(I actually wrote the first three paragraphs of this piece last weekend, before the Crosby incident on Monday night. But I think the overall context benefits from their inclusion.)
I’m thoroughly disgusted with the NHL edict (I can’t imagine the referees are doing this on their own) that penalties shouldn’t be called during the playoffs unless the offence is particularly egregious, and often not even then. Even an Albert Einstein wouldn’t be able to figure out what criteria, if any, the referees are using.
And forget about that old NHL canard that a game shouldn’t be decided by a penalty call; a game is just as apt to be decided by a non-call. Also, there’s more natural justice in a game being decided by a penalty call, where a player is the perpetrator who placed his team at a disadvantage by committing a foul, than when a game is decided by a non-call, where the perpetrator is the official who put a team at a disadvantage by not doing his job properly.
NHL coaches and players are smart, and they’re going to keep pushing the envelope on the non-calls until something really serious happens and the integrity of the officiating is completely lost, assuming it hasn’t already been.
(Now to the Crosby incident)
Niskanen’s vicious cross-check was on a completely defenseless Crosby, who had been stick-fouled twice by Ovechkin split seconds before; and, as a friend of mine pointed out, it might well have been Ovechkin’s stick to Crosby’s head that actually knocked him senseless. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that both Ovechkin, who wasn’t penalized at all, and Niskanen, who was banished only after the officials talked it over, were assuming they had carte blanche under the playoff non-call regime to do whatever they wanted to in order to impede a skilled opponent.
I was equally disgusted that the NHL’sso-called “department of player safety” decided no further discipline on Niskanen was necessary. But then what can we expect from a department that employs the dirtiest player who ever laced on skates in the NHL, Chris Pronger, and is headed up by Stephane Quintal, a former player who had five-and-half-times more penalty minutes than points during his 17-year NHL career. (Thank you, Gary Bettman.)
I was further disgusted by the ludicrous comment made the day after the Crosby incident by the NHL’s leading Neanderthal, Brian Burke. (Burke makes Don Cherry look like a neo-progressive.) Burke said that Niskanen’s action was simply a “hockey play” that deserved no more than a two-minute penalty. Since when is bending down almost to ice level to cross-check in the face an already helpless, possibly concussed, falling player a “hockey play?”
Although I expected as much from the goonish Burke, my disgust deepened even more when Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and John Shannon agreed with him. Even though he’s an unrelenting apologist for Gary Bettman and his merry men, I expected more from the usually thoughtful Shannon. I don’t know much about Marek, so I’ll assume that he’s trying to establish some kind of name for himself by taking such an outlandish stand.
Of course, both Burke and Shannon have worked in the NHL office under Bettman, which leads me to believe that it must be particularly strong and long-lasting Kool-Aid they serve there.
Memo to Messrs. Bettman, Quintal, Pronger, Burke, Shannon, and Marek: Vicious slashes and cross-checks are decidedly not “hockey plays.”
While On The Subject Of Disgust
Last week I wrote that I’ve lost all respect for the vast majority of politicians. Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s deliberate lies, followed by a completely inept and fatuous “apology,” have added to this particular disgust. One journalist reported that Sajjan repeated the same talking-point answer to fourteen different questions about his lying.
And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t exactly distinguish himself when explaining why he hadn’t asked for Sajjan’s resignation (or better still, fired him). The PM, completely ignoring the real point, averred that he still had confidence in his minister.
The real point, of course, is not whether Trudeau has confidence in Sajjan, but whether the men and women of the military still have confidence in him. In the military, “theft of valor” is one of the most egregious sins a soldier can commit, so it’s probable that the military has lost all respect for Sajjan; and it’s pretty difficult to have confidence in someone you don’t respect..