Monday, March 26, 2007

Of Sidesteps and Red Herrings, Part I

Just because the NHL's much ballyhooed "questioning" of fighting is nothing more than a rhetorical question for PR sake doesn't mean we can't sit back and pick apart the arguments and squash the red herrings of the Ultimate Fighting on Ice Fans.

Now we all know that our UFOI brethren will NEVER admit the failure of the NHL in the 1970's and 1980's to meet the standards they seek of the league today. Just to recap for anybody who is joining the party late; the NHL in the 70's and 80's had NO network TV contract in the United States. The league was kicked off the "Gold Standard" for cable TV sports, ESPN, and consigned to an even worse "network" (and that's being very charitable) at the end of the 1980's.

They don't want to talk about any of that. As a matter of fact, they pretend it didn't happen. They start talking about things like, "well, if they are so concerned about players getting hurt, they should look at today's equipment." They also claim "take fighting out of the game and players will be getting hurt more because of more cheapshots. Fighting prevents the cheapshots and protects players." (Which of course is why I ask why A.O. continues to take spears to the gonads?).

Today we'll look at that last "argument" for fighting. The idea that the game will become much, much dirtier than it already is. I find this one almost as laughable as the reliance on internet based polls to show support for fighting.

This one is blown out of the water very easily, if taking fighting out of the NHL does lead to more cheapshots; then the solution is simple, the NHL Front Office along with their on-ice officials will have to step up to the plate and actually do their jobs. The UFOI Fans have no problem denouncing the actions of Marty McSorely, Todd Bertuzzi, and Chris Simon (but they insult our intelligence, that's another post) but they think that the careers of these guys shouldn't be "tainted" or "ended" by these incidents. It is clear as day that the 23, 20, and 25 games respectively has had no effect on other players because these incidents are occurring all too often.

Biff is right, even with fighting in the game, it is the responsibility of the NHL Front Office and the on-ice officials to properly police the game to prevent players from becoming the victims of cheapshots. If it is that they are unwilling or unable to to properly do their jobs, then they should be removed from them, period. Players who step over the boundaries of fair play and respect and resort to dirty tactics should be dealt with harshly. And when I say that, I mean they should be thrown out of the game for good. The fact that Todd Bertuzzi was able to deliver such a disgusting black eye to the league and is still allowed to play in it is a disgrace and proof that the NHL does not really care. People get this and tune out the league as a result. When word of "the question" got out, talking heads around the sports world were pretty much unanimous in asking "what has taken the NHL so long?"

No other professional sports league allows this kind of vigilante justice. Don't give me this "it is ingrained in the roots of the sport" Barbara Streisand. Sorry, but not only do the Olympics thrive (and more so than the NHL IMHO) without fighting so does NCAA hockey, so does the IIHF World Championships, and so does the IIHF World Junior Championships. These games are carried on with more regularity than the Olympics are and there's no fighting in any of them. There's no excuse, if the NHL can be shutdown for a full season and come back; it can remove fighting and continue on just as well.

Next time I post on this topic, I'll tell you how the UFOI fans insult our intelligence and I'm not talking about their stupid internet polls either...

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