2011 NHL Playoffs: Possible Puck-Stealing Ref Removed From Playoffs

Not long ago, ESPN's Wayne Drehs wrote this long Outside The Lines article about the whereabouts of the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-winning puck from Game 6 last June against the Flyers.

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The intrigue involved some amateur video, the FBI and referee Steve Miller. A tentative conclusion was drawn that Miller might have taken the puck, though he denies it. Nothing has ever been proven and the puck is still missing.

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Today, the NHL announced that Miller, an 11-year veteran of NHL refereeing, has been temporarily removed from playoff assignments:

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Gary Meagher, the league's senior vice president for public relations, said Friday that the decision was made to temporarily remove Miller from the playoffs to avoid any potential distractions. Meagher said Miller is not suspended, and that the league stands behind him.↵

↵"There are lots of questions out there and to have any potential distraction while our playoffs are going on is not fair," Meagher said.
↵↵True enough, although the evidence presented by Drehs in the first article is pretty conclusive -- it does appear that Miller picked up something that looked like the puck out of the net after Kane's goal. However:↵↵
On Friday, Meagher said the league is looking into the matter.↵

↵"We'd love to find the answers but I don't know if we'll ever get the answers," he said. "We're asking the questions. We want to find out. But the bottom line is we just don't know. And Steve doesn't know.↵

↵"At the end of the day you either believe someone or you don't believe them. We've talked to [Steve] as a league and talked to various people and we stand behind him. He absolutely doesn't recall getting the puck or doing anything with the puck."
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If it does turn out that Miller took the puck, the league has a big problem. What is a bigger issue here is why the NHL doesn't have a specified procedure for retrieving Stanley Cup-winning goals, either to give to the winning team or display in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Of 15 Cup-winning overtime goals, only one was definitively retrieved, according to Drehs' first article. This doesn't happen in other sports.

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The NHL has to define rules and roles for this. Removing Miller is a good first step. They need to announce an official procedure for saving Cup-winning goals -- and they still have several weeks to get it done before this year's Cup is won.

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