The ECHL regular season is only about one-third of the way done -- and, granted, The Blog is only watching Alaska Aces home games, so it's not a huge sample size -- but it seems to us that interference, holding and hooking are creeping back into the game.
This doesn't seem to be happening in a blatant way, but some things we've regularly seen go unwhistled this season were usually penalties as recently as last season.
Classic example: The puck carrier approaches the offensive blue line, sees no chance of cleanly carrying the puck into the zone, so he dumps it and chases. The defenseman playing the puck carrier gets in the offensive player's path -- not blatantly, and not for long, but he kinda chips the offensive player, just enough to cause him to shed speed or balance, which gives the other defenseman, or a back-checking forward, the jump on recovering the dumped puck. A year ago, this was probably an interference call. Three years ago, it was almost certainly an interference call. This year -- doesn't seem like it gets called.
Another classic example: The puck carrier is trying to get around an opponent and veer to the net. The opponent places his stick on the body of the puck carrier, the stick parallel to the ice. A year or two ago, this was hooking. This season, we've hardly seen it called as such. This season, the guy taking the parallel stick to the body is Aces center Nate Thompson -- he seems like he gets hooked a ton, but doesn't draw that many penalties.
Also, used to be that grabbing an opponent with your free hand (the one not on your stick, so usually the right hand for a right-handed shooter and vice-versa for a lefty ) was an automatic holding call. Now it gets called sometimes, but is allowed plenty of other time.
Hey, look, The Blog ain't a homer. The Aces are getting away with plenty of these examples too. That's the nature of players -- they push boundaries to test where the line is drawn by the referee. Seems to us, the line has moved.
Now, some folks are probably cool with that -- these are people from the "Let 'em play'' school. Go back and watch an NHL game from the 90s or early 2000s sometimes -- honestly, you can pretty much interfere, hook and hold all night and hardly get busted for it. Hell, in some of those games, you could practically kidnap an opponent and get away with it.
The Blog prefers a game more dictated by speed and skill, which seemed to be more the case in the last few seasons.
Of course, maybe The Blog is over-reacting -- hell, that's always a possibility.
What do you think?