During the Colorado Avalanche–New York Islanders game last night in the first period, Avalanche star defenseman Cale Makar had the puck behind his team’s net while being pursued by Islanders forward Mathew Barzal. Makar fell, and looked like that Barzal tripped Makar, so a penalty was called, which would give Colorado a one-player advantage. But when the referee blew his whistle, Makar waved at him to indicate it wasn’t a penalty after all. After briefly conferring the referees retracted the penalty.
This literally never happens in hockey, nor basketball, nor pro football, not Major League Baseball. A player telling a referee or umpire that a call benefiting his team was wrong? That’s not how the professional sports roll. The assumption is that eventually the bad calls even out. If you don’t accept gifts, your team will suffer in the long run.
Barzal’s reaction: “I honestly didn’t even know he waved it off until I saw it after. I thought the ref just made the call but, yeah, good sportsmanship on his part, not taking that. I don’t know if I would have done the same, to be honest with you.”
I know. He would not have done the same. Almost no one would. After the game, Cale Makar himself said he wouldn’t do it again. “I just felt like it was a really obvious one. The ref that called it wasn’t the guy at center ice, he was kind of behind the net on the far side, so I don’t think he had a good angle on it, he just saw me fall. I mean, I like to think that most times I fall it’s usually because someone trips me, but that one, I just lost an edge. I felt pretty guilty for the boys [that is, his team] there, so I apologized to them,” Makar said.
Islanders coach Lane Lambert, trying to keep a straight face, said, “Just an honest player who wants to beat you fair and square.” Yeah, right. Like you’ll be telling your players to do the same.
On the other side of the ice, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he wasn’t mad about his star’s conscience attack. He’s lying too. The reason it wasn’t “a big deal” in Bednar’s words is that regular season games are virtually meaningless in the NHL. It also helped that the Avalanche won the game anyway: moral luck saves the day once again.
It is also worth noting that Makar is a star, and the King’s Pass, aka “The Star Syndrome” (Rationalization #11) was undoubtedly a factor. If a second stringer had declined a penalty like that, he’d be on the first plane to somewhere in the American Hockey League.