Imagine if Ángel Di María didn’t accept the penalty kick offered to Argentina in the World Cup Final on Sunday, just because he felt bad about extending his right leg at the edge of the box to draw contact. Or imagine if CU football coaches pointed out to the referees in 1990 that they were wrong: It was fifth down, not fourth.
Those examples — one international, one local — are admittedly hyperbolic. There championships stakes. Cale Makar probably wouldn’t have done what he did Monday night if it was the Stanley Cup Final. Still, that doesn’t take away from how unusual the moment was.
Makar declined a penalty in a real-life NHL game.
“Typical Cale,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.
It was the last minute of the first period of the Avalanche’s eventual 1-0 shootout win over the New York Islanders. Makar was skating around the back of Colorado’s net when the superstar defenseman tumbled to the ice. Islanders forward Mathew Barzal had been pursuing Makar from behind. He extended his stick, seemingly hooking Makar. The officials stopped play to call the penalty. But Makar immediately started waving his gloves and shaking his head at the referee.
He confirmed after the game that he convinced officials to rescind the call. The referee announced without explanation that there was no penalty. Carry on.
“I felt a lot more guilty about doing that than probably if I would have said nothing,” Makar said. “I don’t know if it’s something I’ll do again. I kind of saved the refs there. You can’t go parallel on a guy’s body around the net like that, but at the same time, he didn’t get my feet at all. I just tripped.
“That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I don’t think it’ll happen again. It would’ve been unfortunate if we didn’t get the extra point in this game.”
Makar said he apologized to teammates afterward. As guilty as he would have felt for getting away with an incorrect call, he says he would have felt guiltier if the Avalanche (17-11-2) had lost without a goal after Makar robbed his team of a competitive advantage.
“I felt pretty guilty for the boys there,” he said. “… If it wasn’t as obvious, I definitely wouldn’t have said anything. I felt like (Barzal’s) stick was still in the air. We didn’t even get tangled feet or anything.”
Avalanche forward Evan Rodrigues, asked if he or any teammates gave Makar a hard time for costing them a power play, said: “You’re not giving Cale crap. It’s Cale Makar. I’m sure not doing it.”
Goalkeeper Alexandar Georgiev didn’t even notice what Makar did. He wasn’t aware of the odd moment until he was asked about it after the game.
“That’s just Cale,” Rodrigues said. “He’s an honest player. He goes about the game the right way. He’s mature. It’s kind of who he is.”
Rodrigues could vaguely recall hearing about a similar circumstance once before: Alex Ovechkin, he thought.
He was right. The Capitals’ future Hall of Famer similarly consulted the officials after he fell down, declining a power play in Washington’s game against Vegas this April.
“Looking back on it, I don’t know why I did it,” Makar said. “… The second I got off the ice, I felt a lot guiltier for my teammates to not get the power play. It happens in every sport, bad calls. You’ve just got to eat them. That’s what it is.”