Monday, March 12, 2007

They're Not Serious

Once again the NHL is presented with a crystal-clear opportunity to start to rid itself of its well-earned reputation of a thug sport and once again the NHL passes by giving Chris Simon a 25 game suspension.

Officially, Simon gets two more games than what Marty McSorely did in 2000. So the NHL gets its headline of "Record Suspension For Simon" and thinks that everybody is happy. But only two additional games? What kind of message does that send?

There are articles all around condemning Simon's actions. Even the people who worship the "passion" and "intensity" of Ultimate Fighting on I mean NHL Hockey have attempted to denounce Simon's transgression while offering mealy mouthed explanations about how hockey is a game of emotion and passion.

Maybe, just maybe we need to tone down this passion a bit? Seriously, we can sit here and play the "what if" game with Ryan Hollweg and ask "What if Hollweg lost an eye?" "What if Hollweg lost more than an eye?" That doesn't do us any good. What needs to be confronted is not the "What If's?" but the when? What will the NHL do when somebody does lose an eye because of a deliberate action? What will the NHL do when somebody is killed on the ice because of a cheapshot? A question for the fans of course is, do you want to be a fan of a team that loses a player like that?

We laugh and laugh hard at things like the Tom Golisano letter because that is an attempt to drive all hitting out of the game because they can't take it. For the umpteenth time, I'm not interested in removing hitting from hockey, I only want the sideshow fighting and outright thuggery gone. However, the 23 games and career ending that Marty McSorely took clearly didn't deter Simon. So why should 25 games deter the next guy? Maybe it was the fact that Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play NHL hockey that sent a mixed signal to the "enforcers" who continue to give the league a black eye.

Some are starting to notice that the three now "infamous" incidents in this NHL season has occurred since the NHL's GM's asked the Board of Governors to "soften" the much-maligned instigator rule. Coincidence? Probably not. But it shouldn't be lost on the Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans that suspensions like Chris Simon's means that despite all their wailing and gnashing of teeth the NHL Front Office still gives a wink and a nod to the violence that they love so dearly. If you honestly think the NHL has become "soft" then one has to seriously wonder just what does unequivocally cross the line. It can't be Chris Simon, Marty McSorely, or Todd Berrtuzzi or you wouldn't be satisfied with their suspensions.

Finally, as we heard in the aftermath of the Chris Neil-Chris Drury incident from J.A. Adande on "Around The Horn" "it is just another night in the NHL." Our lovely UFOI fans like to tell us how incidents such as these gets the NHL in the national spotlight and that's a good thing. It gets airtime on ESPN's Sportscenter and on newscasts around country. What they fail to realize is that there is such a thing as bad publicity. Here's that Adande quote again" it is just another night in the NHL." Stories that do nothing but reaffirm the NHL's bad reputation are not positives and the Chris Simon incident is very much in that same category, despite the NHL's attempt to spin the headline writers. One of these days, somebody will have to be killed in order for the incident to make Sportscenter.



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