Sunday, February 18, 2007

NHL to Revisit the Instigator Penalty

Starting Monday in Naples, Florida, all 30 NHL General Managers will gather for a three day meeting to discuss league issues and have some face to face chats about possible trades. What is intriguing this year is that, according to TSN, one of the items of discussion will be a re-examination of the instigator penalty. Now I am not exactly sure what that means, but the mere fact that it is included as a topic is intriguing. The instigator rule has been in place for nearly 20 years. It came in to play before Gary Bettman was brought in to slowly destroy the foundation of the NHL that was laid before him.

I hope the General Managers exhaust the topic of the instigator rule. Polls display and overwhelming percentage fans would like to see it removed. The last CBC poll was around 80% that wanted the rule gone. I would venture to say that more fans would have voted against the instigator penalty should a modification of the rule been given as an option.

The instigator rule should be modified. There are two options for doing this. Both would include the initial five minutes for fighting. One option after this would be to give a ten minute misconduct for instigating; therefor not putting a team a man down for for a two-minute powerplay, but simply losing their services for ten minutes. The other option would be an additional two minutes for instigating; putting a team a man down for a two-minute powerplay. I imagine the league would prefer this scenario as they have looked to powerplays to create more scoring.

The league should also re-examine the number of instigators one should accumulate before being suspended. The current rule states that three instigators over the course of a season earns a one-game suspension. Subsequent instigator penalties earn lengthier suspensions. The league should consider increasing these numbers. The league should also consider the "five minutes remaining in the game instigator rules" as they squash any emotion from running the full course of a game.

Fans want emotion in their game. They want physical play. And, yes, they absolutely want fighting. The 30 General Managers, and more importantly the 30 owners, should all be aware of this. If the league wants to truly create rivalries, and not just talk about rivalries, they should, at the very least, look to modify the instigator rule. Fights are down some 30% since 2003. If the NHL wants to reach out to the traditional fan base that they alienated by handcuffing toughness in the NHL, they would be inclined to reintroduce the traditions that once made the NHL a sport that was interesting to the average sports fan.

No comments: