Kukla's Korner Hockey
From Cathal Kelly at the Toronto Star:
Bettman takes a ridiculous amount of stick for what he doesn’t know about hockey. He may have known nothing about it when he took the job, you know, 18 years ago. Let’s drop this snobbish pose that only a Canadian raised in the game can ever appreciate it.
Right now, by his actions, no one is proving a better defender of the NHL’s century old traditions than Bettman. The shrimp from Queens is the bulwark standing between hockey as it is and the reactionaries who want to neuter it.
What keeps getting lost in all the jabber around headshots is that few of those inside the game want radical change. And this is ‘inside’ — not to include yammering team owners and sponsors. If you’ve ever witnessed the excruciating meeting between any professional athlete and the people who sign his cheques, you understand how far away from the inner circle the moneymen stand.
Coyote Shane Doan summed up the insider philosophy the nice way: “We understand they have to take care of us, but at the same time, we choose to go out there and get hit and hit people. You understand it’s just the way it is.”
Hockey legend and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux dropped an unexpected bomb on the New York Islanders and the National Hockey League in the wake of suspensions and fines announced stemming from Friday’s night at the fights between his Pens and the Isles. In short, “Super” Mario whined in print to anyone listening that if the league doesn’t start X, Y and Zing to his liking, he might just take his ball and go home.
Sound familiar? It should, of course, considering this is the guy who once dubbed the NHL a “garage league” in the early nineties, as obstruction was on the rise, and swore he was close to retiring at that time because of it. (He didn’t, remember, not right away anyway and wouldn’t have for some time, if not for illness and injury.)
The game these days, without the hooks and holds that Lemieux once complained of is probably better, as a whole, but there are some who will argue that a little of that here and there, perhaps, might prevent some of the more serious injuries and questionable hits we seem to see every other game now. Case in point, a defenseman in pursuit of the puck in his own end is often a sitting duck for approaching forecheckers these days, with his partner unable to hold up the opponent in any way, shape or form as he once was.
That example carries some weight here only because Lemieux’s comments today centered around player safety, after New York’s Matt Martin suckered Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot and teammate Trevor Gillies took out Eric Tangradi with a head shot/flying fists combo.
One has to wonder, then, a few things:
I’m a little late to the party on this topic, though I’ve shared a thought or two on Twitter this week, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least offer some extended opinion on the recent suspensions handed out to James Wisniewski of the New York Islanders and Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Wisniewski, of course, was banned for a pair of games for making what the NHL dubbed an “inappropriate gesture” directed toward Rangers forward Sean Avery, while Hjalmarsson got the same sentence for a dangerous, blind side hit on Buffalo’s Jason Pominville.
Pominville was concussed on the play and there is said to be no time table for his return to the Sabres lineup. Avery – go figure, be he the perpetrator or the “victim”, involved in yet another incident – suffered, perhaps, some shame and hurt feelings because of Wisniewski’s gesture. But he’s a big boy. He’s over it already, I’m sure.
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Tags: james+wisniewski, jason+pominville, niklas+hjalmarsson, sean+avery
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
Stop and think about the potential consequences the next time you’re tempted to use your elbow to drive the head of an unsuspecting opponent into the glass.
Stop and think what you’re doing before you shove a vulnerable opponent into the boards, causing a collision the human body wasn’t designed to withstand.
Don’t stop being physical. No one wants that.
Just stop the vicious hits to the heads of players who don’t have the puck. Stop the blindside hits.
from John Shannon of Sportsnet,
• In addition to the Maple Leafs, Oilers and Hurricanes, some teams will look at the Olympic break to decide if they are buyers or sellers at the deadline on the first Wednesday in March. One manager told me the magic number is 10. That’s 10 points out of 8th spot. And when you consider that means that a team that is 10 down would probably have to go 15-5 in its last 20 games to have a chance. Do the math, by Valentines Day the list of teams down by double digits might be prove to make the trade deadline day a wild day indeed.
• Interesting to note that replacement players for Olympic teams can only happened based on a list that was given last year to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). The list has to be very extensive, in order to cover any issue. It is so large, I’m told, the Canadian list includes Guy Lafleur. You also have to wonder, with all the public funding that the three levels of government are putting into the Games, why the list isn’t made public… ever!
more hockey notes…
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
How does the Wild’s Derek Boogaard get five games on a first-offense elbow last season but Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski gets two on a third blow to the head in two years—and second in a month—just a week ago?
How does one man arbitrarily render discipline based seemingly on no criteria?
Critics joke that (Colin) Campbell must have a dartboard in his office, although as a blog commenter said on “Russo’s Rants” the other day, it’s more like “Wheel of Fortune” because eventually Campbell would get good at throwing darts.
By dodging transparency and then showing zero candor, Campbell leaves the league open to criticism.
But after hearing Campbell on the radio Thursday justify why he didn’t suspend Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar for his blow to the head of the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck, it’s probably best he keeps muzzling himself.
added 8:01am, from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
His official title in the league directory no longer is operative. This was the week in which Colin Campbell first and foremost became the NHL’s Cleaner, in charge of dust-busting every single potential scandal under the rug, never to be seen or dealt with again.
Let’s face it. Five years into its proclaimed “partnership” with the players, the NHL has become a monolithic power, unopposed and unchallenged (except by a foolhardy litigant named Jim Balsillie), dictated on the business side by Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, ruled on the hockey side by Campbell, whose decisions become more personal, more quixotic, less credible and thus less worthy of respect by the day.
From Darren Dreger at TSN:
National Hockey League general managers are not interested in a penalty for head checking.
The topic was discussed again today in Pittsburgh and the majority of the leagues 30 gm’s agreed there is no reason to change or add to the rule book.
From Mike Ross at NHL Home Ice (XM Radio) blog:
Since we came back from the lockout, I’ve heard complaint after complaint from many hockey fans that the league is looking to soften-up the game. That the NHL is becoming a less edgy game.
But the actions of players like Tom Kostopolous, Rene Bourque and Alexandre Picard have me wondering if some players aren’t making the game a softer game all on their own.
All three of these players jumped an opposing player after a hard, clean and legitimate hit had been levelled against one of their teammates.
We’re told by George Laraque that such acts are justified whether the hit was clean or dirty. As Ken Campbell pointed out in a recent blog on thehockeynews.com, we’re told that opponents can not take liberties and get away with it.
But since when does a hard, clean body check get defined as a “liberty”.
Incidentally, Adam Proteau at The Hockey News wrote on something similar today, reflecting on Bob Clarke’s interview on TSN yesterday.
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
It is obvious the NHL cannot be trusted to dispense equitable justice. It is now up to the NHLPA, through the vehicle of the standing competition committee, to flex its influence. When the competition committee meets this season, it should recommend mandatory minimum sentences for blows to the head and checks from behind, and any other applicable dangerous fouls.
It is clear the NHL has abandoned its responsibility. It would be a disaster if Burke and his ilk are allowed to assume power in this vacuum. This is a league of and by the players. It’s about time that discipline is enacted for the players.
From Darren Eliot at SI,
The puck-optional pursuit of punishing checks by these kind of players is the bane of the league because the notion of self-policing always enters the discussion when talk turns to repealing the instigator rule. The theory goes that if players weren’t fearful of getting the extra two-minutes for instigating a fight, Ruutu and Hollweg and players of that ilk would cease and desist if they knew they were going to be on the painful end of a pounding. I’m not so sure. Simon’s attacks didn’t back either guy off and what else can they do? They’re both one-dimensional in their play as well as the exception rather than the rule among NHL players.
No, allowing the instigation of fights because of the acts of a couple of wanton repeat offenders isn’t the answer. Stern suspensions will suffice. The longer the stretches that the league keeps these two thugs off the ice, the better.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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