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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dear Hockey Media: YOU FAIL!

It's the All-Star Break which gives everyone pause to reflect on how things are going and where things are headed. I'll have a piece up here soon going back to check out the standings, much the way I did earlier this season.

In reading up on some of the fluff pieces written at this time of year, one writer has done something that no other writer apparently has - asked an obvious quesion. Thanks to ESPN's Scott Burnside, he's actually asked a question I've been wondering about since about February of last year and he asked a guy I particularly don't like at all in Chris Pronger.

Pronger's answer, however, is suprising and a revelation - is he trying to win us over? Yeah, probably, that is until he picks another fight with a gooning stalwart like Dan Cleary:

Speaking of the big Anaheim defenseman, he also might be be the liveliest
interview in the league. Asked whether he believed officiating was relaxed a bit
to allow for more physical play in the defensive zone, Pronger didn't

"You know what, you are right. They are letting us get away with a lot
more. I don't like it. I don't like it," Pronger said. "Again, I haven't given
much thought to it.

"This is actually the first time I've actually answered this question … we are getting away with more, probably from the top of the circles in respect to the little hooks, quality scoring chances, things of that nature. You're able to limit the elite players, the players that are going to be able to create the bulk of the chances. Which is a good thing. For me. Probably not for those guys."

Emphasis mine on that quotation, of course.

So we have a thorough stable of guys that cover all the teams in the NHL for radio, TV and newsprint. We have multiple cable channels covering the sport in Canada and the United States. We have national networks in both countries that cover the sport - and NONE OF THEM HAVE ASKED ABOUT THIS?!

Un-freaking-real. You all embarass me because even an arm-chair loose-cannon like myself that only gets to catch NHL games on TV can see these things happening, especially in the playoffs where referees are even less likely to want to "decide a game" with a call. Deciding games with a host of non-calls is more the way to go nowadays.

This is sickening. The reporters, in this case, have to be the gatekeepers to keep everyone aware of what the hell is going on. Of course, when you still have a lot of games cranking out where teams are scoring six, seven or eight goals in a game - it sends the message to these ninnies that all is well. As we witnessed in the playoffs and end of the season last year as well as for most of this year - all is NOT well and old habits are returning in force.

I'd like to think that a stunning quote like this from one of the league's biggest stars would be enough to draw attention to things....but even in Scott Burnsides' article, it's buried beneath talking about the different events in the Skills Competition, the lack of big stars turning out for the event and the possibility of the league adding two games to the schedule next season.

I guess if its two more games full of lockdown boredom hockey people might start to notice and get worried again. Then again, none of the hockey writers seem to notice or care in the first place.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brilliant Ideas Sullied By Madness

Recently, NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly gave an interview with the Palm Beach Post (wait...huh?) and one thing he said stood out so much, TSN decided to carry it as one of their main stories.

In it, he says something that I stand firmly behind and support, and then blows that support up with the clarifying statement. Quoting from the TSN article:

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Kelly listed a number of cities
that are "anxious" to get a team, including Seattle, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Kansas
City, Las Vegas and Houston.

"The six Canadian franchises do so well, they pack the buildings, get great
TV, great revenue streams. If you put another team up there, be it in Nova
Scotia or Hamilton, it would be more of the same."

This sounds good - we've got a handful of cities that are really hurting in the support category and could be looking to get out of town. Reinvigorating the Canadian market is also a brilliant idea as they will fill up an arena at will and the Canadian dollar is on par with the U.S. dollar (scarily so).

Except that the article leads off by saying that these cities are all interested in expansion opportunities.

NO! NO! NO! NO! Bad NHL!

You continue to learn nothing from past mistakes and seek to overwrite them by making more bad mistakes. Yes, revenues keep going up magically - mainly by bilking the fans that want to come to games.

They seem to think these revenues will continue to keep coming whereas instead we're just going to see the fans in cities where they do love and care about hockey continue to get it stuck to them for ticket monies and the hemorraging markets will keep trying to cut deals to fans to make it affordable while still eating a huge financial loss.

I know the Players Association wants expansion, it's more voices to add to yell at Bettman - that much I support. What it'll do to the game, however, I do not support. If anything, the NHL needs contraction.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Saga Continues.... Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!

Pardon my love of Ol' Dirty Bastard.

No, not this old dirty bastard - I mean the now dead rapper from the Wu-Tang Clan.

Let's just get on with it already.

"When he went after [Jason] Blake, I loved it," Clarke told The Sports Network of Canada.

Clarke said Blake deserved Downie's punch for saying Downie should have been suspended for more than 20 games.

"Blake was a guy who had no problem going out and saying [Downie] should be suspended for life or suspended for the year," Clarke said. "When you say something that stupid, why shouldn't this kid go after him for it?

"The kid did what every hockey player should do. If a player like Blake who's been around as long as he has wants to criticize a player, then he has to go on the ice with him and suffer the consequences."
Clarke, in this case, is of course Philadelphia Flyers vice president and former Broad Street Bully Bobby Clarke. Now, it could be very easy for me to get apopleptic about this and start screeching fire and brimstone. I'm not going to do that because not even Leafs coach Paul Maurice is all that upset.

This, however, leaves the door wide open for me to criticize the NHL. Yeah, I know, beating that drum is starting to get old around here, I'm sure but when you've got a league run by gutless morons...these things happen.

How is it that the Commissioner declared that any further goonish actions out of the Flyers would be subject to punishment of the team - meaning that all of these questionable hits and actions are viewed as OK by the higher-ups in Philadelphia. Maybe not all the way up to the owner, Ed Snider, but certainly to the VP's office with Clarke. Paul Holmgren clearly has no problem with it - that or he's been rendered silent by Clarke.

It's a shame, this situation provided the league with the perfect opportunity to punish these cementheads and make an example out of them and to say that respect at its most basic level will be maintained in the league. Instead, we continue to get the same blind-eye routine out of Bettman and Campbell and when something truly egregious occurs, they'll wring their hands and talk about how they never expected something like that to happen and they'll overreact with how they handle it.

This is how Bettman handles things - he's a procrastinator. The NHL's plan is to keep putting things off until it hits the ultimate breaking point and everyone is fed up and sick of things and then everything has to be changed drastically. Gradual implementation is never the answer and neither is fixing things when they're very obviously already broken. Disrepair is Bettman's M.O. and sadly for the rest of us, coming up with the right answers isn't his strong suit.

Monday, January 7, 2008

It All Makes Sense

Here, just....go and read this now - its the update on Steve Downie.

There's a new name for my pain....and it is Colin Campbell.

I really am dumbstruck by this decision. I mean, I already had my bar set low - I was counting on the punishment to be light. What I didn't expect was that I would have to amend that statement by having to say it thusly:

I was counting on the punishment being light, if anything at all.

Let's run down the list of things wrong with this situation:

  • He's already a previous offender
  • He plays on a team with an outright bad track record this year
  • The NHL Commissioner already issued a threat against the team if more of this kept up
  • It's Downie's fifth NHL game played and he's already got more suspension games than that under his belt

What a joke. These clowns in charge should be ashamed of themselves and most of all, they should all be terminated from their positions.

Beating Them To The Punch

Right when you thought it was safe to go back on the ice....the Flyers strike again.

If you check out the video, you'll see Flyers rookie and now notorious cheap-shot artist Steve Downie being restrained by one of the linesmen in the Flyers game with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past Saturday night. Downie had gotten into a scrap with Maple Leafs winger Jason Blake.

Blake is known in Flyers circles for speaking out about Steve Downie's elbow attack on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in a pre-season game that knocked McAmmond out of action for a while and earned Downie a 20-game suspension:

"I've got one thought: This (Downie) should not be (allowed) to play in the
league again," Blake told a Toronto radio station.

"One day a player is not going to get up, so something needs to be done
about hits of that nature."

Well, thank goodness Steve Downie got recalled from the AHL because now in his fifth NHL game, he's shown the mettle that he's made of....by thumbing another player in the eye!

Unreal - I know all of this reflects poorly on the Flyers, after all, they're the dopes employing these morons, however Downie has shown nothing that says he should stay employed in the NHL. Tack on another ten games to the 20 he got earlier this year and send the message.

We'll see what Herr Bettman has to say when he finally rolls out of bed after a long, tough weekend.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Predicting a Response

Given how tough Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell have been on reckless and illegal hits this year, especially when they concern the Philadelphia Flyers, I'm eager to see what Herr Bettman and Sidekick Colin have to say about this:

During a scrum in front of the Flyers net midway through the second period,
Travis Zajac got his glove into the face of Philadelphia defenceman Derian Hatcher
and then pulled his bare hand out.

"I guess I got close to him and he bit me," said Zajac, who wore a splint on the middle finger of his left hand. "I felt pain, I saw blood and then got stitched up and went back out."

Zajac, who gave the Devils a 2-0 lead with his first goal in nearly a
month, missed the rest of the second period but returned for the third. Zajac
said Hatcher didn't talk to him.

"I had my finger in his mouth, so I don't think he could," Zajac said.

Hatcher's version of the story was different.

"If he's cut, good, but I didn't bite him," Hatcher said. "I
didn't think anything of it until someone mentioned it to me.

"He went like that (face wash) right across my face. He got his glove on my tooth, almost pulled it out. It's all sore."
So, we've had stick-swinging, cross-checks to the head, blatant hits from behind and crushing a guys head into the boards and now biting. Biting through a guy's glove no less. Just the fact that Hatcher bit through Zajac's glove is horrifying enough. If you've ever been within 10 feet of a hockey player's equipment, you know damn well how bad that stuff stinks, I can't imagine it tasted all that great to have a guy's glove in your mouth.

Maybe biting him was an apt response in that case.... Naaah - no way.

After the last incident involving a Flyers player attempting to end a player's career, Gary Bettman gave the toothless response along the lines of, "Now if you guys do that again, I am seriously going to consider punishing you really hard."

You can practically see him shaking his finger at owner Ed Snider and GM Paul Holmgren while feigning disgust.

While Derian Hatcher is yet another one of those players with a checkered history of dirty and questionable hits, biting a guy is something that just does not happen...unless your name is Mike Tyson.

My guess here is that Hatcher will get five games, appeal because of an apparent lack of evidence other than hearsay, and have to eat the five games anyhow - all while Bettman claims that this incident is different than all of the other incidents the Flyers have had this year. For the record, it's five dirty plays they've been smacked for this season, after the fifth one the Commissioner was awoken from sleep to make a statement for.

I figure because this had to do with a player totally losing his cool and doing something rather barbaric that didn't result in an injury where the player's livelihood was in danger, he won't get something too bad and the Flyers won't be punished for it. These are the kinds of things I expect from the Gutless Reign of Herr Bettman.