Friday, March 23, 2012

Let's talk hockey

Specifically, let's talk about injuries caused by the opposing team. I ranted a bit about that during the playoffs last year, both when Rome hit Horton and when Boychuk hit Raymond, but it's up for discussion again this week. Just for the record, as a Canucks fan, I felt that Raymond's hit deserved to be penalized, although perhaps, based on the criteria applied to other hits, four games was a big much (but maybe it wasn't, I'll get to that in a second) and I was APPALLED that the league didn't even review the Boychuk hit on Raymond.

Wednesday night we were watching the Vancouver - Chicago game. I really enjoy it when Vancouver and Chicago meet because the rivalry is so intense, it brings a lot to the game. J and I listened to the first half of the first period in the car but we were in the house when Duncan Keith hit Daniel Sedin. J started yelling, "That man has to go to the penal (yes, that's the word she uses, but it's pronounce more like PEN-ll than peenal) box because we don't hit and Mommy, that other man is lying down. Now there is going to be blood on the ice. That man needs a time out." And while, there was no blood, she was right about going to the penalty box

[aside: J loves watching hockey and is just starting to grasp the concept of the opposite teams. She doesn't understand checking because at home and at daycare she has been taught that we never, ever, ever hit another watching the game with her means there's a whole lot of "Why didn't that man have to go to the penal box for a time out? He hit someone."]

It wasn't until the second period intermission that they showed us the earlier hit where the roles were reversed. And I can't say that made me like Duncan Keith any more.

We've been noticing over the last few weeks that the officials aren't calling a whole lot of penalties and that seems to result in games that aren't much fun to watch for a variety of reasons. This game was a perfect example of how a bit more effort in penalty calling by the officials might have prevented a whole bunch of hullabaloo later.

Like, maybe if Daniel Sedin had been called on the initial hit and done his time in the box, Duncan Keith would not have lost his mind and hunted down Daniel Sedin. If that initial hit had been penalized maybe neither the Canucks nor the Blackhawks would be facing the indefinite loss of one of their key players.

Daniel Sedin threw a bad hit. Duncan Keith made a ridiculous decision and if the rumours of his threat of I'm going to make you pay or whatever it was are true, he made more than one dumb decision. And the officials, they lost the plot. I know it is best if the officials don't get too involved because they can kill the momentum of the game and they don't want to be seen as influencing the outcome, but their JOB is to enforce the rules and make sure the play on the ice is safe. I don't know exactly how much NHL officials are paid, but I've heard that starting salaries for linesmen run about $75K. Anyone else making that kind of money under such direct public scrutiny would be without a job at this point.

And then there are the fans. I'm not talking about the rational fans - the ones who can maintain their team loyalty but still see that a player on their team made a big mistake which goes for both sides in this case (check out the anti-Canuck vitriol spewed by a Chicago journalist who can still see that what Keith did deserves punishment). I'm talking about the ones who are saying things on twitter and forums and comment sections of newspaper articles and blogs saying stuff along the lines of Sedin deserved it, glad someone finally gave it to the Canucks etc. No one deserves to get hurt by an intentional play. No one. It's professional hockey, so yes, injury is something of a given, but being intentionally sought out should not be a worry.

Does Daniel Sedin deserve a suspension? Probably. Does Duncan Keith deserve a suspension? Definitely. Did Daniel Sedin "deserve" to get hurt? No way. Should the officials be disciplines as well? Probably, but unlikely. How do we make this go away?

The NHL keeps saying they want to crack down on head shots and prevent concussion and other dangerous hits and injuries, but all they do is hand out these 3-5 game suspensions that are obviously not having much of an effect on the players. I say change the rules. If you injure someone, intentional or not, on an illegal play, you sit until they are able to play again. And THEN you serve your suspension. One or two of those and the players might wake up and change their behaviour.

So now, we wait for Brendan Shanahan to make a decision. And there will be upset people on both sides of the situation. But maybe the attention this hit is drawing will drive some change. And maybe one day people will realize it's just a game and the players are human and cheering when one gets hurt is just not the way to go.

/rant over

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