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Petshark: Talking Stick

NHL justice howling at the moon

“We’ve unmasked madmen, Watson, wielding scepters. Reason run riot. Justice howling at the moon.” -Sherlock Holmes, Murder by Decree

Last night Raffi Torres nearly broke Marian Hossa’s neck.  Maybe he did break it.  It was an escalation of violence in a series that seems to have more injuries than the much talked about Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series.  I say “seems” because I don’t believe Giroux, Schenn and Couturier have all avoided injury.  They all had head injuries this season, I don’t believe they all got out of that unscathed.  But we know that Hanzal and Hossa have both been seriously injured, while others missed games or parts of games with injuries, and probably some are playing injured as you find on all teams.  But this situation is not normal like you find on all teams.  It’s as if the Shaw incident was not definitive enough, people could not agree that he should have or could have avoided hitting Smith.  Torres cleared that up. 

Who is responsible for the escalating level of underhanded viciousness we are seeing in round one of the 2012 NHL playoffs?  Who can stop it?  Do we want to?

I’ve flinched every time I see someone cite the very high viewing ratings for Game 3 of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series.  I can write it off as a fluke, like people stopping to watch a train derailment.  I can argue that the accompanying commentary would convince a new viewer that they were seeing something extremely unusual, that trying to sell that as standard fare would not work as well.  I’m not sure I’d be right.  The Roman games did very well.  Even if the success of gladiator events was a sign of a society collapsing in on itself, it was one hell of a money-maker.  It still is.

I don’t care.  I know the NHL does but I only cite audience numbers if it helps my case.  You can’t just let people indulge in savage violence even if they say they are having fun.  It is wicked and wrong, you have to intervene.

Damien Cox ‏ @DamoSpin: “Wise hockey man once told me those who think fighting and intimidation crucial in hockey think that because they were afraid.”

I was comforted to see people point out that these games are not just like hockey of old.  It is dangerous to dignify headshots and other attempts to cripple by connecting them to some glorious history we see only through the softening lens of time.  Many have stepped up to say this is very different.  Back then it wasn’t so fast, hits were not so deadly, you had a self-policing element to the game, yadda, yadda.  That’s nice but I wouldn’t want it to go back to that either.  The game needs to move forward.

Who is supposed to fix this?  The Department of Player Safety has been howling at the moon for some time.  I agree that the failure to suspend Weber helped set this off, and that Shanahan delivered that message.  He’s still just a messenger.  His mid-season silence followed by half-assed decisions implies that someone put a boot on his neck and started writing a new script.  The inevitable results are now being broadcast all over NBC.

Jeremy Roenick has repeatedly said the players need to stop it, they need to show some respect for each other.  He isn’t the only one, and I agree it would be nice for players to take the game in hand.  “Why can’t we all just get along?”  Is that really the best answer we can come up with?  No, if you make murder legal, people won’t stop killing each other.  At the very least there would be an adjustment period involving a very big spike in killings.

The NHL needs to put its foot down, the NHLPA has to step up too.  All must admit things have gotten out of hand, acknowledge the League’s failure here.  Get the refs all on the same page,  give all the teams warnings that no more will be tolerated and the next wrong move will result in very severe penalties.  Then do it, because you know someone will test you.

Is the NHL letting viewing numbers and the thrill of the gory spectacle get in the way of common sense and human dignity?  They would not be alone.  Things are bad all over.  If you are happy being a blip on the radar of the entertainment world, fine.  We all know how long celebrity lasts these days, unless you actually kill someone.  Do that and your ratings will stay up for a good long time.

But it isn’t fine, it isn’t fine at all.

“You create allegiance above your sworn allegiance to protect humanity. You shall not care for them, or acknowledge their pain. There lies the madness.” -Sherlock Holmes

Filed in: , | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: department+of+player+safety, disciplne, headshots, marian+hossa, raffi+torres

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net