I picked up my coffee and joined Paddy at our favorite table.
“Lots of NHL stuff to talk about today,” he averred.
“Isn’t there always?” I countered.
“Let’s get at it,” Paddy said, completely ignoring my comment. “Do you think the NHL should cancel sending their players to Sushi?”
“I think you mean Sochi, don’t you?” I said.
“Whatever,” he said, dismissively waving his hand, “should they withdraw?”
“Not yet,” I told him. “I think Bill Daly’s warning that if evidence of a clear threat surfaces they’ll give cancellation consideration is the right posture for now.”
“Don’t tell me you’re agreeing with something the NHL has decided!” he exclaimed.
“In this case, yeah,” I admitted.
“Do you agree with the players who’ve decided not to take their families?” he asked.
“Definitely,” I said.
“Isn’t that being hypocritical?” he asked.
“No,” I defended myself. “There’s no doubt there’s the possibility of danger; it’s thousands of miles from home with limited travel options; there’s a big difference between providing security for a homogeneous group of able adult men and doing so for dozens of women and children; and, if something untoward does happen it’ll be a helluva lot easier to evacuate the players than it would be if families were also there.”
“So, if you were a player you’d go, but you wouldn’t take your family,” he summarized.
“Correct,” I agreed, “if for no other reason than the distraction that worrying about them would be.”
“Even though you were invited, you didn’t go to Russia for the 1972 series, did you?” Paddy stated.
“You’re right,” I conceded. “I wasn’t comfortable going even by myself, so I didn’t.”
“Wasn’t there some amusing upshot of your not going?” Paddy inquired.
“Yes,” I said, “although it was only amusing in hindsight because it turned out OK. I gave my spot to one of my partners and he was one of the guys who got arrested in Moscow. But, as I said, it all turned out fine.”
“Next item,” Paddy said, “how about Tortorella’s suspension and Hartley’s fine for that fiasco between the Flames and Canucks?”
“I’m OK with Tortorella’s suspension, but I think Hartley should also have been suspended for precipitating the whole thing,” I told him.
“So you wouldn’t have fined him.” Paddy suggested.
“I’d have fined him for the stupid explanation that he gave for putting the goons out; saying that he put them in the starting lineup because they’d been playing well,” I answered
“Did you agree with the NHL’s comment that fighting can’t really be eliminated?” Paddy asked.
“Yes and no,” I replied. “It’s not practical to think that all fights can be eliminated; but staged fights could easily be removed from the game. And they should be.”
“A couple of things there,” Paddy said. “First, why can’t all fights be eliminated?”
“Because,” I expounded, “when you’ve got guys moving upwards of thirty miles per hour, in an enclosed space, with elbows extended, carrying sticks and banging into each other, tempers are going to occasionally flare and punches get thrown.”
“So, you’re OK with that,” Paddy suggested.
“I am,” I admitted, “but the league is absolutely cowardly when it comes to the staged fight.”
“Would you throw them out of the game?” Paddy asked.
“No, not for the real fights, but I’d make the teams play short-handed for the five minutes,” I said. “And I would give game misconducts for staged fights.”
“OK,” Paddy went on, “but would that get the staged fights out of the game?”
“Oh, I’d do more,” I said, “In addition to the game misconduct I’d add a one game suspension for a player’s first staged fight and double the suspension for each additional fight.”
“And not only that,” I added, “the team would not be allowed to dress a replacement player during the term of the suspension. Their roster would be one guy short. That would get the staged fights out of the game.”
“Then why not just cut the existing rosters by two players and get rid of the goons altogether?” Paddy quite reasonably asked.
“I would; but the players’ association would never agree to that,” I answered.
“So,” Paddy observed, “when it comes to the goons, the players’ association is as stupid as the league?”
“No,” I said, “they’re stupider.”
“How so?” Paddy inquired.
“Because they’re protecting the wrong jobs” I told him. “By keeping the goons in the NHL they’re keeping skilled players in the minors. That has to be detrimental to the game.”
“Well,” Paddy said as he got up to leave, “I feel better now. I was afraid you thought everything was OK in the NHL.”
“That’s not going to happen as long as there’s a basketball guy running the league, a baseball guy running the players’ association, and general managers deciding the rules,” I said to his departing back.