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Monday, March 17, 2008

Chris Simon: Now We've Got Your Back

Yeah...my bad, Chris. I say that only because you were cool enough to call out Colin Campbell.

To the quote board!

"I think it's definitely not fair," Simon told the Minnesota
Pioneer-Press. "My opinion is there's obviously two sets of rules."

If you look at the (video) tape and look at his history, you
can't say we're different, other than he's a star player and I'm not."

A home run all around from the mouth of Chris Simon. Of all people to call Colin Campbell out on the carpet it's the former poster boy for boorish thuggery.

Well...he still might be the poster boy for that, but as far as we're concerned he's irrelevant until he plants another stick into some guy's face. Until that happens, he's now the shining star as to why the NHL is ripe with hypocracy and a crock.

To prove that, here's more wisdom from Chris Simon:

"Because you look at the evidence, at the tape of both cases. You have to put in
the facts of both players being suspended (previously), and I'm being treated
unfairly. The tape proves it all, and his history proves it all. I have nothing
against the other players, I just want to be treated fairly, and in this case I
don't think I have been."


In typical toothless and brainless fashion, Colin Campbell fired back:

"[Simon's] skate drop on the Pittsburgh player was in a totally
different context than Chris Pronger's," Campbell told
the Pioneer-Press in an email.

"Mr. Simon can state his opinion. Our job is to assess what we
feel is fair and right. If Chris didn't do what he has done, he wouldn't need to
complain about how we handle discipline."

Seriously Colin? Couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone on this one? Real nice.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And the decision is...

Eight! Eight games! Ha-ha-ha!

So as I postulated last night about this, he'd get just enough of a suspension to make some of the casual fans feel good about it all the while doing Anaheim a huge favor in giving their minutes horse on the blue line a couple weeks off before the start of the playoffs.

The way this suspension works out, Pronger doesn't even miss the rest of the regular season (which I figured would happen) and instead gives Pronger the extra favor of having one game to get his legs back underneath him before the Playoffs start!

Absolutely incredible. I guess that since Los Angeles hasn't been a viable hockey market since Gretzky left town, the NHL is pushing all their chips in on Anaheim using the "close enough" corollary. Not familiar with it? You should be - after the NHL shot itself in the foot after the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 and the owners locked out the players for the better part of the following year, they had essentially killed all momentum gained by the Rangers winning it all.

The Rangers had essentially gone into the tank (good-bye New York market!) but the Devils used losing to the Rangers in their epic seven-game series the season before to come back even more fierce in 1995 and winning the Stanley Cup.

By virtue of this "close enough corollary" the league decided that putting all their eggs into the Devils basket in regards to rule enforcement and quality of entertainment figuring that the savvy hockey fans from New York City would latch onto a winner instantaneously and therefore keep the budding world-wide hockey takeover train rolling along!

Oops. The league soon found out that the Devils, while initially a great and lovable story about a team that finally rose out of mediocrity to win it all, became a not-so-fun side show of domination and boredom. Many, including yours truly, postulated that the lost season of 2004-2005 due to the lockout and the rule re-establishment borne from that was the way for the NHL to cleanse itself of all the clutch-and-grab styles that were adopted thanks to the success the Devils and Stars gained from that.

And now here we are at another crossroads in hockey history, a team developing a style of play that is completely opposite of what hockey was meant to be and using the same styles adopted by New Jersey (the grabbing, the slowing down, the constant interference) and then adding a different twist to it with the cheap hits, dirty play and constant fighting. You'd figure that since Bettman has been on a crusade to eliminate fighting from the game so he can market hockey to his precious and mythological "wider audience" he'd have figured that Anaheim would be a bad thing.

That's where Anaheim has got him by the balls - just being in Southern California - hitting on Bettman's other more pressing weakness, successful hockey teams in the new markets that came out of reckless over-expansion.

Hell, you don't need me to tell you what a bonehead Bettman is for pushing his garbage, listen to him yourself! Not only doing a half-ass job congratulating the winning team, but mostly to brag about how great hockey's doing in California and how quickly success has come to one of their expansion teams.

I wish I could tell you I was making all of this up, but real life allows me the creative freedom to come up with something so crazy sounding that it seems plausibly true.

Stompy McUnibrow Update

It appears the smoking gun/Zapruder film/second gunman has decided to make its appearance in regards to the Chris Pronger stomping on Ryan Kesler incident.

Be sure to check this link first to see it for yourself if you were doubting the validity of Kesler's claim.

Also doing a mea culpa with this is TSN's Bob McKenzie who had initially said he didn't believe Pronger should be suspended based on the "inconclusive" video evidence presented before. Now, with the new video showing a closer view of what exactly Stompy McUnibrow was doing to Kesler... he feels action should be taken.

The main guy changing course in all this, however, is Colin Campbell. Campbell had asked for Pronger to come to New York City to meet with him to discuss his newly minted indefinite suspension. Pronger opted to exercise his right to have his hearing over the phone.

What I found oddly amazing about this part of the story was this:

Traditionally, the type of hearing usually speaks to the number of games a
player can be suspended. The phone hearing normally means four games
or less, while an in-person hearing means five or more.

By waiving his right to an in-person hearing, Pronger acknowledges his
suspension could be more severe than the phone treatment usually determines.

So... basically you know how screwed or not screwed you are based on how they want to conduct business. I also find it a bit odd that the player who's about to be punished has the option of whether or not they come to meet with Campbell. Shouldn't something regarding what will likely be a long suspension have to require their presence in person? This would be like having a defendant be tried, convicted and sentenced all while never having to set foot in court....ever. Then again, it's not surprising that the NHL would operate in such a way.

This should prove interesting to see how harshly the NHL comes down on Pronger - remember, the bar is set at 30 games (what Chris Simon got for doing exactly the same thing). Also, remember that Simon and Pronger now both have the same number of doled out punishments from the NHL. I'm thinking Pronger will miss out on the rest of the regular season and then will be back and ready to go for the playoffs where he'll probably continue to be a beligerent rule breaker and menace to the safety of everyone on the ice.

This really couldn't have worked out any nicer for Anaheim.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Double-Standard is Clear

Remember Chris Simon? Yeah, he's on the Minnesota Wild now, but while he was a New York Islander he helped add to his fun legacy by both using Ryan Hollweg like a batting tee and Jarkko Ruutu as a Dance Dance Revolution mat.

I get to mention that last incident because it elicited this response from NHL Discipline Lackey Colin Campbell:

Several factors were considered in imposing the longest suspension in NHL
history for an on-ice incident. While it was fortunate there was no serious
injury to Mr. Ruutu as a result of Simon's action, the deliberate act of kicking
an opponent with an exposed skate blade, especially where the opponent is in a
vulnerable position, is and always has been a repugnant and totally unacceptable
act in the game of hockey.

In addition, while the act itself was
extremely dangerous, the fact that this is the eighth incident requiring the
imposition of supplementary discipline on Simon compelled me to impose a very
severe penalty in this case. When a player repeatedly evidences the lack of
ability to control his actions and conducts himself in total disregard of the
rules, as well the health and safety of other players on the ice, each
subsequent incident is deserving of enhanced scrutiny and more severe

This response serves not only the purpose of imposing
appropriate punishment for the player involved, but also the purpose of
deterring the player and all other players from engaging in similar conduct in
the future - hopefully creating a safer long-term work environment for all NHL

I ask that you keep these words ringing through your head as I show you this.

That is Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks, the darlings of the NHL, deliberately stomping on the Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler with his skate in their game just last night. In case that sentence was too much to handle, here are the operative statements to keep in mind:

Chris Pronger
Anaheim Ducks

Now that I've painted that clearly for you, the outrage from the Canucks and from Ryan Kesler was rather obvious:

"He stomped on me," Kesler told reporters after the game. "He got me on the

Again, our operative word here is:


After Colin Campbell reviewed the incident, he followed through as how one would expect someone to on a repeat rule-breaking violent-hitting offender...

Chris Pronger Will Face No NHL Disciplinary Action for Stomp

Of course...why would the NHL suspend a guy they had their media gurus persistently sucking up to all last playoff season?

Wait, he was suspended twice during the playoffs last year for dirty hits? Once in the Western Finals and again in the Stanley Cup Finals? That can't be true! He's the best defenseman since Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey had a love child together with Scott Stevens! He's all parts fantasticness!

Wait a minute, what's this I read here?

Chris Pronger has been suspended seven different times before in his career? How is that possible!? I was told all playoffs long the last two seasons that Chris Pronger was the greatest thing to ever set foot on the ice that played the defensive position. This must be an egregious oversight.

After all, Chris Simon is the lowest form of low on the face of the hockey earth and he's been punished ├╝ber-severely multiple times because he's got a bad temper and a bad reputation and he's been suspended by the NHL eight different times! He's bad! Boo Chris Simon!

Folks, I don't know how many more times I need to stress the idiocy of those in charge of the NHL in all offices. I feel like I'm a broken record here sadly and I'd love... LOVE to talk more about the great things going on in the game (basically Alexander Ovechkin) but I can't ignore these stories. The NHL is finding new ways to make me hate being a professional hockey fan on a weekly and sometimes daily basis and that makes me sad. I love the game more than anything.

But this...this circus of errors, hypocracy and ignorance on all levels from the Commissioner's office to the Discipline office to the General Managers and Owners on down to the fans who have been duped over the last 10-15 years into thinking this brand of hockey is good. It's downright shameful and an absolute disgrace.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Personal Fandom Takes a Body-Blow

Being an American hockey fan means that there are more than a few things working against you these days. You don't have consistent televised coverage of games, especially if you live outside of the northeast U.S. or Canada. You also don't have much to work with as far as having fun or competent columnists to write to you about the game and about their feelings on the sport.

I've taken the media on the whole to task for failing in their role as gatekeepers - in keeping fans and casual curious outsiders apprised of what's going on with the game for better or for worse. There are a small handful of folks who I appreciate seeing what they've got to say and what their take is on the game. Others, I appreciate their passion for the game and their "love it at all costs" demeanor...when it's within reason - blind fandom is never a good thing because you'll miss everything else going on around you.

That is why I am so disheartened and disappointed with this piece by ESPN (the Network!)'s lone on-air true hockey soldier, John Buccigross.

I know, it's not really the best of reading given that it's basically a game blog going over what he sees in the game and what's going on. This time, he tackled the recent Stanley Cup Final rematch between Ottawa and Anaheim played in California.

Having not seen the game, you'd read that and would likely think, "Man, Ottawa is in big trouble and the Ducks are going to run away and hide come playoff time destroying everyone along the way."

Not so fast...

Missing from this game outline are a few facts:

Three Ottawa players had to leave the ice due to injury: Anton Volchenkov, Andrej Meszaros and captain Daniel Alfredsson. Bad breaks and bad luck you're figuring, correct?

Wrong. Volchenkov and Meszaros both left the game after egregious hits from behind and Alfredsson left after being on the bad end of a cross-check.

Buccigross does make mention of Senators coach Bryan Murray getting tossed out of the game - an extreme rarity in hockey. What were the circumstances though? Why would he get thrown out of a game where, according to the box score, saw hardly any penalties called at all? Seems pedestrian for an NHL game, doesn't it?

Ahh there's the rub I was looking for - this game was called in perfect preparation for the coming playoffs where officials don't want to be the ones to decide the game and make the back-breaking call that leads to the deciding goal of the game. No ref wants to be bigger than the game itself, save for Bill McCreary and Kerry Fraser.

However the referees on this night were Wes McCauley and Kelly Sutherland and they did, in fact, make themselves part of the game by letting most everything go...well, except for Teemu Selanne pulling a full gainer on an apparent trip and drawing the penalty (missing the obvious diving call in the process).

They also managed to botch up back-to-back too many men on the ice calls. The first being a no-call on the Ducks as they had guys going around all willie-nillie as they were lazily making a line change. These calls, while they can be confusing are easy to make - it's not hard to see a team screw up their line change so badly that you can see six or even seven skaters on the ice. The second call was one that was, at first, going to be made against Ottawa and to the officials credit they did count six Senators skaters on the ice. The problem was that goaltender Martin Gerber was already on the bench after being pulled for the, yes the term is right, extra skater.

How do you miss the goaltender not being on the ice?!

All of these things ultimately lead to Bryan Murray getting so fed up with everything that he pulled a trick out of the baseball manager's playbook and complained loudly and often enough to be thrown out of the game.

For the life of me, I can't remember the last time I saw an NHL head coach actually get kicked out of the game, but I can remember the last time any coach was tossed from a game and that was back in 2002 in Division III in the ECAC East Finals between the Norwich University Cadets and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Mohawks.

Murray, to his discredit/yellow-belliedness, put the blame upon himself for earning his team another penalty and getting thrown out.

“I talked to the referees during the game and I took a bad penalty,” Murray
said. “I apologized to them (his players). I put them in a bad spot. It was a
2-1 game and we had a chance to win.

“I took a second penalty and cost them the game. I should never do that and
it won’t happen again.”

Murray blew a golden opportunity here to put the league offices on notice that there are heap-big shenanigans going on during Ducks games and that having a couple of referees with marginal experience. McCauley has been an NHL ref since 2001, Sutherland since 1999 with a combined 22 playoff games worked between them (18 for Sutherland, 4 for McCauley). These guys ought to know better, but they're obviously inexperienced in handling a game that would likely have a lot of heat to it.

I would've given you a link to the website for NHL officials, but apparently even linking to their site is forbidden by the NHLofficials and their dot.com page because it's copyrighted. Thankfully, yours truly is a skilled wordsmith and you can piece it together nicely. Whoever said the NHL wasn't fan friendly?

Buccigross also fails in respect to what happens to Alfredsson - mentioning only what Alfredsson did during the Finals last year, firing the puck at one of his man-crushes Niedermayer in an inappropriate manner. Apparently failing to mention that Alfredsson was crushed by a cross-check illegally is OK.

The other side of this coin are the Ducks who were playing the role, again, of the out of control goon squad allowed to do whatever the hell they want to on the ice under the guise of teamwork. Yes, Booch mentions all throughout his piece that the Ducks are playing great and they're clicking and all that other silly sport-speak. What goes untalked about is the disgusting manner of play employed by Anaheim - a style of play that would've fit in perfectly with the Devils and Stars alike during the NHL Offensive Dark Ages but shouldn't be flying with anyone nowadays.

But yet, here we are. Amazing isn't it?

Here we are in a season with a player preparing to do something that no one has done since Mario Lemieux was in his peak and other offensive stars are doing their damnedest to take the headlines - but which team is getting picked out by many to run away and hide againd during the playoffs? The Ducks.

Brian Burke's band of cheats and goons are the fashionable pick by the experts to win it all again, but at what cost? I stressed this when I started this forum and I'll stress it now - we're going back to the beginning again and the gatekeepers are playing dumb all in the name of portraying the NHL in the bright and glowing light they want to put it in.

All's not sunshine and roses though and when even the staunchest of hockey fans turn away in disgust when every whistle turns into a scrum and questionable and dirty hits dictate the play once again - what will the response be from the league?

It'll be the same as it always is - Gary Bettman commending the finalists and handing the Cup over to the gang of thugs who played the dirtiest to get it. Hooray hockey!