The referees waved off a penalty against the New York Islanders’ Mat Barzal after Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar admitted that he simply fell down on the play.
Late in the first period of Monday’s game, Makar skated the puck behind the net in the defensive end. With Barzal pressuring from behind, Makar went down, losing the puck.
Referee Brandon Blandina’s arm shot up for the delayed penalty call. So did Makar’s, waving off the official.
The whistle sounded to stop play once the Islanders touched the puck. That’s when Makar went over and explained the situation to the official.
“There is no penalty on the play,” announced Blandina.
The referee, in his fifth NHL season – his first as a full-time National Hockey League referee – likely appreciated the assist in getting the call right.
“I saved the ref from some media attention tonight, that’s for sure,” joked Makar.
The Colorado blueliner explained the play after the game.
“The ref who called it wasn’t the guy at center ice,” said Makar. “He was kind of behind the net, on the far side. I don’t think he had a good angle on [the penalty]; he just saw me fall. I would like to think that most times I fall it’s usually because somebody trips me. That one, I just lost an edge.”
The Islanders center wasn’t quite sure what exactly happened on the play, only that he was happy to avoid a trip to the penalty box.
“I honestly didn’t even know he waved it off until I saw it after,” Barzal said. “I thought the ref just made the call… Obviously good sportsmanship on his part. I don’t know if I would have done the same, to be honest with you.”
New York Islanders coach Lane Lambert praised the opposing blueliner after the game.
“[Makar’s] just an honest player who wants to beat you fair and square,” said Lambert.
Avs’ bench boss Jared Bednar echoed those comments.
“I mean it just kind of shows you who Cale is,” said Bednar. “He didn’t think that they deserved a penalty, that he slipped, and you know I don’t know the whole interaction but… typical Cale.”
“He wants the game to be played fair, and he wants to win fairly,” Bednar added. “It doesn’t surprise me.”
Makar’s honesty – while admirable – cost his team a critical power play opportunity in a scoreless game.
“I felt pretty guilty for the boys there,” Makar admitted. “I felt a lot more guilty about doing that than probably if I would’ve said nothing. I apologize to my teammates. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll do again.”
Dave Jackson, former NHL referee and current ESPN rules analyst, told The Athletic that he’d never seen anything like it.
“I’ve never seen a player wave off a power play and the ref actually listen without having a lengthy discussion with the other three,” Jackson told The Athletic’s Peter Baugh.
It’s been a while, but it has happened before.
Last season, Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin declined a penalty against the Vegas Golden Knights, with refs T.J. Luxmore and Frederick L’Ecuyer wiping the penalty off the board.
In one of the most unbelievable events of the year, Alex Ovechkin has DECLINED a power play for the Caps. 😳 pic.twitter.com/qzntuh1AWw
— Kyle Cannillo (@KyleCannillo) April 21, 2022
Three years ago, Philadelphia Flyers winger Jake Voracek drew a high-sticking penalty — only to fess up to the refs that the high stick from New Jersey’s Damon Severson never actually hit him.
It’s always nice ice to see some good sportsmanship in the National Hockey League. Also, great to see the players help the refs make the right call.
“Makar is an honest hockey player,” added Jackson. “That’ll go a long way in the eyes of officials, respect-wise.”
Makar has drawn 11 penalties this season. He’s also been whistled for 10. Toss out those minor penalties, though, when it comes to voting for the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player. It doesn’t get better than this when it comes to sportsmanship. Makar only received two votes for the Lady Byng last year; he should’ve earned quite a few more on Monday night.
Here’s hoping Makar gets some good karma coming his way after that one. At least the hockey gods didn’t hold it against him, as the Avs were able to pick up the two points.
Colorado won the game 1-0 in a shootout. Referees were Brandon Blandina (#39) and Marc Joannette (#25), with linesmen Andrew Smith (#51) and Jesse Marquis (#86).