Friday, March 23, 2007

Rebirth of goons puts hockey back on U.S. map

Stephen Brunt, from the Globe and Mail, weighs in on fighting in hockey. Brunt's article is fairly accurate, although I don't much care for him pointing out incidents that are not good for hockey and making them out to be somewhat positive because they draw attention to the sport. I, for one, am not a believer that any publicity is good publicity. Seeing guys being carted off on stretchers in not good for a sport that wants to repair its image in my opinion.

But Brunt takes it a step further and asks the question, are these images actually a positive for the NHL? Says Brunt:

Here's where the Don Cherrys and Brett Hulls are unquestionably correct. Have a few big brawls, such as the Ottawa Senators-Buffalo Sabres melee, and you'll get noticed. Have a few players carried off the ice on stretchers — such as Tomas Kaberle and Todd Fedoruk and St├ęphane Robidas — and you won't just make the evening sportscasts, you might make the evening news as well.

Provide highlights like Chris Simon's stick swing or Jordin Tootoo's one-punch, glove-on knockout or Colton Orr crunching Fedoruk's surgically repaired face with his fist and people are going to pay attention even in a world of sports overkill — because you sure don't see that in any other mainstream game.

Blunt goes on to say that the NHL has a decision to make. Curb fighting or promote it? But there are two things here. One, the NHL has already made some sort of a decision. The GMs have voted to increase the number of insitigator penalities from three to five before a player is suspended, a display that GMs are more concerned about cheap shot artists than enforcers beating up random players. And two, the NHL doesn't have to make a decision. As has been pointed out, this has been a relatively calm year when it comes to suspensions. Campbell handed out 31 supplemental suspensions in 2003-04 (not counting automatic suspensions). That dropped to 21 last season. A mere 9 supplemental suspensions have been handed down this season.

So why all the complaning? My thought is the lack of coverage for regular hockey fights (goals, clean hits, and saves) and the overwhelming coverage of fights, brawls, dirty hits, and guys being carted off on stretchers.

The image the league is creating now is out of the NHL's hands. It was out of their hands as soon as they failed to secure themselves a respectable television contract where hockey would have received regular highlights broadcast to millions of viewers. Now it is "hockey in a minute" highlights. And what is more exciting to see during that minute? A player scoring a goal? Or a player being knocked cold from a punch? I know ESPN's answer...

1 comment:

FAUXRUMORS said...

1) What next, have an ambulance circle arond the arena for effect?(SlapShot)
"Bleed all over em, let em know your there"!