Pronger being called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
During the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, with the New York Rangers on a 5-on-3 power play against the New Jersey Devils in the second period of a Game 3 tied game, Rangers pest Sean Avery parked himself as a screen, facing Devils goalie Martin Brodeur only to begin moving his arms back and forth.
Later in his shift, Avery would score a goal to put the Rangers up 2-1, however his antics led to the league implementing a rule change which was an interpretation of Rule 75, better known as the "Sean Avery" rule.
Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell released the following statement:
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender’s face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."During the overtime portion of the Flames' 4-3 shootout win over Philadelphia in a Black Friday matinee, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct that took away what should have been the game-winning goal scored by Mike Richards.
With Calgary's Mark Giordano in the sin bin for holding the stick, Pronger was positioned in front the net with his back turned to from Flames goalkeeper Miikka Kiprusoff as the orange and black set the power play up. Pronger took his hand of his stick to call for a shot, which moments later, Richards fired the puck into the cage.
But Don Vanmassenhoven immediately waived the goal off for reasons beyond everyone at the Wells Fargo Center.
Richards didn’t think Pronger was doing anything to attempt to further screen Kiprusoff, instead he said that Pronger was calling for the puck.
"I saw Prongs call for the puck. I knew he wanted it," Richards said after the game. "As I was walking up, he made the motion that he was by himself, which he was, and it was more of a shot for his stick. I just tried to float it in there. He missed it, and then it went in."
When Pronger was asked after the game by reporters what happened, he said:
"The puck went into the net and that [wave] was five seconds before the puck went into the net. I wasn’t turned around at him, waving in his face. I was right here, put my arm out and put my arm back on my stick and the puck went into the net."
Not to mention, seconds before the puck going into the net, Kipper had a good slash to Pronger's leg, which was not a penalty to Vanmassenhoven. That's some food for thought.
The biggest beef with the call was that it was whistled late rather than when the act actually took place. In other words, because the Flyers scored, the refs decided to waive off the goal and send Pronger to the penalty box. The result of the play was the reason for the call.
Had the Flyers not have scored on the shot, would Vanmassenhoven called Pronger for unsportsmanlike conduct? More likely, no, but the act alone was not enough to warrant a penalty.
"I know why there is a rule that got put in place for that," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said, "but Chris Pronger is looking out at the shot, like it was going to be called or should have been called right away and not three or four seconds afterwards. If you’re going to call that, then I guess call it right away."
Let's go back to the statement released after the Avery incident a couple years, Campbell directly said "when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender." Pronger wasn't facing Kiprusoff when the penalty was called, therefore a bad interpretation of Rule 75 by Vanmassenhoven.
If the interpretation of the rule says that "an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender," shouldn’t it be legal for an offensive player to position himself with his back turned to the opposition goaltender like Pronger was?
You should not be able to call a penalty on Pronger for the "Sean Avery" rule when the rule is set in stone that a player has to be facing the goalie, when Pronger was not. Just look at what happened when the Avery debacle occurred. The officials couldn’t call anything on Avery because he wasn’t doing anything against the rules.
Neither was Pronger.
By rule, a player can position himself in front of the goalie with his back turned away from the net. If it’s not written in stone, then you can’t call it.
Here's where it gets fishy: the "Sean Avery" rule is not actually listed as a part of Rule 75. What we're going on is strictly Campbell's interpretation of the rule in 2008, have things changed since then that we don't know about?
Vanmassenhoven declined to comment after the game, which Pronger responded to reporters when asked:
"Because they know they screwed up, that’s why."