So much for letting the game be decided on the field, or in this case the ice.
I had a chance to broadcast last Friday's WIAA hockey semifinal between Appleton United and Madison Edgewood. Edgewood earned a 3-2 victory before losing in Saturday's title game to Eau Claire Memorial.
Edgewood led 2-0 after two periods before Appleton scored twice in the third to tie it. What happened then is almost unbelievable.
One of the referee's sent Appleton's Matt Paape to the penalty box, calling a 10-minute misconduct penalty because Paape was wearing a necklace. What that means is the two teams continue to skate 5 on 5, but Appleton, which had gained the momentum in the contest, lost it when their leading scorer was benched for the next 10 minutes.
It's the dreaded jewelry rule. Back in my day as a baseball umpire, I hated this rule. You warned coaches and asked them to check with all of their players to make sure all of their jewelry was off, only to find a batter step to the plate with a necklace on a couple of innings later.
I'm going to confess something. I never kicked a player out of a game for catching him with jewelry on even after a warning. I simply had that player take it off, tried to scare the rest of the team with a subsequent ejection and never ran into another offender the remainder of that game.
In this case, this hockey official, and remember, it's the state semi-finals, decided a little preventive officiating just wasn't his way of doing business. Instead of telling the player to take it off the next time he's on the bench, he decided he was going to help decide this game by taking Appleton's top scorer and sideline him, because he had a necklace on.
I'll say this, I bet Matt Paape never forgets to remove his jewelry before a game again. So did this official prove his point? Does he feel good about what he did? Enforce the rules at all costs.
The WIAA will pat their man on the back and say good job. They'll say the referee did what he's paid to do and the blame needs to be placed on the player and the coaches.
Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around. But forget the WIAA , forget the rules, forget who should get the blame. Remember this is the State Tournament, tie game, 2-2 in the final minutes. Let the players decide the game. Find a way to make a point to the coach later.
Edgewood scored the game winning goal a couple of minutes after Paape was sidelined. Take nothing away from the Crusaders. They have a fine hockey team and may have won the game anyway.
Appleton coach Don Hearn told me that they didn't play well in the first two periods and a better effort early would have gone a long way into their coming out on top. I commend the coach for not making the necklace thing an excuse and I mean no disrespect to Madison Edgewood. They need not apologize for the win.
I would have felt the same way regardless of who was penalized for this act. The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime.
Am I trying to say rules are meant to be broken? Am I coming down on the wrong side of the law here? I don't know. I just don't like seeing games decided by officials. They should be decided by the players, on the field, and in this case, Appleton's top goal scorer wasn't around to see this one through, and that's a shame.