The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Melnyk Speaks: Mac, NHL Discipline, Word ‘Forensic’


After the rousing events that took place in the waning minutes of game three of Ottawa’s ECQF versus Montreal, it’s no shocking development to see Eugene Melnyk make another appearance on the Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports.

Below is a transcript of what was said, and if you want to listen to the interview in full you can do so here.

As always, my thoughts will in bold.

On being happy with the performance of the Senators thus far…

“Well, I think they’re back in form. We’ve got almost everybody back and they’re showing their stuff. And I think, listen, the results are speaking for themselves.”

Good answer.

On the his reaction to seeing the line brawl during game three…

“Let me tell you something, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen something like that. To me, it’s just something to stand back and go, ‘Oh my god, I’m seeing history here,’ because after the fighting was all over, and all of the penalties and all the penalties and ejections throughout the game, you’ve got five guys sitting there. You know, you’re playing two lines and there’s like nine minutes…there was a lot of time left. And we ended up having to play Alfredsson on defence and what was next? But, that was more of my attitude that it is what it is. There was nothing serious. I didn’t see any big, big hits or any big, big slams during the fighting. There was a lot of fisticuffs, but there wasn’t anything that anybody should get too excited about. To me, it was something I had not seen in a long time.”

I had a similar feeling watching it, for what is in the moment one of the greatest home wins in Senators playoff history, the game had a real anticlimatic feeling in the latter half of the third. Pageau getting the hatty was a very necessary capper.

On Gryba getting disciplined for his hit but the Habs players not facing similar discipline for their treatment of Cory Conacher…

“Well, you know what? These days, I’ve talked to Bryan (Murray) about this way back. Is it we’re March people or is it throughout the whole league? At the end of the day, it kind of evens itself out. This game is getting way too fast for a lot people and to try and keep track of. I hope some things that change in the game that I’ve been proposing for a long, long time and one of them is a coach’s objection; especially when you start getting the kind of fan base that the NHL has been able to produce for us. And it’s growing and it’s growing and you’ve got 20,000 people in the stands. You’ve got millions of people watching on tv, but (the game’s) just so fast and there are so many different angles… you just can’t keep track of everything that is going on. These officials are doing everything they can and (we put) four out there and you either have to have some kind of a mechanism that says, ‘Wait a minute, everybody saw this but we’ve got to do something.” And there are so many ways that you could fix this. Listen, if the NFL can fix it, we can fix it and I think we will.”

He doesn’t get into it specifically, but how the hell are game misconduct penalties not reviewable? Considering the context of a playoff game and the impact that a 5-minute major penalty, not to mention the consequences of losing a player for the rest of the game, can create, the league and its referees should be able to get it right. Let them get on the phone to the war room in Toronto and let them come up with some kind of solution that gives them a better opportunity to do more than just punish the result because Lars Eller was bleeding more than a wounded soldier in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

On being diplomatic…

“Well, you know why. You know what kind of trouble that you get me into all the time? Every time I call in… I know, I’m the one who does it to myself.”

At least he’s cognizant of it. 

On telling the audience what he really thinks…

“A-ha! I smell a challenge. A-ha! A-ha! I know where you’re going with this. You want me to get riled up, so I do say something. Let me tell you what I think. Alright, the bottom line is that you’ve got, first of all, you’ve a game that changes all of the time. It’s not black and white; that’s the problem. And it will never be black and white because as soon it gets into grey, that’s where everybody wants it to be – where it’s a tough call. And that’s why you have the inconsistencies that you do and that won’t get me into trouble, because it’s true. From official to official, coast to coast, conference to conference, game to game, you will have inconsistencies but that’s natural for a game of this speed. You can’t possibly say it’s going to be black and white. You can to about 75-percent of the penalties, but to 25-percent, you simply can’t. And you never will unless you have a coach’s challenge and then you’ve got a guy up there…. And they’ve done it in many, many sports. They’ve done it in the stuffiest sports in the world. Think of cricket. Cricket! It’s probably the stodgiest sport that you’ve ever, ever gone to… and I’m a big fan. And they finally said, ‘You know what, we can’t see the ball going fast enough’ because the ball is travelling at 140 miles per hour. They have something called the third umpire and it is an electronic… Look at what they did at Wimbledon. Wimbledon of all places! Wimbledon!”

Whenever Eugene gets excited, he says things three times. He must have been a fan of the movie Beetlejuice. And while Cricket ain’t exactly mainstream in Canada it’s a more relatable anecdote than his African cage fighting to he death take from a previous PTS appearance. Also, bonus point for use of “stodgiest”.

On using replay to discern intent and determining the calls on hits like Gryba’s…

“Yeah, see that’s where the grey comes in. And that’s where you go into intent and then into history and then you go, ‘Well wait a minute, who is at fault here?’ There are certain plays where there’s no question. Some of these plays that you see, they’re taught at hockey schools. We teach these kids at hockey schools. I ran junior teams and all of a sudden (these plays) become suspensions. It is what it is and we’ve got to live with it. And there’s only one way of fixing it, well, that’s one of the ways of fixing it. I don’t think there is any malicious stuff here, it’s simply (the game) is too fast; quick decisions; you have got television running. Don’t forget about that. These (refs) are under the gun. They don’t have all the time to sit around and chit chat and have a coffee. These guys have got to call it right there. Television is running. Everybody is watching. Make a decision, you’ve got five seconds. Yes, no, no maybes. That’s it. I tell you, it’s a high pressure job.”

This Melnyk waxing poetic on shades of grey in the game is unfamiliar to me.

On whether making no call on a play is the default call to make for referees…

“I tell you what, then you’ve got to go back to my concept and that is the coach’s objection. Throw the bag onto the ice and by the way, it won’t be abused because it’s very simple. You get one a game, that’s it! But, you can do as many as you want. But, the second one becomes a penalty shot (if you’re wrong on the call), and if you blow the second one, the third one becomes a goal. Something like that. You make it very difficult and (the coach) better be right.”

Yeesh. I’m not a huge fan of this concept. Just make major penalties reviewable and that’s a good enough first step for me.

On the coach becoming the funniest guy in the NHL and how he’s handled some of things that have been said?

“You know what? What’s wrong with some of these people? You know what, the guy has got a sense of humour. He’s an Easterner. He knows how to take it on the chin and he honestly doesn’t care. It may bother him, but for sure he’s not going to show it. You know what? The greatest pleasure he has is — I bet you he doesn’t care if you call him Bambi — but if he wins the game, he wins the game. And you know what? That’s all he has to do and he’s happy. He wins 6-1 and he walks away and says, ‘Call me whatever you want.’ But guess who’s walking away here (with the win).”

Leave the name calling to les Canadiens. 

On defending MacLean’s decision to call a timeout with 17 seconds left in a 6-1 win…

“I’ll tell you exactly why it happened because I was… well, okay, it’s not because of me, I’m not going to take credit for it. But, I remember we were playing in a game two or three months ago and we were playing in a game two or three months ago and we were up 4-1 with about 9 minutes left or something and I said, ‘Oh, dammit, the whole game swung the wrong way.’ We were getting swamped by somebody…. I think it was Pittsburgh actually. I said, ‘Geez, just call a timeout. Everybody chill. Just take a minute.’ They score, 4-2. Next thing, it’s 4-3. Pull the goalie, it’s 4-all. We lose the game 5-4. No timeout. No timeout. The way it was explained to me, they said, ‘Look, in the heat of battle, one guy is yelling. The other guy is yelling. Everybody is yelling. This guy is thinking of lines. He is thinking of lining up people. He is busy.’ What happened there is, I think, I don’t know what he said because I haven’t spoken to him about it, this is my guess and it was a smart thing to do. You know what, I bet you he took those guys aside and said, ‘You know what? The game is over. It’s all over. All I want you to do is dump the puck and skate away. If the guy wants to fight you, skate away. Don’t you dare get into anything else, the game is over.’ And that’s why he did it and if that was his rationale, it was the smartest move he did. Because you know what? We had a couple of good players still out there. We still had some good players. And it’s nothing to take a swing with 17 seconds left at an Alfredsson or a Karlsson or somebody and the next thing you know… it’s just 17 seconds.

“That was my immediate reaction, and that is, just tell these guys, ‘You’re not a sissy, run. Run! Run! Don’t let these guys get you into anything and they were smart.”

A calculated and defensible move that subtlety messes with the Montreal coaching staff and players. You’ll also notice coming out of the timeout the Senators did actually line up for the draw like they were receiving a kickoff, there were some tactics here beyond the psychological.

On being prepared to let go of the Karlsson/Cooke incident…

“How much money do you got? I need a suitcase with about a hundred g’s and then I can talk all I want. In all seriousness, look, I think there was a misconception. I used a stupid word; that was the problem and all of a sudden, that became the big joke. Because it was not a joke. I used the word forensic. It’s not forensic. I just don’t know what was on my mind when I was thinking forensic. It was simply to get to the bottom of certain things. And I’ll do anything, like any owner would do, to protect our players. This is not a witch hunt of any sort. There’s things that we can do for the game. I come from a background of clinical studies. That is my business. I’ve been doing it for over 25-30 years and whether it’s the proper socks, whatever it takes, what could have happened differently? And what did happen because there’s a conflict of what did happen? So rather than comment on it now, I’m going to wait until after the season. I don’t want to distract anybody and we’ll release the information that we have. I take this very seriously and it’s not meant to do anything other than potentially help other players, other teams, so (history) doesn’t repeat itself. I just used a stupid word but I think it’s a lot of fun because it’s got me… the word forensic, all of a sudden it’s CSI Ottawa. I bet in Ottawa, CSI Ottawa skyrocketed in its ratings.”

It’s a weird about-face by Melnyk. In going back to his last interview on PTS, he indicated that he was going to prove whether the Cooke/Karlsson incident was intentional.

“You know what? I’m going to prove whether it was intentional or not.”

On how he’s going to do that…

“You watch. It may be public. It may not be public, but it’s between me and the league. I think it was intentional, but you have to be able to prove it. From all the television angles that we saw, you can’t see it. It was so fast. But the force that that skate had to go in to go through a sock, a sock, a sub-sock, then your skin, muscle, sheath and then to get to your tendon… man, either this guy is really good or very lucky at being able to do that.”

On whether Melnyk has or is putting together a case against Matt Cooke…

“I am putting it together.”

On being finished with his investigations…

“No, I’m telling you, this takes time. You’ve got review boards. This is a pretty substantial study but it’s much broader than you think. You’ll be surprised with the integrity of it and how interesting it is. And these guys, these buttheads that sit there and think this is a joke, it’s not. It’s serious stuff and you know, I remember when a lot of new equipment started coming in, people were laughing at it and saying ‘What are you doing this for?’ And all of a sudden, it becomes mandatory to wear helmets. I lived in a world where I grew up without masks for goalies. There are certain things that you can do to avoid that kind of injury and you just need to get to the bottom of it and of what is the best way of going about it. You know, I’m around for a long time in this game and I want to make sure that players especially, guys that I sign up for a lot of money, don’t get hurt recklessly and they can avoid these kinds of injuries – whether they are accidental or otherwise.”

Now it just sounds like this study is being done as a mechanism to help improve the health and safety of its players. I wonder if this means Cooke’s intentions could not be proven and now this change reflects an owner who is trying to save some face. Or maybe not. Who knows? Hopefully this study sees the light of day and the public can learn more about its findings.

On using PTS as a platform to present his analysis…

“If I can. And I’ll tell you what, this is not meant for a big or any kind of publicity stunt or anything like this. I’m presenting this to the league and I’ve committed to do that and I’ll let them decide whether they want to release it or not.”

So much for those hopes that it will be released.