Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 03/27/07 at 10:24 AM ET
By George James Malik:
You didn’t really think that anything would come of the great fighting debate, now, did you?
Oh, everybody got to weigh in, toss their opinions around, block a few carnage-inducing comments from the nighties, avoid the smarmy jabs of the lefties, watch Grapes get Ron MacLean to turtle on Hockey Night in Canada, and see the smirk on the league’s golden boy journalist’s face.
LeBrun sure was happy on Saturday night, wasn’t he? First it was scheduling, then revising the point system, and now fighting. Ol’ Collie and Pierre are real chummy, eh?
Talk, talk, talk, bluster, bluster, bluster.
A few thoughtful comments from players, a few more from the guy who got leveled, suggesting that scrappers are integral to team “lightheartedness,” and then a rain of lefts, rights, jabs, and uppercuts from the hockey media, in print, online, on the radio, all tuckering themselves out…
In a good, old-fashioned donnybrook.
“The notion that because one player got knocked cold in a fight, that’s going to touch off a debate about eliminating fighting, to me is silly,” said the Anaheim Ducks’ GM.
Burke, whose Ducks lead the NHL with 65 fighting majors this season, said there should be no debate.
“Fighting has been systematically reduced in the NHL,” said Burke. “It’s been reduced to, in my mind, its proper place. It’s no longer utilized as a tactic.
“But the notion that we ever get rid of the players’ ability to regulate what happens, is silly to me.
Burke got the last word on the schedule, the last word on the three-point and one-two-zero point systems, and now?
He reminds us all that while the media would like to think that the Brendan Shanahans and not the Todd Fedoruks run the league, the truth is a bit more tryannical and a lot more Tyrannosaurus Rex.
This league is ran by the Brian Burkes and Colin Campbells of the world.
While the fact that Ville Nieminen didn’t get suspended for what Collie would call a “keep your head up” hit on a guy that two Blues have tried to concuss slid quietly and neatly under the radar, everybody who took this debate seriously, and pontificated upon it, got sucker-punched and jerseyed.
Collie decided that he and Gary should do what the league does before the playoffs, when it allows a little more rough stuff go—take the temperature of the league’s media.
Head shots? Late hits? The disturbing concept that we’d treat hits to the head with the same namby-pambying that the league’s dinosaurs claim we’ve allotted to hits from behind, where, as Collie himself said, players simply, “Wouldn’t put themselves in such vulnerable positions?”
The fact that the league’s TV network in the U.S. spent Monday night touting a “mixed martial arts” event in St. Petersburg that included gratuitous scrapping, then the Iditarod, then bullfighting, and then “Wall to wall NHL playoff coverage?”
Here’s my two cents:
I watched the Wings-Ducks game with two friends. The one who has a passing interest in hockey saw Andreas Lilja fight Travis Moen and suggested that the Wings don’t get into many fights these days, he had a laugh when I told him that it was the ten-year anniversary of the Brawl in Hockeytown, and continued to watch the game. He really liked what he saw from Datsyuk, he liked watching the guys muck it up, and he thought Dom and Giguere made some great saves.
The other one, who doesn’t like hockey, wanted to know when the boxing match was going to begin, and he made allusions to punch-ups and goonery that would have made the Brawl in Hockeytown look tame, because that’s what he thinks the game’s about.
He was disappointed when I told him he’d missed the scrap.
There aren’t many “in betweens” here.
We spend far too much of our time and energy trying to market the NHL to people who not only don’t “get it,” but also don’t want to “get it.”
They think that hockey’s goonery, and if the league outlawed body checking tomorrow, they’d think that hockey was goonery ten years down the line.
The other members of the public don’t mind the game, and when it’s made readily available, they’ll tune in and enjoy themselves, like, say, when their buddy who doesn’t get Versus at home comes over to watch the Wings.
The Collie Campbells and Brian Burkes of the world don’t start fights that they can’t win.
The rest of us don’t need to spend all our time and energy getting popped in the intellectual or emotional chops by the punks who want to make a name for themselves praising or bashing the thought balloon of the week.
The lack of player-to-player respect, and the fact that so many of those who can tune in don’t, or the fact that so many who do are dissatisfied? Maybe we can get some jabs in there.
As far as the rest of it’s concerned, I’m not a political man—that’s another scrap for another day—but a widely quoted man once said the following:
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
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