that's the problem: continuing major inconsistencies on the part of  veteran NHL referees who should know better (especially those who run referee schools). There are simply too many "phantom calls" made on one team that the other seems to get away with way too often. There are also way too many "reactive calls", in which a player jerks his head back after a good check, hoping the referee will react and call a high stick, even though there was none. And there are still too many incidents in which the rules are ignored (such as in Vancouver and Detroit as mentioned in previous columns) that affect the outcome of the game. Just ask the sell out crowd Tuesday that loudly and clearly insisted, "Ref, you suck!" Obviously, a referee should never completely ignore certain rules or determine the outcome of a game. Yet it happens with all too much frequency.

As promised, I do have a nice black replica Chicago jersey with "Pang 40" on the back, signed "Holy Jumpin!" by the Blues' television analyst. I will not wear it in public, though. I also have a beautifully crafted Stan Mikita McFarlane figure and a signed Denis Savard Blackhawks' puck. However, my pride and joy is Bobby Hull memorabilia, including a signed book, The Golden Jet, by Bob Verdi (pictured). I also have two signed McFarlane figures (one in a Jets uniform) and a couple of signed pucks, one a Hall of Fame puck also signed by son Brett (pictured). I will reluctantly admit Hull, Mikita and the Blackhawks are a part of NHL history and tradition and deserving to be in my collection.

At least I have no Red Wing jerseys or memorabilia.