Why We Dive

Ryan Kesler has taken some .giftastic heat for diving lately, given the barrel roll he executed after a mutual tie-up with Mike Richards in the playoffs. He’s not the only person to earn this reputation though: recently Brad Marchand and Every Other Canuck have recieved similar criticisms.

Fans are upset, because apparently diving has become the hockey equivalent of animal abuse (I’m going off Twitter comments here).

I’m not so sure it’s as awful as it’s been made out to be (the diving part, I mean), which is that it’s The World’s Most Amoral Thing.

I didn’t dive a lot when I played. That sentence, by the way, is a lot different than the sentence “I never took a dive as a player.” “Embellishment” (as diving is known in your head when you play), has to happen sometimes. There’s no tougher sport to referee on the planet than hockey, and as a player, you want to help the Zebras out. …Not out of goodwill, of course, but out of self-interest.

If you’re being held, you want your team to benefit (as you always do), and if you don’t go down it’s nearly impossible to get the call. How many times do we see a ref recognize a player being held, the player fight through it and stay on his skates, and the ref throw his arm in the air? Once a month? What’s the reward there?

There are two refs on the ice in the NHL, and 12 players. They can’t see everything, and the game happens fast. They aren’t morons; again, you simply can’t see everything around you.

So when you get fouled in a particularly egregious manner, work hard to stay upright, and have it missed, it’s annoying. Actually, it feels unfair. It’s really easy to convince yourself that, “Had I just gone down, that would have been called a penalty and we’d be on the powerplay.”

So the next time it happens…yeah.

Obstruction, in particular, is the worst. They get called roughly no-percent of the time, save for when they’re so blatant a guy is knocked to the ice, and most NHLers could stay standing on skates if a buffalo rammed them at full speed.

So….go to the ice.

I’m not saying it’s admirable. I’m not saying people should do it. I’m just saying that when the games are the most important to your team (playoffs), sometimes “the right thing” is to help your team win. Winning’s never hurt anyone’s paycheck.

So, it happens. I don’t think Kesler, Marchand or whoever are bad dudes. I just think they’re hockey players who want to win badly. It’s not whining or crying to do everything you can to help The Boys win. It actually takes a measure of focus to be that aware of the situation. It’s better than not giving a damn.

Guys are doing everything they can to earn that “W” - I don’t support it as a habit, but in playoffs, I understand why the topic is often at the forefront.

Comments (70)

  1. I completely agree with every damn thing you said in this post. I actually think that the way the NHL is reffed encourages diving, because so many refs have their own weird little calculus for what is going to be a penalty and when (“well, he punched that guy twice after only getting punched once a few minutes ago, and then that other guy sorta obstructed that guy but they already were on the PP so no call, and I made that goalie interference call in the first that in retrospect wasn’t great, but I’ve warned him twice already about doing that, so I guess this time I won’t call the hook, but next time he moves his stick above his waste I’m going call him”). Diving is, unfortunately, one of the easiest ways to cut through the bullshit calculus that refs insist on using, since it gives them a call that they kind of have to make.

    On a second note, I’m constantly impressed by the ability of so many people to vehemently insist that diving is primarily a Vancouver Canucks and a SIdney Crosby problem, not an NHL problem. Marchand dives three times in the same shift? Whatever, he’s fiesty. Ribeiro admits to diving? Ah, he’s a sportsman. Hudler? A competitor. Letang? Just trying to win. Kesler? God, that guy is the WORST. Crosby? SUCH a diver.
    You can’t watch 60 minutes of playoff hockey without seeing 2-3 obvious dives and embellishments. It’s not ideal, but I can’t say it really bothers me either. What bothers me is when a ref standing 3 feet away sees the dive, and instead of calling just the dive, or the trip AND the dive, he calls the trip. That sends the message to everyone on the ice: “I’m calling it tight tonight, and I’m kind of stupid too, so by all means, flop around and make it look good boys.”

    • And ya, you are completely right: when you stay on your feet and fight through a hook/trip/slash, it’s amazing how many refs quickly decide that it shouldn’t be a penalty because it obviously didn’t impede you that much. So the next time, you drop down to one knee but act like you’re trying not to. Boo ya, power play.

      • Yep. And as a player, you *want* to do things “the right way.” You want to be noble and all that bull. But you’d rather win, and powerplays help that. So if I’m not gonna get to a puck before their guy anyway and I’m being held, I’m getting snow on my socks.

  2. I think when it gets out of control or habitual is when people get frustrated. We know Kessler can skate, we see it all season long, but for some reason this time of year the slightest obstruction and he goes crashing to the ice. There’s a level of believability in an embellishment that he seems to be missing.

    That being said there are a number of players on the Coyotes that I wish would learn to fall down. They have the habit of fighting there way through obstruction to the point that sometimes they’re down on one knee and completely out of position. If you fall in that situation you draw a penalty and probably draw a scoring chance. They’re commitment to fighting through costs a scoring chance because by the time they’re through there’s no shot.

    There’s a fine balance in this league between knowing when to get hauled down, and trying out for the summer olympics. Kessler seems to cross it at this time of year pretty frequently.

    • I think Kesler just draws attention because he is not very good at embellishing the call. That dive was ridiculous.

      On the other hand, Dustin Brown did a fair amount of embellishing in that series two but it was much more subtle. One call comes to mind where someone had a stick up around his face, he snapped his head back as if he had been shot. Replays showed the stick didn’t even touch him.

      • From being in the Pacific I can say Brown is just obnoxious with his dives. I have literally seen him throw himself into the boards when someone touched him with a glove when they were both on their way to the bench. In fact, every time I see the website Down goes Brown I think of him.

        Players are not dumb … when was the last time you saw a diving call without a corresponding minor? So the worst that happens is you go 4v4. Other times you get on the pp.

  3. Referees can only do a couple things to warm my heart.

    One of them is when they call and unsportsmanlike penalty for diving. It’s not done much, only in the “I saw what he was doing and was going to call the penalty, stop trying to make me look like an ass” type cases.

    But, then again, I don’t think there is any type of serious diving problem in hockey. Does it happen? Sure, but I also think players are going to be cognizant that if they get the reputation of being a diver, they’re not going to get any borderline calls.

    • I think we’re already seeing that with Kesler, he had a couple bad dives in the LA series and the refs basically put their whistles away for him. He didn’t get called for diving but he definitely missed out on a few calls he should have gotten, and rightfully so. As a Canucks fan, I totally get that. If you want the refs to give you the benefit of the doubt, don’t give them an excuse to assume you probably just made it look good.

      • Kesler is kind of a convenient whipping boy too. He was bad in Game 1, but the several months preceding it? No worse than any other player.

        It’s reputation, and it’s hard to shake.

        Interesting post by Bourne. Diving bothers me, but at the same time, I understand it. When another player is committing a foul against you, you want them to pay for it.

        I’m conflicted about it.

        • “When another player is committing a foul against you, you want them to pay for it”

          I think that’s about as simple and accurate as you can say it, Nat.

  4. Incredible post. At the same time, what is infinitely more frustrating than the embellishment is the true dive. When no infraction is even being committed but a player tries to dive so it looks like one was. For example when a player jerks their head back as if they received a high stick even when they did not.
    But embellishment can be frustrating too because really you never want a player to be caught up in those games with the refs, just worry about what they control.
    At the same time refs missing a call because someone doesn’t embellish is frustrating as hell too. And as everyone has learned this post season, hockey refs suck.

    So yea, in conclusion really enjoyed the counterpoint to all the anti-diving sentiment out there.

    • You’re so right, there is a world of difference between embellishment and a flat-out fabrication. It is absolutely disgusting seeing someone throw their head back and then finding out in the replay that they were literally never touched at all. That’s dirty pool.

      • Thats Dustin Brown … numerous times over the last two years I see him trying to fabricate calls out of thin air. Disgusting … especially from your captain.

  5. The real problem with diving is that if it gets to be like soccer, that would ruin the game. So I think that’s why we overreact to the amount that does go on.

    • And the fact that people focus on cases of it probably helps keep guys from thinking it’s a good thing to do, or something that should be done more often.

  6. The first time I really thought about this issue was in the early days of the Avalanche, when people first started calling Peter Forsberg “Floppa.” And the way I see it, the problem is that the NHL — or, really, referees in general — can’t decide if they want to punish based on acts, intent, or results, so they go with some weird mish-mash of the three.

    Just because Forsberg was a beast and could make it to the net with a defender draped over his back shouldn’t make the act of draping yourself over him any less illegal. Guys like Forsberg (or, in soccer, Messi) almost get punished for being able to make a play while being fouled, because refs want to see the foul result in some kind of missed opportunity or broken-up play before it’s worth calling. Refs shouldn’t have to do some kind of instant mental calculus based on how tough each dude is, how dirty/floppy each dude is, and what kind of skilled play the attacker might or might not have been able to pull off.

    But the rules are written to include results — hooking depends on whether you “restrain” your opponent, and holding on whether you “retard” his “progress.” You could fight through it, or you could make it absolutely clear to the ref that your progress is being retarded.

  7. Fans don’t like diving because we want to believe the NHL is much better than Soccer.

  8. I was always instructed to skate through checks, keep your feet moving when being held, and most importantly shut up and play hard… don’t talk to the refs. I don’t see how that should change based on the level you play at or the importance of the game.

    I would rather a team play hard, focus on finishing plays, and focus on finishing clean checks and scoring chances than flopping and mouthing off to the ref. If the other team needs to hold you to keep up, trip or hook you off the puck, or obstruct you to keep the puck off your stick to begin with… you are beating them and the ref should notice this and call the game accordingly. Very rarely do you see a game won or lost because the slow lazy team got all the calls and dived and bitched better (Vancouver came close in a few instances during last years playoffs, however they were not a bad team by any stretch and ultimately lost to a team who shut up and played harder and more physical than them)

    A lot of people captured the correct sentiment when they made soccer refrences. That is bang on accurate. Do we want a game which is synonymous with toughness to turn in to an acting competition? Should we be expecting NHL teams to have Gordon Bombay Mighty Ducks practices where your team is inferior talent wise so you teach them how to sell calls to the refs? Point is, if you are the best team and you play hard, you can leave the diving for the lazy second tier teams that need to dive to win… like Vancouver!

  9. That’s a great point of view. I have that issue a lot in rec league, getting hooked, slashed, tripped, etc but staying on feet to make the play with no call.

    Going down a little easy is one thing, but it’s another to whip the head back or somersault across the ice. The Kesler gif dive was embarrassing. As is watching Burrows anytime anyone gets near him.

  10. I don’t agree. Play like a man, the hockey gods will even it out in the end (See last year’s Final).

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