Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 01/21/14 at 10:51 AM ET
By Tom Murray,
News: Lots of it this past week. Let’s start with the biggest and most recent story: Saturday night’s line brawl in Vancouver between the Canucks and Flames and the meltdown by Canucks coach John Tortorella in the hallway outside the Flames locker room at the end of the first period. After an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Colin Campbell on Monday morning, Tortorella was suspended without pay by the league for 15 days, through February 2, which means he’ll miss a total of six games.
Flames coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 for his part in the proceedings.
Views: Absolutely the right decision by the league. And one that certainly was supported by P.J. Stock of CBC, who on Saturday evening almost went into convulsions in his criticism of Tortorella, whom, he made crystal clear, should have “defused” the infamous opening lineup decision made by Hartley. Really? Torts was supposed to put the Sedins and David Booth or three other pacifists on the ice against Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth?
Remember what happened when Toronto coach Randy Carlyle tried that approach against Buffalo in a preseason game? He left Phil Kessel on the ice against Sabres hulking pugilist John Scott, who quickly dropped his gloves after a faceoff and began pounding away at Kessel, who responded by frenetically hacking away at Scott with his stick. So much for that idea.
“I can’t put our players at risk that way with the lineup he had,” Torts explained. “I am not going to put those type of players at risk.”
Understand that, John, but why put Kellan Lain out there in that situation? The kid was making an NHL debut that lasted exactly two seconds before he was ejected and broke an NHL record: Fastest to fight from the start of a career. The old record, set in 1963, was 12 seconds.
“My biggest mistake was putting him in that lineup,” Torts conceded. “I’ll kick myself forever, not having someone else there.”
As for Hartley?
“We had absolutely zero intentions there,” he said, somehow managing to keep a straight face. “Those guys are playing hard for us. We’re a disciplined hockey club.”
Yeah, right Bob. No way in the world you were trying to impress your new boss, bellicose Brian Burke, eh?
It all added up to another one of those optical nightmares for the league: Two seconds into a game, five fights, 10 players penalized a total of 152 minutes, eight ejections. All of it was fodder for the know-it-all, ambulance-chasing talking heads on networks like ESPN, who most nights don’t even bother with hockey highlights and in the wake of this nonsense gleefully dredged up their references to pro wrestling, Slap Shot and Ogie Ogilthorpe.
Even baseball’s renowned analyst Peter Gammons weighed in, referring to the NHL as a “minor league sport.” And of course all of it was exacerbated by Tortorella’s bush-league antics outside the Flames locker room.
Not a great night for hockey. But here’s a crazy thought for the day: Did it ever occur to any of the designated brawlers who were out there for that opening faceoff to not behave like Pavlov’s dog and simply play hockey instead of dropping their gloves? What a concept, huh?
News: P.K. Subban celebrates an overtime goal. Hockey “traditionalists” are appalled.
Views: In a game in Ottawa last week, the Canadiens defenseman scored just 23 seconds into overtime, his shot trickling through the legs of goalie Craig Anderson. P.K. dropped his stick, grabbed the CH logo on his jersey and shook it for a crowd that was full of Canadiens fans as he was surrounded by his jubilant teammates.
The response by some was laughable--particularly Anderson: “The key word there is unnecessary,” said dour Craig. “I didn’t see us when we scored our overtime goal throwing our jersey up like that. It’s one of those things. It’s his character. It should make us all angry here and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Just a thought, Craigie, but instead of being so focused on how an opposing player spontaneously celebrates an overtime goal against you, maybe you should be thinking about your woeful .903 save percentage and 3.19 GAA. If those numbers are up to your usual standards, maybe that puck doesn’t squeeze through your legs.
Which brings us to Don Cherry’s take:
After criticizing Subban because his response only “pumps up the other team” and he “better stop that stuff when he goes to Team Canada!” sidekick Ron MacLean correctly pointed out “people say we need this in the game, we need some personality...”
“No!” Cherry exploded, “they’re dumbheads or dumbhead reporters or dumbheads on TV. They never, ever, ever, ever played the game. They never coached. I think as a coach and a player. Not like those dummies. Don’t do it! You lower yourself doing it!”
Nonsense. First of all, the “how many goals did you ever score” argument is becoming more and more laughable. It’s a popular, time-honored and increasingly tiresome refrain employed by hockey traditionalists (invariably Canadian) whenever anyone who didn’t play at the NHL level has the audacity to criticize or even question an established convention or belief. (Such as, it’s far better for players to be boring and barren of personality than the alternative.)
Secondly, the league is lucky to have a player like Subban, who is unique not only because of his race, but also his incredible skills and confident, exuberant personality. The kid is excited. He just won a game. In overtime against an archrival. Does anyone else in the league get vilified this way if he celebrates in similar fashion? No way. All of which makes one wonder if P.K. is singled out because he is brazen, brash and, yes, black, and in the arch-conservative NHL he doesn’t “know his place” in the game.
It’s hard to dismiss out of hand, given not only the reaction to this latest incident, but also all the nonsense we and he had to endure leading up to his ultimate and deserved selection to the Canadian Olympic team.
Celebrate as much and any way you want, P.K. You and your unabashed ebullience are exactly what the NHL needs more of.
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