November 15, 2011

Players Police Themselves? NHL Can't Go Back, So They Better Step Up

The NHL's failure to suspend Milan Lucic for deliberately running down Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has led to no shortage of cries for letting the players police themselves.

Here's what Hall of Famer Mark Howe had to say about it on the weekend:
"I like the game a little better in our era, mostly because the players policed the game. I think there's so much onus put on the officials right now ... I don't mind the fighting in the game, I know they're trying to take a lot of it out.

"The game in the old days got rid of the pretenders and the guys who do the whacking and the hacking, guys that are chirping back. That stuff got eliminated years ago. If somebody was taking a shot at your best player, somebody got rid of that right away.

"The reason I think there's a lot more injuries now? Guys are bigger, stronger, better fit overall. But you can just take runs at people left and right and they're coming at full speed. And in the old days, you eliminated that from the game."
This is what many opponents of the instigator rule have been saying for years. It's all about accountability. All players would be held accountable for their own actions on the ice by their peers.

But as the NHL has taken that out of the game more and more, we are seeing more pests, more injuries to star players and more frustrating discrepancies in justice from incident to incident. The NHL fails to set a standard. At least in the old days the standard was simple: Do something wrong, and you can expect to answer the bell.

In the same link as above CBC's eloquent Elliotte Friedman theorizes:
"What if the reason we're seeing so many dangerous on-ice plays is that we've forgotten how to deal with the bully in the schoolyard? You can run to the principal all you want. Eventually, you've got to stand up for yourself."
Of course, old school, vigilante justice can not always the answer either. Here's what that looks like when it goes to far:

Line brawls, jumping superstars and denting goalie masks with bare fists. As entertaining as that video clip might have been for us older fans, do we really want to see that come back on a regular basis?

Not doing anything is no good either. Montreal never challenged Zdeno Chara after the Pacioretty/stanchion incident. The Canucks may have lost the Stanley Cup in part because they did not get as dirty as the Bruins, and the referees did not properly reward them. And now Lucic gets away with running one of the top goalies in the league. Those teams left it up to the NHL to police it. They did not. And Jeremy Jacob's Boston Bruins keep taking advantage.

Somewhere there has to be a balance. The answer is the NHL has to eliminate pests. I've been on this tangent for a long while now. The league has gone after goons, which is fine, but they have continued to allow the pests to ruin the game. Eliminate the pests, and you eliminate a lot of the reasons for fighting in hockey to begin with. Then the stars can shine.

But the NHL instead has set the standard now where you can run and concuss other teams goaltenders and only get a two minute penalty. But if you dare do anything about it, like everyone is saying the Sabres should have done, it will be you who gets into real trouble.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good comments Joe . I don't think a goalie should be "fair game" but I also think if they ( goaltender) are making a play on the puck an attacking player should be able to check him if the goaltender is outside of a "safe" area . What if Lucic isn't aggressive on Miller and Miller manages to set-up a breakaway pass/scoring attempt -Lucic would then be critcized for being lazy or not following through with his check .

Get the pests out of the game . I love physical hockey but I enjoy the artistry of a skillful game/tournament like the Olympics or most clean playoff games more . We don't need the Cooke's, Avery's , Linsemans of the hockey world when they are pests .