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The Worst Call in NHL History

Michael Wickson (2L)

I’m not a bitter person. I’m really not. I also have all the time in the world for sports officials. However, the failure to call goaltender interference after Ryan Kesler grabbed Cam Talbot’s pad to create an opening to score the tying goal with 15 seconds remaining on May 5, 2017 was unforgivable. The Oilers were ahead 3-2 with Anaheim applying excruciating pressure in the dying seconds of game five. It was intense. There was a pile up in the crease followed by a heart-wrenching goal. Then came the review. It was obvious to me. He grabbed his pad and opened his five hole manually. No way they’re going to allow a goal like that. That’s the definition of goaltender interference. But the review seemed rushed. The referee returned the headset rather quickly for such an important moment in the game. A moment that would decide whether the game would proceed to overtime or a face off would take place in the neutral zone with only a few seconds remaining, essentially ensuring a 3-2 series lead for the Oilers heading back to Edmonton for game six. The referee must have decided so quickly because he saw the blatant disregard for the rules and was going to disallow the goal. He didn’t need to see any more. It was obvious. Or so I thought. But no, he counted it. How could this be?

With all the modern technology to review the play and all the time in the world to make the right decision – which is, after all, the reason for video replay – the referee decides to count this goal. WTF. He must have focused on the proximity of the defender, Darnell Nurse, to Ryan Kesler rather than what was actually happening to the goaltender. Kesler was holding Talbot down while pulling his legs open. How could this not be goaltender interference? I was starting to get really riled up at this point.

My suspicion was all but verified by the commentators during the resulting intermission. To my disbelief, the four panel members declared that the play was definitely not goaltender interference and supported the call … at first. Eventually, the fourth member of the panel posed the question regarding the positioning of Kesler’s hand. There was a pause. They reviewed the play again, this time focusing on Kesler and Talbot rather than Kesler and Nurse as they should have done all along. There was another pause and a request to see the play again. Needless to say, within a few minutes there was a consensus that the play was goaltender interference followed by an uncomfortable silence as they all realized that the wrong call had been made on the ice. I felt vindicated, but was also quite livid. The referee should have taken the time to get the call right. I quickly declared this as the worst call in NHL history. My wife laughed at me. To convince her I tried to think of a call that measured up to the magnitude of this calamity, but I couldn’t think of one. There had to be something.

Relentless Google searches and countless YouTube videos were to no avail. There were some questionable calls, weird goals, and close plays, but nothing that compared to what I had just witnessed. Nothing that truly felt like the one side was getting completely hosed.

There was much talk about the Brett Hull goal in overtime back in 1999 that won the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars. This is often considered to be the worst call. It was game six of the finals in triple overtime. It could have gone either way. Brett Hull was on the doorstep, trying to jam the puck past Dominik Hasek when he scored the goal to win the Cup … but his toe was in the crease. His toe? Really? This may have been an unfortunate call for the Sabres to accept, but the rule was stupid and everybody knew it. It was modified the following year to prevent any more controversy of such trivial matters. There was no interference, just the innocent positioning of his left foot as he shot the puck into the net. I continued my quest.

I searched and searched. I was about to give up … but then there it was. The worst call in NHL history. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. It came against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 16, 1993. This overtime winner was absolutely ridiculous. While behind the net, Nelson Emerson of the Winnipeg Jets caught the puck out of mid-air, reached his arm around the post and threw the puck into the net. There was no crowd in front or pile up in the crease to obscure the referee’s view. Clear as day he grabbed the puck and threw it in the net. I’ve never seen anything like it. The audacity of a player to even try such a thing is quite remarkable. Despite a lengthy review the play was not overturned and the goal was allowed. This was definitely the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen and must be the worst call in NHL history. But since it was only the regular season, the magnitude of this debacle pales in comparison to the travesty that afflicted the Oilers back in May.

As such, based on my thorough analysis, I am ready to declare the non-call against the Edmonton Oilers to be the worst call in NHL playoff history … that I have ever seen … while watching the game live … with my wife. But like is said, I’m not bitter, I’m over it and a new season is upon us. Go Leafs!