- The NHL find Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien $10,000 for criticizing a referee.
- A Boston Bruins player, meanwhile, was fined $5,000 for striking Habs player Brendan Gallagher in the throat.
- The situation has Habs fans furious.
The Montreal Canadiens and their fans had some choice words for the referees after an embarrassing 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Blaming the refs for calling a bad game is to be expected in the NHL and the league usually takes this criticism in stride. However, the NHL set a new precedent by fining Habs head coach Claude Julien $10,000 for criticizing the officiating team in a post-game press conference.
In classic fashion, Habs fans are sharpening their pitchforks and prepared to march on the NHL's Toronto head office. But before you do, it's important to understand the context of Julien's $10,000 fine.
Julien and his team criticized the refs for what was, in their opinion, a badly called match. In Saturday's game, the Habs held a comfortable 3-0 lead against the Stars. The wheels fell — no, exploded — off the truck as the Habs gave up four unanswered goals.
While they have no one to blame but themselves, the referees didn't help the Habs' cause after missing four important Dallas penalties, according to Julien.
Needless to say, Habs fans are furious, and in their fury, have done everything from voicing their displeasure with the NHL's PR Twitter (665 comments and counting) and even starting a GoFundMe page for the kindly coach.
This time, their ire is directed at the NHL and its handling of the Claude Julien situation.
Many Habs fans rightfully pointed out that only a few days prior to the refereeing incident, 6'10'' Boston Bruins player Zdeno Chara cross-checked a 5'8'' Brendan Gallagher in the throat and only received a $5,000 fine.
Short of reigniting the long-held rivalry between the Bruins and the Canadiens, the NHL's reactions to the incidents is an indictment of how the NHL views player safety compared to team-referee relations, say some fans.
Fines for NHL coaches who make perhaps questionable comments to refs either during or post-game are a common occurrence.
Since 2009, NHL coaches have been fined tens of thousands of dollars. While that may not seem like much for an NHL coach, (Julien is set to make $5 million this season) the concept of fining a coach for saying mean things to refs opens up an uncomfortable conversation about the working relationships between NHL teams and referees.
If the NHL is so quick to protect its referees, why doesn't it give that same level of oversight to player infractions that might cause severe injuries?
And if coaches get fined every time they comment on a referee's job, how will coaches ever trust the NHL to be fair and balanced?
The same referee that Julien criticized during his post-game press conference told Habs player Brendan Gallagher to "go f*ck yourself," which was audibly caught on national television.
The referee, Dean Morton, received no fine or repercussions for this outburst, however.
Julien didn't personally attack the referee on national television, but will still pay $10,000 out of pocket.
We might never have answers to these questions, but in the eyes of many fans, it's time for the NHL to reevaluate its priorities when dealing with these situations.