So for those who might have missed the NHL hockey highlights last night, apparently the NHL was having a beer league hockey theme night in which several teams participated. There were cheap shots aplenty as several players went to their rec hockey dark place and attempted to take out players from the other team with cheap tactics. The only thing missing from last night’s action was the vaunted “I’ll meet you in the parking lot, bitch!” screamed by a player as he was kicked out of the game.
Let’s recap the carnage, shall we?
First up, we have Chris Kelly with a broken ankle, believed to have happened when Pascal Dupuis used his stick like a baseball bat and swung like he was Mark McGuire juiced out of his mind at Chris Kelly’s ankle right here:
Next up, we have James Neal doing the old Homer Simpson pie eating routine of “I’m just going to skate forward with my knee and if your head happens to be in the way, it’s your fault!” on Brad Marchand. Also included is the bonus hit of Brooks Orpik taking out Lou Eriksson, which was the start of the entire Bruins/Pens debacle.
Oh wait, that was the Simpsons clip. Here it is
I wonder if Neal remembered this from last years playoffs?
This was of course followed up the highlight getting the most amount of press, the Shawn Thornton UFC style ground and pound of Brooks Orpik later in the game (Orpik refused to fight Thornton, hence the escalation into beer league hockey antics).
Not to be lost in the shuffle, Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers also got into the fun in the Flyers vs Stars match up by attempting to out UFC Shawn Thornton with a some ground and pound of his own.
Phew, that was a lot of video. I am sure there is one of a player kicking a puppy as well, at the rate last night went, but I can’t find it.
So to sum up last night:
Brooks Orpik borderline late hit to the head of Lou Eriksson
Thornton punches to a prone Orpik
Neal knee to the head of Marchand
Dupuis slash to the ankle of Kelly
Rinaldo punches to a downed opponent in Roussel.
I am pretty sure Team Canada beat the Soviets using many of these same moves back in the days of Bobby Clarke, but I digress.
As a result, there are a lot of people outraged about the state of the game. The amounts of sighing, pleading and outright screaming in the air with both fists raised is raining down from many in the media. While I agree that this sort of stuff shouldn’t be in the game anymore (with the scary stories of ex-athletes dealing with brain damage later in life, you’d have to have no heart to want to see this in the game), I just don’t have it in me to join the rank and file and scream along with the morally outraged over the Thornton punches. Why you ask?
1) The optics of the Thornton incident make it looks worse, but the Rinaldo bare knuckled punch was just as bad to me, it’s just Roussel wasn’t taken off on a stretcher. I find it hard to climb up my soap box to rain fury and anger down on Thornton purely because of the result of two plays that were similar but ended differently.
Both plays should obviously be looked at by the league, and both plays shouldn’t happen in the league, that sums it up easily enough for me.
2) Hockey is hockey. Guys playing sports will always do stupid things in the name of pride, temper, and “being a man”, so If the NHL wants to stop things like this, then it’s on them to instill harsher penalties, and not just use the ESPN rule, where “If a negative hockey highlight makes the first 10 minutes of ESPN, we better come down harshly so we look super pro-active against violence and stuff”. Make a player know that if he swings at a downed opponent that he could be suspended, and suspended harshly. Punches on the ground go against the infamous NHL code the players all follow, but to quote Pirates of the Caribbean
the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules
So stop using a mythical code book and start suspending people, or accept the fact violence will happen when guys get together to play a sport. Don’t pretend to be shocked when sometimes it escalates. Either be proactive all the time, or tell people “Sorry, that’s hockey.” Don’t cherry pick your spots where you decide to stop the violence in hockey.
3) Again, it’s hockey. I find it hard to become indignant about violence when watching hockey because part of the game involves moving at high speeds and trying to hit the other player. If you hit somebody, clean or not, sometimes that guy is going to on tilt. It’s human nature that some people might just lose their minds and do something stupid, it’s almost impossible to prevent that from happening at all times. That is why if the NHL is serious about curbing what they view as the extraneous violence in hockey, the solution to lowering these incidents is firmly in their hands. Suspend (harshly) ALL actions that go outside the line of “allowable violence” and make sure a player, even one who has lost his mind, might for a brief second get the thought of “oh shit, I could get suspended 30 games for this….” The NHL players might view “the code” as just guidelines, but they will view the loss of a pay check for 1/3 of a season as something very concrete.
A player having to explain to his wife that no, little Jimmy can’t go to the nice private school next year because Daddy had to punch his co-worker will probably be a better deterrent than what they do now, that’s all I am saying.
Again, I fully understand the tough spot the NHL is in when it comes to suspending players for trying to deliver huge body checks and possibly crossing the line. The Orpik hit on Eriksson is a great example. Hitting is a part of hockey, so you don’t want to see hitting taken completely out, so obviously the NHL has to have leeway when it comes to hits. But the punches to a grounded opponent? The slashes to an ankle? Suspend the shit out of that.
4) Pascal Dupuis using his stick as a weapon should get him suspended. If Kassian can get 8 games for not being in control of his stick, then why shouldn’t Dupuis be suspended for using his stick as a weapon? It doesn’t matter that he targeted a foot, the fact is, in true Kessel fashion, he used his stick as a weapon and tried to hurt another player. There is no other reason you slash somebody other than to inflict pain on the other player. The NHL should come down harsher on the egregious two handed stick slashes. Basically if you can confuse a guy slashing someone really easily with a lumberjack chopping mood, then there should be a suspension, that’s all I am saying.
At the end of the day, I like my hockey physical. I like the idea that a guy who wins the Stanley Cup can barely get out of bed for a couple of weeks after because he is so physically and mentally exhausted. People who play sports, professional or not, know that it always come with a price, and people pay it willingly. The feeling of playing hockey for me is worth the risk of me having bad knees later in life, and I make that choice willingly. The only choice I don’t make is having someone punch me when I’m not ready, and that is the area the NHL should focus on.
I am less inclined to be upset over a hit that you have to break down to .0002 frames per second just to try and gauge whether it was a second too late versus the kind of stuff that is obviously not needed in hockey, like the punches to grounded opponents, so in my humble opinion, that should be what the NHL cracks down on. I just don’t won’t be up in arms over it if they don’t.
OK, back to the outrage!