In the 2009 Stanley Cup finals between Pittsburgh and Detroit, the penalty box had about the same occupancy rate as the Bates Motel. When quizzed about the laissez-faire officiating—the finals' 5.3 power plays a game trailed the 8.3 in the regular season—a smiling league executive said, "Two skilled teams." Sure. "I can go back to every game [in the finals] and find penalties that would have been called in the season," Wings forward Dan Cleary says. "But once we figured it out, we liked it. It was called [evenly] for both sides. I was being obviously held on one play, but the ref said, 'Cleary, fight through it.'"
While it was only seven games, it was the highest-profile series in years and the abrupt change in officiating—Bill McCreary (above, with Sid Crosby) was among four refs who worked the finals—left coaches and players wondering if the no-tolerance, antiobstruction "standard" the NHL has applied since the 2004--05 lockout will return, or if the finals' turn-a-blind-eye approach will carry into '09--10. "We want to track [the way] we have been since we introduced the new standard," NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell says. "We are going to maintain the standard we did over 1,230 games last season ... and the playoffs." If you say so.
HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES (MCCREARY)