Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All-Star Game Day Thoughts

First of all, I will admit to not only not watching tonight's NHL All-Star Game, but I'll admit to not caring much about it either. I didn't program the DVD recorder at home and I'll be working tonight so if A.O. does something crazy, I'll have to see it somewhere else.

I know it sounds odd considering how much effort I put into getting A.O. into the All-Star Game, but that was for a different reason. As I said, it wasn't about being able to watch A.O. play on the same sheet of ice as the rest of the best of the NHL, it was about supporting our superstar player. Even if A.O. hadn't been voted into the starting lineup, he would have gone to Dallas anyway because every team gets at least one player into the game. Who else from the Caps would have been sent over A.O.? That list starts and ends with Olie Kolzig and I don't he would have been seriously considered as a reserve if A.O. hadn't been voted as a starter.

I've been soured on the NHL All-Star Game since the 1997 game when Owen Nolan "pointed" his shot for a hat trick. whoopee! One thing I love about hockey is the lack of obvious trash-talking and preening that is done by the players. There is a class that hockey players have that other professional athletes seem to lack these days. Yeah the goal celebrations by some players can go too far sometimes but there isn't the dancing and prancing after making a basic play that has become all too common in the other professional sports leagues. I thought Nolan's actions were bush league simply because the All-Star Game doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Would he pull something like that in the regular season or the playoffs? I highly doubt it.

But what really put me over the edge regarding All-Star games was sitting through the turd known as the 2004 MLS All-Star Game at RFK Stadium. What a joy it was sitting through that turkey in the hot sun all day as players weren't even going at a half jog all day long. I saw a similar effort in last night's yawner of a Young Stars game. As I said earlier this week, I don't find 9-8 hockey games automatically exciting to watch.

I figure the effort on the ice tonight in Dallas will be a little bit better from all the skaters involved but there won't much of any hitting (if any at all) and there will be precious little defense being played. Which segues nicely into my last point for this post, last night The Venerable Off Wing Opinion contrasted my known well known thoughts on Ultimate Fighting On Ice (UFOI) with somebody who believe that UFOI is needed to sell hockey. I'd to take a second here to (once again) re-iterate some points and make others clear. I don't care if you disagree with me or think that I am delusional, I just want to make sure that people know where I stand on this.

First of all, Franke properly admits that the UHL is not a pipeline to the NHL. So why should NHL rule changes effect the UHL? If the fans of the UHL want UFOI, let them have it. The AHL and ECHL should follow the NHL's lead because the AHL and ECHL are the pipe lines to the NHL for talent. I have to say, I really don't understand his complaint because if the players in his league are not heading to the NHL; why should they be worried about playing an NHL-style of game?

But as I've said before and I'll say it again until the point comes across. You can have physical play that doesn't land players in the penalty box without the hooking and holding, clutching and grabbing that slowed down the game. If fans of UFOI are to be believed, what you saw last night in the Young Stars game and what you'll see tonight in the All-Star game is the total "Bettmanization" of hockey. Sorry, not even I want to see NO hitting and NO defense being played. But there is a clear distinction between physical play and UFOI. During the much ballyhooed glory days of the NHL in the 1980's the NHL wasn't on U.S. broadcast television on a regular basis and ended up exiled to a cable network with 500 subscribers, so again, to proclaim this a disaster when it is not even two years along and still very much a work in progress is stupid.

Make no mistake, the transition for the NHL will not occur overnight. The NHL has to shed it's reputation before it can move forward and that is going to require a step or two backwards. But we know what UFOI brings to the table and it isn't enough to sustain the league. Until somebody can show me otherwise, I'll continue to believe this.

Finally, I find it odd that UFOI fans complain about the parade to the penalty box for all the hooking and holding and clutching and grabbing but at the same time say they don't want to go back to the days of the trap. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. You can't say you deplore the hooking and holding, and yadda, yadda, yadda and not want the penalties to be called for these infractions. We've seen this before too. Once the crackdown ends, the slowdown begins. The parade to the penalty box will end once players get it through their thick skulls that they can't do these things anymore. Either you want the slowdown style of play or you don't. Plain and simple.

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