In D-Camp, They Do It Differently (Penalty Shot Edition)

Posted July 13, 2012

Chandler Stephenson prepares to take his penalty shot. A member of Team Red prepares to chase him (Photo Credit: M. Richter)

In a traditional Development Camp scrimmage, when a player is assessed a minor penalty, the other team receives a penalty shot.  The reasoning behind it is simple – when the camp is about getting a look at everyone on the roster in a short timeframe, special teams are one of the first things to fall by the wayside.  It sounds straightforward, right?  That’s not what happened today.

This morning, with less than two minutes remaining in the scrimmage, tradition went out the window.  Not just d-camp scrimmage tradition, or Caps tradition, but hockey tradition in general.  First, Team Red was called for hooking – the first minor penalty to be assessed all game, and an unusual break with the habit of letting play flow uninterrupted as the clock winds down.  Still, if a call needs to be made, the ref shouldn’t be afraid to make it, so the gentleman in the arm bands gets a pass (in his defense, all officials at D-Camp games are volunteers.  They provide a service which we as fans appreciate, and increase the entertainment value of the scrimmages greatly).

This is where it gets weird.

The officials lined up first David Civitarese, and then changed their minds and instead summoned Chandler Stephenson.  He took his position at center ice, goalie Sergei Kostenko prepared to deflect the shot, and then things paused again.  Shuffle, reboot, and the other nine skaters on the ice were lined up on the blue line behind Stephenson – a setup similar to that used for a free throw in basketball.  They then gave the directive to “Chase him.”

Stephenson gets his shot off against Kostenko, as Max Iafrate attempts the impossible back check.

Finally satisfied, though with all spectators including those on the benches mystified, the whistle blew and Stephenson took his penalty shot, scoring on Kostenko and pushing the white team to a 4-1 victory.  Conveniently, his linemates were already at the goal line by the time he was ready to celebrate.

Speaking on a condition of anonymity, a source close to the referee for the game said that the penalty shot had initially been the result of a well-intentioned mistake.  In an effort to provide Team Red with a chance to balance the scoresheet (with tacit approval from the coaching staff), a legitimate penalty that would otherwise have been overlooked was assessed.  Unfortunately, the penalty was called near the wrong net, thus leading to the ensuing confusion.  No explanation was provided for the unique penalty shot setup itself, aside from a shrug and a hearty laugh.

It’s safe to say that regardless of referee intentions, tweaking the scoreboard in one direction or the other is not as easy as the conspiracy theorists claim.  It’s also important to keep in mind that all officials are human, and the occasional mishap is to be expected.

Now, granted – a traditional week at Caps D-Camp only contains three scrimmages, so perhaps there’s some mystical threshold of craziness that has now been passed.  If so, I eagerly await the goalie races tomorrow in lieu of OT or a shootout.

EDIT (Sunday, July 15): CO has since been contacted by a member of the officiating crew from the Friday scrimmage, who confirmed that the unusual penalty shot format was implemented at the request of the coaching staff.  Per another member of the officiating community, a similar setup was used a few years ago at D-Camp, and was then discarded.