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Category: George-James-Malik

One Does Not Preclude The Other

By George James Malik:

When Wayne Gretzky speaks, the hockey world listens.  Gretzky’s impassioned plea to the NHL’s referees (and front office), demanding more accountability for the vicious and violent hits that have become commonplace in the 2006-2007 season, was completely justified.  Whether you believe that Craig Janssen, Chris Neil, and Ryan Hollweg were “finishing their checks” or wantonly attempting to injure their opponents, the resulting body count can’t be denied.  In the case of Chris Simon, an uncalled boarding penalty resulted in the ugliest incident in NHL history since Todd Bertuzzi’s attack on Steve Moore.
 
Referees seem to refuse to call more than one set of penalties in our post-lockout NHL, and it’s bafflingly frustrating to see players regularly line up their opponents, cruise in, and pop their hard-plastic-covered shoulders up as they intentionally direct their momentum and body mass upward instead of outward, making contact with chins, temples, and the Reebok logo on the backs of NHL jerseys instead of chests, arms, or team crests.  Allowing “battles” for the puck has devolved into a tacit approval of anything that isn’t interference.

The latter half of Gretzky’s statements, however, have been pounced upon by he NHL’s commentators:

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The Morning After

By George James Malik:

The Edmonton Journal’s Dan Barnes sums up the storyline that will become front and centre for the next few weeks in lamenting the Oilers’ decision to trade Ryan Smyth:

Too much? Absolutely. But this wasn’t supposed to happen under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Prongers of the world could be had, the Smyths could be kept; that was the bill of goods sold to long-suffering Oiler fans. They could have forgiven Lowe’s inability to find that defenceman. Heck, they would have forgiven a season sans playoffs, if only Lowe had found a way to keep Smyth. Didn’t he save enough money on the Pronger deal? Shouldn’t there be enough in the kitty to overpay the heart and soul of the franchise?

 

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GM’s Gone Wild

By George James Malik

Amidst the golf cart races, moonlit skinny-dipping (resulting in unconfirmed manatee sightings), and Key Lime Pie and Corona cocktail-chugging sessions, those wild and crazy General Managers actually decided to make recommendations to the Board of Governors.  Reducing instigator rule suspension thresholds, refining video review, and at least considering halving overtime penalties all sound downright progressive?
On the surface, anyway.

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You See The Details

By George James Malik

The Red Wings’ open practice revealed a myriad of small details about the players’ tendencies, the team’s work ethic, and in Saturday’s case, the astonishingly long shadow cast by an injury of unknown severity, but there is one fact you must know about the Wings’ transformation from a Bowman-era team to Mike Babcock’s team, and it can be summed up in one word: crisp.

I saw two practices last season, and they were very herky-jerky in terms of pacing.  Babcock had to stop his drills regularly to either explain himself again or to admonish players for their lack of hustle.

This year?

The giggling, hot-dogging, and joke-cracking that form the groundwork for any practice remain, but once Babcock, McLellan, and MacLean explained the next 90-to-180-second drill, the boys got “professional” fast.  Hustle like there’s no tomorrow, skating your brains out while doing a simple cycling drill?  Check.  An innate understanding of not only the technical aspects of what’s being asked, but also the expectations of the coaches in terms of fit and finish?  You bet. 

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Broadcasting Balance

By George James Malik

According to Ted Kulfan, one defensive game begets an NHL catastrophe:

Why, oh why, does the NBC (and Versus, for what Versus is worth) continue to force the Red Wings vs. Avs on everyone in the nation? WHY!!!! It’s only a heated rivalry worth watching, apparently, in the opinion of NBC. Nobody is left from the rivalry. The Avs aren’t even a playoff team. The Avs aren’t very good. The talent level on both teams isn’t close to what it was during the glory years. But it doesn’t seem to matter, apparently, to NBC. It wants to keep showing the outdated video of the fights and blood and gore of years long gone by. But, the present day games stink. And, it gives would-be fans another excuse to not watch.

With all due respect, it’s one game.  One game that’s less than scintillating does not a disaster make. 
The Avs are a thin team this year.  The Wings played a defensive game—while taking 41 shots on Theodore—because at least five Red Wings played through a vicious flu bug.  The Avs and Wings’ players regularly state that while they don’t want to punch each other’s lights out, they genuinely feel a rivalry still exists between the two teams, fueled by fans and the teams’ historical rivalry. 

 

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Shanahan’s Suggestion’s Unsafe At Any Speed

By George James Malik

Competition Committee founder Brendan Shanahan held court before the All-Star Game’s skills competition on Tuesday, and the Human Quote Machine made an interesting comment regarding the league’s crackdown on goaltending equipment:

“The goalies are going to hate me for saying this, but I think we failed a little bit with the goaltenders and streamlining their equipment,” said Shanahan, one of a handful of players on the NHL’s competition committee.
After the lockout, the committee pushed the league to downsize goaltender equipment by about 10 percent. But Shanahan—and others—aren’t so sure the changes had the desired effect.
“So much of the focus was on the width of their pads, and it’s really about the upper body,” Shanahan said. “You want to make sure these guys are protected.
“But I just don’t understand how a cop can walk down the street in a bulletproof vest and look normal, yet our goalies have to look like lacrosse goalies, or Michelin men, to stop a puck.”

 

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NHL Must Cultivate Truly Constructive Criticism

By George James Malik

Last weekend, Brett Hull reignited the cry for bigger nets. On Tuesday, Mark Cuban discussed combining U.S. and Canadian TV ratings to promote the league. Wednesday and Thursday, the hype about the NHL’s “Uniform System” gave way to a “first look. At the All-Star game, the GM’s and Board of Governors will probably agree to disagree on scheduling adjustments—and they’ll talk about a few topics that will undoubtedly be “leaked” to the press to gauge public opinion.

Wednesday, Bettman will deliver his once-traditional All-Star break “State of the Game” speech, and all, undoubtedly, will be well in the commissioner’s opinion. The league will be declared healthy, though Bettman will grouse about so many teams pushing the upper limit of the salary cap.  He’ll claim that the dismal TV ratings both north and south of the 49th parallel aren’t worrisome, and we’ll hear a classic case of denial; Bettman will claim that he never told fans that ticket prices and salaries were irrevocably intertwined before the lockout. Bettman’s a believer in pushing the game forward; empty seats, horrible TV ratings, and a league-wide malaise are just “details.”

With all due respect to the NHL’s more fan-friendly policies, Chairman Mao seems to forget that you can’t make a Great Leap Forward when your foundation’s sagging.

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Putting The Constructive In Criticism

By George James Malik

Hockey players and fans are probably the most reflective sports people on the planet.  We play and follow the fastest sport this side of jai alai, a game whose intrircacies and subtleties can break the simplest 2-on-1 down into a hundred events, all happening at the same time.  We’re unbelievably perceptive, reflective, and sensitive as a rule.
There are no perfect games, for both fans and players, because goals are usually the result of one team capitalizing on the other’s mistakes.  As a goaltender, every shot that gets by me is a learning experience (I apparently have quite a bit of learning to do raspberry ), and every difficult save helps me refine my technique. 
Reflective fans and players translate into a steady stream of rallying cries for change, especially at the NHL level.  Given that we’ve got a commissioner whose bases for staging a lockout were “stretches” of the truth at best, owners who’re equally willing to say “Thank You, Fans!” and then jack up ticket prices, and a game that’s doggedly determined to sell itself in markets where hockey is a foreign sport at the expense of its core, in the words of the Roaming Gnome, “All is not well!”
Add in a schedule that most fans dislike, concerns about the crackdown on obstruction and the strict instigator rule sapping passion from the game, the post-honeymoon wake-up by smaller-market fans to the realization that a capped system has nothing to do with allowing teams like Buffalo or Edmonton to “keep their own players,” mediocre TV exposure south of the 49th parallel, and this week’s worries that the “new” NHL jerseys will look like college football jerseys instead of the tried-and-true hockey sweater, and things seem downright gloomy.

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The Gearhead: An Interview With TPS Hockey’s Goalie Guru

By George James Malik

My day at TPS Hockey’s headquarters in Wallaceburg, ON included a teleconference with TPS’s goalie pad design guru, Dave Wilcox.  He and I spoke at length about goaltending equipment and design until everybody left the room, and then we really talked about how goaltenders are smarter, better, and saner than everybody else.

Okay, okay, so not all of that is true, but those pesky skaters did leave the room because there’s one truth that’s undeniable: goalies are definitely the pickiest, most finicky hockey players in terms of their equipment preferences. 

As such, I’d like to introduce myself as a goalie with a dirty little secret.  I actually started out playing hockey as a late-blooming 13-year-old forward.  I loved scoring goals and making deft passes in traffic, but a 13-year-old who’s built like Shawn Burr tends to find himself pigeonholed into a particular role—pushing people around.  When big guys start to analyze how to push people around more effectively, and how to intimidate with a slash here and a cross-check there, the forwards and defencemen who tire of welts and bruises tell that big, vicious guy, “Would you mind filling in for our goalie, please?”

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The Gearhead: TPS Hockey And The Art Of Stick-Making

By George James Malik

Charlie had the Chocolate Factory, and Ralphie had his Red Ryder bb gun.  Me, I’m a hockey gearhead.  I’ve handled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sticks, gloves, skates, pads, and goalie gear over the last fifteen years, and I was recently given my Gearhead Experience of a Lifetime as TPS Hockey opened the doors of its Wallaceburg, ON factory to me.  TPS graciously opened its doors and gave me an all-access pass to their stick-making facility, and there’s only one word to describe it—AWESOME!

When I parked my Pacifica in a suburban business park in Oakland County and shook hands with Mr. Graham Watson, TPS’s tremendous TPS Sales Representative for the Detroit area, I was almost immediately given a piece of advice that I must emphasize from the get go: “These days, everybody makes good gear.”

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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