Tuesday, January 16, 2007

They Are Persistent Part I

Editorial Note: Rather than post what amounts to a 6-7 page post in one posting, I've broken this down into three parts. I'm posting them "backwards" in order to allow you to read them all at once by just continuing to scroll down instead of having to scroll down and then up to scroll down again.

The Ultimate Fighting On Ice (UFOI) fans aren't going down without a fight themselves, and yes, that pun was intended.

Before I take off on this rant let me first say that I too hold no love for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. I believe that his departure from the NHL is long overdue, especially since the end of the lockout almost a year and half ago now. I believe that Gary Bettman has taken the NHL as far as he can, the only thing he can do now to move the NHL forward is to step down as Commissioner and let somebody else run the NHL. It is long past time for some new leadership in the NHL Front Office.

Furthermore, back in October, I posted 5 things I think the NHL should change in addition to Bettman's resignation. As you can see, it wasn't my idea, Garrett over at Puckhead's Thoughts came up with the initial list, but as far as I can tell, we were the only ones to post our ideas.

Now, getting back to the UFOI fans, they have a misnamed website Hockey Fans Unite (I'll explain why later) and they plan on launching "protests" at NHL arenas this coming Saturday night. The Caps will be hosting a matinee at the Phone Booth against Florida on that "day of protest."

Yes, I've been aware of this coming protest but I've ignored it and haven't paid it much attention until last night. The leader of this protest was interviewed on Off Wing Opinion yesterday and well, let's just say that the idiocy spewing forth rivals anything ever written by Larry Brooks. Even then I felt I should ignore them and not give them the attention they desire. Fisking this would be easier than taking candy from a baby. While Matthew Sigafoose says things that Larry Brooks didn't put in his column, I didn't think it was enough for a new post of its own and I would have ended up simply recopying an earlier post. I think doing that is boring and a waste of my time. Besides, why give somebody like this attention? It isn't worth it.

But the fates conspired to have me go against my initial gut feeling. I read that Off Wing interview last night before I settled in to watch the NFL Network's rebroadcast of Super Bowl XXII. The idiocy was fresh in my mind as I watched the Redskins "ambush" Broncos for the first time since the game itself took place 19 years ago. And I realized just how wrong Larry Brooks, Don Cherry, and their disciples/UFOI fans like Matthew Sigafoose really, really are.

As you saw in my earlier post, I said the NFL used to be as wild and wooly as the NHL. Well, on the OPENING KICKOFF off Super Bowl XXII, Redskins Wide Receiver Ricky Sanders received the kick. He ran up the field, cut towards the sideline and when he got near the sidelines, he was hit. Sanders was then thrown to the ground FIVE YARDS OUT OF BOUNDS and took out a referee in the process. Guess what? There was no flag for a late hit on that play. As a matter of fact, I saw two other hits out of bounds THAT DIDN'T GET FLAGGED in the first half of Super Bowl XXII. Furthermore, ABC announcers Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf commented about a new rule for the 1987 NFL season. No longer were defenders allowed to take two steps to clobber a quarterback after he threw the ball. Defenders were now allowed to only take one step before hitting a quarterback who had thrown the ball. The Redskins got flagged twice for that. Nothing at all was said about shots to the head of anybody.

Remember folks, this was just 19 years ago. This was during the halcyon days of the 1980's that UFOI fans lionize and desperately wish the NHL would return to. The NFL was cutting down on the gratuitous violence then and has grown by leaps and bounds as it continues to do so. The NHL has lost ground to not only the other four major professional sports leagues, but to NASCAR, and gets regularly beaten in the ratings by Poker.

Yet Don Cherry said Saturday night that the NFL is "going tougher" while the NHL is expected "to go softer." Yeah... (I lost a lot of respect for Don Cherry on Saturday night because of that. Sorry Don, you have no clue what us Americans want.)

However, make no mistake; Mr. Sigafoose uses some weasel words in his imploring for more violence in the NHL. He talks about the lack of "emotion," "passion," and "intensity." What he really means though are fights. Look at his own words, some of his fondest memories are of fights. Not of goals, not of saves, not of great defensive plays. Nope, he waxes poetically about the fights. He mentions some sidebar stuff like players and arena staffers throwing pucks into the stands for the fans. But make no mistake, what he misses the most are the fights. Mr. Sigafoose isn't a fan of hockey; he's a fan of UFOI. This is why his website is misnamed.

Mr. Sigafoose even goes onto complain that the Caps and Thrashers actually played a hockey game on December 15th, 2006. So what a great hockey player like A.O. single-handedly beat another hockey team? (Which is always a rare occurrence when it happens) So what a player like Ilya Kovalchuk was throwing his body around like he had never done before and hasn't done since? Nope, sorry folks, Mr. Sigafoose says there was no "passion," no "emotion," and no "intensity." In other words, Mr. Sigafoose wanted fights, carnage, and blood and didn't get it and he's angry about it.

Of course the NHL called the teams before the game and told them to behave. Of course the referees were under strict instructions to clamp down on stuff before it got out of hand. Does Mr. Sigafoose and the rest of the UFOI fans really think the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident was a good thing for the NHL? Do they really want to see that happen again? Remember, that whole incident was "payback" for a hit in an earlier game. I applaud the NHL for nipping this stuff in the bud. The NHL should have thrown Bertuzzi clear out of hockey for what he did, but the least the NHL can do is take every step it reasonably can to prevent it from ever happening again.

To Be Continued...

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