The Birth Of Embellishment In The NHL

Bruce Bennett

Much has been written about the scourge of embellishment and diving in the NHL. The league has implemented a name and shame approach and referees will often frustratingly punish both players when really they should be focusing on the diver. But where does this vile movement come from?

May 27, 1993 is a date that lives in infamy in the lore of the Toronto Maple Leafs long history. Much and more has been written about the devastating turn of events that saw the supposed paragon of Canadian sporting virtue Wayne Gretzky become a villain as he escaped his proper punishment only to score the overtime winner to send the Western Conference Final (I know, Western. It makes no sense) back to Toronto for a seventh game.

But what if the accepted history that Kerry Fraser is a bumbling buffoon whose career features dozens of such moments of painful ineptitude is wrong? What if the world has just been waiting for hockey's Howard Zinn to present the true history of that moment in time? What if... Gretzky's goal was itself, justice? The Toronto Sports Network and its attendant media machine has a stake in promoting the accepted history as they seek to lure the league's largest and most passionate fanbase to their retrospectives but what if someone that wasn't beholden to them was free to speak the truth? What if... I was that man?!

First, let's revisit the moment in question:

The classic hallmarks of the scourge of embellishment are all there. First, it's not even clear that Gretzky's stick even makes contact with Gilmour's face. Certainly a referee with Kerry Fraser's long tenure and experience would have been able to see if it had when his line of sight was obviously unobstructed. Not to mention that neither of his linesmen saw it so right away you have to wonder if maybe three professionals would all make a mistake at the same time.

Then, there's the issue of how slowly Gilmour falls. That's become a hallmark of these kinds of incidents as it is hard to properly simulate a realistic reaction to being clubbed in the face. And let's be honest, how do we know that the blood on Gilmour's chin came from Gretzky's stick? Was the stick examined by David Caruso? I doubt it. It could have just as easily been a result of Gilmour hitting his chin on the ice as part of his circus routine or perhaps something more sinister such as a hidden razor blade.

Whatever you think about how Gilmour came to try his deception, the good news for Habs fans is that the deception worked and the hockey gods punished the Leafs by having Gretzky win game seven almost singlehandedly before using Marty McSorley as their tool to deliver the Stanley Cup that was destined for Toronto in the year of the Cup's centennial to their most hated rival Montreal instead. A heavy price to pay but I think we can all agree that Gilmour's embellishment has led to the spreading stain on the NHL, once the pinnacle of honest sportsmanship among professional sports. I mean, just look at how it has spread.

Note: You guys just got owned but it was for charity. Thanks for your support and bad luck tonight. Go Leafs Go!

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