Thursday, March 22, 2007

Not A Bad Idea

I give JP full credit, he's trying to find a bridge to the gap between the Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans and those of us who are tired of the circus-sideshow dragging down the sport of hockey.

He offers a compromise in light of the most recent player being taken off the ice on a stretcher after a fight. And I have to say, the idea has some potential however I have a few problems with it.

  1. In order for something like this to be effective the NHL MUST improve the quality of its on-ice officiating. Wayne Gretzky has complained about the lack of calls for violent fouls and I noted the problem myself back in November. Seeing as how we're told by the UFOI crowd that fighting "controls this," if anything is officially done to curb fighting, then the men in the zebra stripes need to step in and take their place. No, I don't want to see Don Koharski or Mick McGough trading punches with Georges Laraque, but I would like to see the book thrown at noted cheapshot artists like Sean Avery every time he tries to pull one of his stunts. Sorry, but the current crop of NHL officials are inconsistent at best with their calls.
  2. And when the NHL on-ice officials fall down on their job, the NHL's off-ice officials need to be more consistent and stricter when it comes to violence in the game. It is pretty well established that you can expect about a five game suspension for an unnecessary hit to the head. However spears to the gonads are ok. Why is that? Secondly, the Jordan Tootoo suspension is also wildly inconsistent with other similar situations that have occurred so far this season. Is it any wonder that the violence that plagues the games persists when the disciplinary functions themselves are inconsistent?
  3. The biggest problem of all is that fighting would still exist. Yeah, it would get rid of the pointless stuff like last night's Mr. Donald Brashear-Andrew Peters fight or the Laraque-Ivanas fight (full of emotion, passion, and energy as you can see when Laraque wishes Ivanas "good luck" before the fight) but it would still exist. It won't stop a clown like Lindy Ruff from sending his guys out to "run" the other team's skill players because his own captain is too stupid to securely strap his own helmet to his head. As long as fighting remains with any kind of a wink and a nod, the casual sports fan who is dismissing hockey as a thug sport will continue to dismiss hockey for the very same reasons.

Look, is this better than the "slow bleed" currently being tried? Yeah, it certainly is. Is this moving in the right direction? It has to be and for many different reasons. While I certainly expect the usual suspects to pan this up and down the street; it is a lot better than dismissing arguments out of hand and avoiding the tough issues you don't want to confront because you can't dismiss them out of hand.

But the point that JP makes that should resonate throughout the whole anti-fighting debate is that the culture of hockey has to change and he's right. A classmate of mine and myself were chatting with our professor a couple of weeks ago before class. My professor is from New England and is only a couple of years younger than my father is. The prof was telling the both of us that he played pond hockey growing up (we're talking 50's-60's time frame) but that his father wouldn't allow him to play the organized stuff. Why? His father regarded the kids who played the organized hockey as thugs. Folks, hockey can't grow with that reputation.

But let me reiterate, you have to start somwhere and this is a good start. While I don't think JP wants to see fighting gone like I do, he's going to be branded as one of us who does. JP I hope you're ready.



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