The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty



There are times when I almost wonder if the league wants to get a player killed on the ice for publicity’s sake. That is as dirty a hit as you’ll see, a deliberate attempt to injure a defenseless opponent in the worst way possible on a play which has no legitimate hockey value, and the chances of it being dealt with as such are negligible. The whole thing will end up as another insanely worthless elbow vs. shoulder debate, which will be settled when someone in the office throws up their hands and gives us the old favorite line about how a player has to “keep their head up” and “protect themselves.” I can’t wait to find out how well that excuse holds up against the inevitable wrongful death suit which I fully expect to be filed in the next 10 years. Ultimately however, we’re all somewhat responsible for this bullshit: the league markets violence and protects the star teams and players, fostering a sense that no one is really in charge and that these hits are desired; teams keep hiring dirty fucking thugs; those thugs attack and injure other players, and their teammates and coaches defend it like it’s a gang war thing; and fans- those who haven’t been run off yet- either defend this BS with the same old worthless excuses when it’s their team in the wrong, or excuse the violence as “just part of the game”, or are hockey fans because deep down they like watching people get hurt. It’s a fucked up state of affairs.

No one can really plead ignorance anymore about this. It happens every single season, 5 or 6 or 10 times a year, and it’s gotten worse over the years as the quality of talent in the league has been diluted to an all-time low and more and more teams are reduced to hiring physical intimidators to have any chance against more talented outfits. There’s more and more data out there about the long term effects of concussions, which are incredibly scary, and this is not boxing or MMA where everyone knows the score and consents and there are no cowardly sneak attacks from the blind side. If all the ritual invocations to “protect yourself” and “keep your head up” had any relevance to reality, after years and years of this shit players would do so and we wouldn’t have this problem. But they don’t, because they can’t, because it’s impossible to both do your job and defend yourself perfectly night after night after night when every team has players whose job description is “try to rough up the other team’s best players”. We’ve reached the point where everyone involved is morally culpable for this state of affairs, because anyone who cares about hockey enough to watch the unbelievable shit which is the modern NHL cares enough to think through these basic issues facing the league. As to what it says about NHL management as the people in position to actually do something directly about this that nothing changes, is perhaps best left unsaid.

Get rid of the instigator penalty. Ban deliberate shots to the head regardless of body part used, and make it clear that any play giving the appearance of deliberate intent to injure will be dealt with severely. Hire semi-competent referees and tell them to open the game up and make it about skill again. Install a clear, explicit and strong disciplinary system and STICK TO IT regardless of who’s up on charges and what team they represent. Contract 5-10* teams. Stop marketing violence and market skill instead, which is to say have some fucking trust in your sport. Get a commissioner who has some semblance of a clue on God’s green about what it is he’s doing. I don’t expect all of these to happen (to be honest I don’t expect any of these to happen) but there’s no good reason for some of them not to be in place this time next year. Instead what we’ll get is a bunch of bad reasons and lame excuses and another 5-10 players taken off on backboards because hey, you wouldn’t want to mess with a winning formula like Gary Bettman’s NHL. I’ve said it before and will say it again: I love this sport and I hate this league.

* Columbus, Nashville, Phoenix, Florida, Atlanta, and you can make a case for Tampa Bay, Carolina, Edmonton and maybe a couple more. And I mean contract, not relocate.


March 8, 2010 - Posted by | Other NHL

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