NHL Rule 46.7:

Fighting After the Original Altercation – A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player who is assessed a major penalty for fighting after the original altercation has started.

Seems pretty clear, right? Well, yes, it is, unless you are an NHL referee. To be more specific, unless your name is Ian Walsh or Kelly Sutherland.

Keeping in mind the above rule, watch the video of the disgraceful start to the Ranger/Devil game last night. If you were these two officials, would you not think something was amiss when you see Stu Bickel lined up to take the opening draw? Would you not understand what is happening when, in one of the biggest games of the year, the likes of Ryan carter, Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton, Bickel, Brandon Prust, and Mike Rupp are out to start the game? Apparently not.

Apparently, we’d rather let hooliganism rule (insert comment here about the officiating in the Pens/Flyers game the day before). We’d rather let the two teams make a spectacle of themselves and give the sport yet another black eye. Oh, how this must appeal to the demographics the league seems determined to attract. But how do you stop it?

It’s very simple, really. You have referees who take control of the situation. You see who’s out on the ice and immediately warn both coaches that if there is more than one altercation, you will throw the participants in further altercations out of the game per Rule 47.6.

You see, there had to be a first altercation in this whole mess, even if it was only by tenths of a second. That means that four players should have been ejected from this game. Without looking closely at the replay, I can’t see who they should have been. They should have been gone, right then, right there. But as so often happens in this Garage League, the refs threw the rule book out the window, failed to take control of the situation, and gave the league yet another black eye. Some things just never change.