Monday, December 10, 2007

I Thought Removing the Instigator Rule Was the Answer?

Every so often you have to give Larry Brooks credit. He does get things right from time to time like last week's column where he points out that divisional games sell more tickets than out of conference games (expect in the Southeast Division). This is important because the NHL is almost entirely driven by ticket revenue and is the only one of the "big four" who operates like that. So holding fewer games that sell the most tickets doesn't make much sense.

But when Larry writes two common-sense columns in a row. You really have to wonder, has Larry been hit, hard, on the head?

Yesterday Ol' Lar proposed an innovative and harsh system of punishment for players who "go over the line" and run afoul of the rules. Lar believes that a player who commits an egregious act should not only be suspended for the upcoming games but for an entire season series against an opponent as well. In his example he points out that not only would Steve Downie have to sit for 20 games, he would have to sit for the next four contests against Ottawa, no matter what team he is playing on or what season it was.

But wait, Lar' goes even further, a suspended player could not be replaced on the game day roster by his team. So if a player was suspended, his team would only be allowed to dress 19 players and if two players were suspended, 18 and so on while the player or players in question were suspended. That really makes not only the players, but the coaches and franchises accountable for one knucklehead's actions.

For the record, I think this is a great idea. Sure, you'll see players taking dives and faking injuries in an attempt to get a player suspended and his team hamstrung. We see it now all over the place with the umpteenth obstruction "crackdown" that only puts a team on the Power Play. But aren't you tired of seeing players getting carried off the ice on stretchers? Aren't you upset that Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play in the NHL? I mean if you have a better idea, let's hear it. I know this will require the NHL's Front Office to have a backbone and either continue to use the same standards they currently employ to hand down suspensions or tighten them up in order for this to really work. The Flyers are finally on notice after having their fifth suspension handed down in just the third month of the season. Clearly, the current procedures aren't enough to discourage thuggish play.

But here's the odd thing about Larry's column, we know that Larry is a disciple of "Old Time Hockey" which of course is code for "Ultimate Fighting On Ice" (UFOI). For the UFOI crowd, the one and only thing that needs to be done to "clean up" the game is removing "Gary Bettman's Instigator Penalty." (Never mind that wasn't Bettman who instituted the penalty.) We're told that removing the instigator penalty would allow the players to police the game to the point that referees and NHL Front Office Disciplinarians would be unnecessary. The players would settle all scores on the ice at the time the incident took place and everything would be alright. Furthermore, the NHL would sell more tickets, get back onto ESPN (and be treated with respect by the World Wide Leaders in Schlock), get a Broadcast Television contract in the U.S. that rivals the NFL (those well-known purveyors of violence), end Global Warming, and finally bring peace to the Middle East.

So will the UFOI crowd join Larry and myself in supporting this innovative idea? Or will Larry be chastised by the UFOI crowd for his blasphemy? Or am I a fool for thinking that Larry has finally had a lasting conversion experience? (Which I don't BTW, I fully expect Larry to write something somewhere down the line that disassociates himself from this idea and puts himself squarely in the UFOI camp of "the instigator has got to go.")

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