This is a departure from my series of articles promoting my latest book, Simple Realities (The pathway to happiness and success), which is available at Amazon.com and on Kindle. This week I’m compelled to comment on something about which I feel very strongly: the refusal of the National Hockey League to clean up its act. Although the league has many off-ice problems, it’s the on-ice situation that I’m disgusted with.
Anyone with even a passing interest in hockey knows that the problems are:
1. Violent, senseless, so-called “hockey plays” that result in unnecessary and often very serious injuries. (As I write this, it’s actually not known whether the best hockey player in the world, Sidney Crosby will ever play again because of a brain injury – let’s drop the euphemism “concussion”—because of an unnecessary blow to the head, which the NHL deemed was not subject to a suspension because it was a “hockey play.”)
2. Staged fights, where two goons agree to do battle.
3. The NHL not only refusing to institute rules to fix the problems, but not adequately or appropriately enforcing the existing rules.
The Causes of the Problems (not in any order of importance)
1. The two most powerful people in the game, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, and NHL Players Association Executive Director, Donald Fehr, have no hockey background; to Fehr’s credit he admits that he has a lot to learn, Bettman, on the other hand, appears to me as an arrogant megalomaniac who thinks he knows everything about everything when it seems that he doesn’t even know much about the history and tradition of the game he’s supposed to be protecting.
2. A completely misguided concept called “finishing your check” whereby players are encouraged to hit another player as hard as they can after the other player has passed or lost control of the puck, even if he’s near the boards and glass (or, as in the Chara case, a potentially death- causing stanchion). It’s worth noting here that the purpose of body checking in hockey used to be to separate the player from the puck, not from his head.
3. The Players Association is quick to defend a player who is subject to sanctions by the League (as weak and ineffective as they are) but I don’t recall it ever standing up for a victim of hockey violence.
4. A completely misguided so-called “hockey code” where the threat of injuring another player in retaliation to a real or perceived transgression is encouraged by general managers, coaches, and far too many hockey commentators, such as Don Cherry and Ron MacLean, who want to keep the game in the dark ages.
5. Nonsensical rules, such as: refusing to institute non-touch icing (which virtually every other league has) and allowing the goons to come back into the game after one of their idiotic staged fights; an automatic penalty for high-sticking or shooting the puck out of the rink, whether or not intentional, yet no penalty for concussing an opponent unless an NHL minion reads the offending player’s mind and decides it was intentional; considering a fight not to be a deliberate attempt to injure (what else could it be?)
6. The NHL’s chief disciplinarian, a former coach and player, Colin Campbell, should not be in the job. There are two reasons why. The first is that he has a conflict of interest in that his son plays for an NHL team; the second is that, based on his complete lack of consistency and his incredibly fluid “reasoning” in justifying his decisions, he seems to lack, or refuses to engage in, the logical thinking and courageous stands required of someone in such an important judgemental position.
The Solutions (again not in any order of importance)
1. Cut the team rosters by two players. It would be the goons who would be the first to go and the game would be better for it. Whatever it takes to force the Players Association to go along with this should happen –even a lockout.
2. Make the following rule changes: no-touch icing; a game misconduct for fighting, a one-game suspension for a second fight in a player’s career and a doubling of the suspension for each additional fight; an automatic penalty (minor, major or game misconduct, at the referee’s discretion) for any hit to the head, intentional or not; and, introduce a misconduct penalty for any player who indulges in the so-called “face wash” (grabbing an opponent’s face with a gloved hand).
3. Replace Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell.
4. Ignore the likes of Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
My rationale is really quite simple. Answer the following question honestly. What two hockey series do you most enjoy? For any real hockey fan the answer will be the NHL playoffs and the Olympics. Why? Well, it’s because both are played as if the foregoing solutions were in effect.
If you don’t agree, then go watch UFC. It’s available on TV in Canada now.