When he's not shooting garbage at other players, being portrayed as a Tarzan-looking Jane, stealing pucks or trying to, Pronger can be found making life miserable for guys like Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flyers defenceman is once again at the centre of a controversial moment on the ice - this time it revolves around a disallowed goal in Philly's 3-2 shootout loss to the Flames on Friday afternoon.
With just over 1:30 to go in overtime and about 1:20 remaining in a Philly power play, Mike Richards picks up the puck in the corner and skates towards the blue line, before cutting to the middle and flipping a shot towards the net that gets past a screened Kiprusoff. Therein lies the problem, said the ref, who immediately points and Pronger and invokes the "Sean Avery" interpretation of Rule 75, waving off the goal.
Rule 75 is the "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" section of the referees handbook and the "Sean Avery" interpretation to that rule famously came into effect after the controversial forward's creative screening methods caused a stir back in 2008.
While it doesn't seem to appear anywhere in the actual rules, here is the NHL's (apparently implied) amendment to #75:
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
Now that we've got that out of the way, lets take a look at what actually happened between Prongs and Kipper:
Alright, so first off, it's clear that Pronger didn't ever turn and face Kiprusoff. Secondly, I'm not quite sure that sticking his left hand out for half a second constitutes "waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face." The third point I'd like to make is that Kiprusoff's (unpunished) slash to the back of Pronger's leg probably did just as much to throw him off kilter or "distract" him as the hand in front of his face.
Here's what really irks me about this situation though: Not only is the "interpretation" seemingly absent from the official rulebook (or very well hidden), the argument from some is that this falls under the "spirit" of the rule. I guess that's what you say when the wording of a rule doesn't support your position!
After the game Pronger had a bit of fun with reporters when they told him that the refs refused to speak with the media (via Philly.com):
"[That's] because they know they screwed up...It's infuriating that it should have been two points instead of one. I'm not going to get into a he said/she said with the refs. And I'm the he."
While I don't buy the team's claims that Pronger was motioning to his captain to put the puck on goal, I definitely disagree with the call. Here's what it says to me: A player isn't allowed to use his hands while he attempts to block the goalie from seeing the puck, even if he isn't in the crease or facing the net, but a goalie is allowed to chop a player in the back of the legs in plain view of the referee.
Ask a guy like Tomas Holmstrom if he thinks the goalies give it as good as they get it!