Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Inside The Heart: Home of the Tough Guy: CHAPTER 1

This is the first part of a little mini-series I will be writing on my recollections of the life of being an enforcer in hockey. These will mainly be my own accounts, of my life playing that role in my hockey career, as well as other advice and points I have learned and been told by enforcers/tough guys I have played with and against, and even some that have and still play in the NHL. These players include Matt Johnson, Andrew Peters, Dennis Maxwell, Jason Clarke etc.

So here we go, with Chapter 1 of the Mini-series: Inside The Heart: Home of the Tough Guy Chapter 1 - The Beginning and Defiance of the role at a young age

"So what do you think mom? I think I am going to start fighting when I play hockey!" WHAT?!?!? Mom says. "Are you out of your mind?" "You are going to get your teeth punched out; do you want to have no teeth when you are older?" "Dad's a dentist, he can fix em" "Don't be stupid, you are going to embarrass us and get yourself into a lot of trouble, one of these big guys is going to pound you, then we will see how tough you are!" "Dad loves it. He said I should hit and fight more because the scouts look for that!" (Mom is walking away and refuses to carry on the conversation. Like any good mother, she wants her son to play, have fun, and score goals, and does not want to see any other boy throwing punches at her boy and trying to hurt him!)

I'm 14 years old, just started high school, playing hockey and loving it. I have a coach that I love, and he believes in tough hockey. But I am timid… I am learning. I am learning all the parts of the game. This hitting and fighting thing, I think its something I could do in a year, I just got to get bigger, and gutsier and learn from the older guys on the team. Ok, that's pretty simple, sounds like a plan. I got 0 PIM in 21 games and am not getting much ice time. I know I can score some goals, but I want more; I want to contribute more. I finish out the season. I thank my coach for the belief he has instilled in me.

I work hard in the off-season; I work out; I get bigger; I get stronger; I skate harder; I train harder. This is a big year for me. I will be 15 now, and this is my chance to make the AAA squad and get noticed by the OHL. I attend camp, fit and ready to compete. I hit, I play tough...I am the last cut. I was beat out of a job by an up and coming 14 year old rookie, Ryan Pepperall, a 3rd rd, 54th overall pick Toronto Maple Leafs. I go down to the AA team, still a pretty good league, and I turn into the scoring power forward with first line ice time. I score 25 goals in 40 games, and register 125 PIMs, leading the team in both categories. So I went from 0 PIM to 125 PIM in a matter of one year! I would also get into my first ever hockey fight… and many more after that. I will get back to that later.

I was recalled three times by the AAA team during the season. The first time was uneventful, the second time I was put right onto their first line with their two best players who happened to be two of my good friends. The game was in Welland, Ontario against their tough/physical squad. I decided I would create more room for them. There was this one guy on their team, a big huge guy who was always on the ice versus our best players to intimidate them. So I decided I would wait until he wasn't looking and run him in open ice to try to knock him down. So here we go...he gets the puck in open ice; he was very slow, so I charged hard with all my might and took a huge run at him, a big impact…. and I bounced off him and hit the ice. That's right, bounced off him, and he wasn't even looking! He turned around and got so mad that someone actually had the balls to take a big run at him. He came after me; I got up and went at him and he swatted me in the face with his big mitt as I got a huge jolt. But I took it and tried to get at him but I noticed all three officials were trying to restrain him, while no one had me. I looked at the three grown men struggling to hold this big kid back and I said, ‘hmmm.. I think I better go to the box now.’

The ref said, you don't get a penalty, but he gets 2+10. So I go back to my team bench and the coach chuckles and says to me, "You do know that's Matthew Johnson, don't you?" I said "Who?" Then the captain of the team says "Matt Johnson.” I said "I don't know him.” Then a scout leans over the glass hearing it all and says, "that's the big pyscho that almost ripped your head off and we scouts have him slated to be the next Bob Probert in the NHL." The scout was from Peterborough. Johnson, went up to Jr. B to play out the year with the Welland Cougars and was drafted by the Petes that summer. A couple years later, he slugged it out twice with Stu Grimson in Los Angeles for the Kings in a pre-season game. I remember after that game in Welland that night, my dad said to me, "That big kid was a tough one. The other parents were saying he has hurt five kids already, and two at the same time, and he is going up to Jr. B pretty soon." I said, "Yeah I guess he's supposed to be the next Probie or something in the NHL someday." My dad chuckled.

What did I know? Young, stupid, and willing to go with anyone, I guess I proved a lot of things that night. It inevitably would set the stage for the rest of my hockey career! Chapter 2 - My first ever hockey fights and I'm lovin it - will be written on March 12th...

The Bruins Weren't the Only Team to Scale the Glass

Hockey went through quite a period during the 1970's thanks in large part to the success of the Flyers and their approach to the game. Although much of the credit can be given to the Flyers, they only picked up where The Big Bad Bruins left off. What was really fascinating about the game back then was that there were these spectacular brawls which usually involved almost every player on both teams, was that for the most part, the teams would return to some semblance of hockey immediately after such a major explosion.

Most of these brawls started because back in those days you simply did not under any circumstances run a star player or take a cheap shot or liberties with another man without paying for it, usually immediately. Unlike the gutless, cowardly approach in today's game where hitting from behind and cheap shots are incorporated into part of the game and many of the regular perpetrators escape their due punishment because of the instigator rule and the inability of some coaches to properly assess what standing up for each other is all about and how important it is to get that message across to each and every player on your roster.

One of the more fascinating brawls I can remember happened in January of 1972 and occurred during a St. Louis Blues/Philadelphia Flyers game. What was different about this one was that it didn’t involve the Flyer players at all, but their fans and the Philadelphia Police Department.

This one started innocently enough when, at the conclusion of the second period, Blues coach Al Arbour walked across the ice to question a penalty call made by referee John Ashley. Arbour and Ashley engaged in a heated argument when Ashley slapped Arbour with an additional two-minute bench minor.Incensed, Arbour followed referee Ashley the length of the ice and up the runway leading to the dressing room. As they argued on the runway leading away from the ice, Philadelphia fans began throwing trash and beer on Coach Arbour.The Blues players, led by Bob Plager, came to the aid of their coach and over the Spectrum glass they went. The Blues players stood between two sections of seats and began swinging their sticks at the fans. In the ensuing melee, more than 200 Philadelphia police were called in to quell the riot.When the dust had settled, four fans were injured, and Blue coach Al Arbour required 10 stitches to close a wound in his head. Defenseman John Arbour also required 15 stitches to close a head wound. 4 members of the Blues, Coach Arbour, Phil Roberto, John Arbour and Floyd Thompson were all arrested. Both Arbours and Roberto were charged with assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and conspiracy. Thompson was charged with aggravated assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and conspiracy. Two police officers also received minor injuries. During the one-hour delay, Flyers vice-president Joe Scott and Blues vice-president Lynn Patrick almost came to blows, going nose-to-nose and Blues owner Sidney Salomon, who was in attendance, sued the city of Philadelphia calling it the worst case of police brutality that he had ever seen. Coach Arbour was able to return to the game and coached the third period minus his shirt and tie.

As stated earlier, after this wild melee, the teams returned and played the third period without any further incidence. And for those that think that fighting and sticking up for each other doesn’t influence or impact the game itself, it is no coincidence that after 2 periods the Flyers were leading the game 2-0. After the brawl, and minus 3 players who were under arrest and being detained at the Philadelphia police headquarters, the Blues came back and scored 3 unanswered goals in the third period to win the game 3-2.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sabres Fans Pay Up in Pizza Money

Seems the Buffalo Sabres’ fans don’t agree with Colin Campbell’s decision to fine the coach $10,000 for his action against the Senators this past week. As a matter of fact, they’re ready to put their money where the mouth is. According to SLAM, two different fan-based fundraisers have been established to pay Lindy’s fine.

"Put down the pen, put away the cheque book. This one's on us," said Chris Phillips, co-owner of a Buffalo-area pizza store, who plans to donate 10 per cent of every sale toward what he called, The Lindy Ruff Fine Fund. "I know Lindy's got the means to pay.

Ruff smiled when asked about the fundraisers after practice Monday.

"For the fans to step in is incredible," Ruff said. "But at the end of the day, I'm responsible for what I've done, and they're trying to cover my tracks, which is good, I guess."

Ruff said whatever money raised will not go toward paying the fine, but instead will be donated to charity.

If you can claim a winner in this mini-rivalry, it certainly is the Buffalo Sabres, their coach, and their fans. Lindy Ruff responded in a manner that can be respected by any blue collar NHL fan. He sent out players to stand up for their fallen teammate. He then watched as Bryan Murray moaned and groaned about his actions, even though Murray has done the same exact thing twice in the past – once with the Capitals and once with the Mighty Ducks. The Senators also lose because their players looked on as their goaltender fought the Sabres toughest player in Andrew Peters. Peters later edged out tough guy Brian McGratton in a much anticipated fight in Ottawa. The Sabres won the first game and then narrowly lost the second, losing in Ottawa while play eight call ups because of injuries. With the exception of Chris Neil, who I think dished out a clean hit on a vulnerable opponent and won his fight against Buffalo’s agitator in Adam Mair, the Senators and their coach looked terrible throughout these two games.

Monday, February 26, 2007

“[Expletive] Colin Campbell!” says Andre Roy

A bit perturbed from his three game suspension for faking a head butt at a referee, Andre Roy had some kind words for the league and its discipline deputy yesterday.

"It's all about the name on the back [of the sweater], and the number," Roy said. "If it's anybody else, maybe a 10-minute misconduct. But it's Andre Roy. We'll suspend him. They just like to [expletive] me.

"This [expletive] league, where's all the emotion? You used to be able to [expletive] let your emotions out, say what you think. ... I spoke, and I faked a head-butt, or
something like that. And they [expletive] suspend me.

"I'm very surprised. Very, very, very surprised. But ... [NHL executive] Colin Campbell likes to [expletive] me every time. So [expletive] him."

That [expletive] Andre Roy might be best to lay [expletive] low for a little while. [Expletive] [expletive] Colin [Expletive] Campbell has a short [expletive] fuse. So [expletive] Roy might not want to set that [expletiver] off.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Province Enforcer Tournament Update - Semifinals

If you have been following along, great! If not, check out the Province enforcer tournament brackets.



I was four for four on picks in the quarterfinals. That is 11 for my last 12. Not bad...

Now on to the semis where I have Probert with a TKO over Semenko. From there, he'll go on to meet Dave Brown in the finals. Brownie narrowly escapes a slugfest over Kocur to meet the eventual champ. No need for a final update here folks... Bob Probert is the king of enforcers; and regardless of who he meets in the finals, he will be crowned champ.

Can someone please ask Bryan Murray this question...

Just who was the head coach of the Mighty Ducks when the following brawl occured? While watching the video, please note that Flames tough guy, Craig Berube, triggered the brawl by running J.S. Giguerre. The very next shift, the Mighty Ducks head coach sends out tough guy Kevin Sawyer who promptly retaliates by running the Flames goaltender. Another tough Mighty Duck, Denny Lambert, then seeks out Flames star Jerome Iginla for a fight.



So who is this mysterious Mighty Ducks coach? The answer of course is Bryan Murray... the same Bryan Murray that has been crying wolf that Lindy Ruff sent his tough guys on the ice to go after his star players. Hypoc... oh, I won't say it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Colin Campbell Rears His Ugly Head

Colin Campbell is an ugly individual... well, most of the time.

But we won't go too hard on Campbell for this one. Usually one to jump all over situations like the Senators/Sabres brawl, Campbell went easy this time, fining Sabres coach Lindy Ruff $10,000 for sending his players on the ice to go after the Senators star players.

While we fully support Ruff's actions, for reasons that could fill the full length of this blog entry, we can't help but say that Ruff made a mistake.......... with his post-game comment that he told his players to "Go out and run 'em." Woops. One comment and you just cost yourself $10,000. Simply put, as a coach, you should never admit to sending players out to do dirty work. Does it occur? Yes, absolutely. Should you talk about it after the game? No... not unless you want to buy Campbell a fresh set of emroidered hankies.

Satisfied with his fine money, Campbell reached into his bag of tricks today and pulled out his suspension wand. In an incident that was described as non-verbal and non-physical, Lighting forward Andre Roy has been suspended for three games by Campbell. Roy was issued a game misconduct at the 20:00 minute mark of the 3rd period for Abuse of Officials.

Wait a second... let's back on this a quick second. He apparently did not verbally abuse the officials. And we know he didn't physically abuse the officials because that would be major news. So what exactly could he have done???

Your guess is as good as mine as details are very limited on this issue. But, hey, I'll take a shot and muster one guess...

Add Simon Gagne to the List

The list of fighting proponents lengthens with every waking day. Next in line is Simon Gagne who got to talking when asked about the Sabres/Sens brawl...
It’s part of the game, and sometimes it’s good for hockey,” said Gagne. “I think the fans like it, and you see a lot of people talking about it today.

In fact, Gagne would not mind seeing an increase in on-ice altercations and would be happy if the much-debated “instigator rule” were abolished. Right now, the player that instigates a fight gets an additional two-minute minor and is suspended after accruing a certain number of those types of penalties.“The last two years the fights are still there, but I think we should have a little bit more fighting,” he said.

“It’s good for hockey and it’s good for the fans.“If they change that [instigator] rule I think you’re going to see a little bit more. At the same I think it’s smarter. You’re not going to see guys go after the best players, and if they do, they are going to deal with the tough guys at the end of the game. That’s a rule that I am for, and hopefully that’s going to happen.”

NHL Needs a Few Good Fights

At least that's what Tim Dahlberg, from SLAM, is saying. A couple nuggets from his story:

Nothing like a little blood on the ice to get people to start paying attention to hockey again.

Anyway, pretty soon 12 different players were squaring off and fighting. As an added attraction on the undercard, the goalies even took off gloves and masks and tossed punches at each other.

The fans, of course, loved it. So did the television announcer, who seemed almost giddy about the prospect that someone might forget going for another Molson's and could actually be watching.

People sure seem to like it, though. Go to any NHL game and the buzz level picks up quickly when players start throwing down.

Have a drink in any bar, and suddenly people start paying attention to what's on the television screen above.

With U.S. television ratings sinking faster than Britney Spears' Q rating, this is a league that needs all the help it can get.

Its all-star game last month on a channel named Versus drew a paltry 691,000 households, about a tenth of what the game got 11 years ago when it was televised on Fox. A lacrosse game
drew more viewers one night a few weeks ago in New York than the Islanders did.

And, while 18,136 fans watched in person in Florida last month, only 736 out of nearly 7.4 million households in the New York area tuned in to see the Devils play the Panthers.

But relaxing the rules so goons can carry out their enforcement more easily would send a message that the NHL isn't really serious about cutting down on violence in the sport. It would
signal that the league was merely paying lip service to critics when it tried to curb fighting.

Then again, it might do something the NHL needs even more desperately than a new image.

It might get a few more Americans watching.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Senators/Sabres: THE WAR...THE CHAOS

Who would have thought in today's NHL. Who would have thought??

What a game to be in attendance for, it was a blast from the past, the adenalin running through my veins, I was shaking when the PIER SIXER all out BUFFALO style brawl happened, it was just poetic justice. I was so pumped.

Ok, first off, BIG MISTAKE by Bryan "I want to win too hard" Murray to scratch McGrattan yet again when he knew full well the Sabres had Peters playing regularly, Killer Kaleta up ready to make an impression, and Adam Mair as well. This is ALL on Murray. Bonehead move and he PAID FOR IT. That was great. To make a coach pay for not dressing his enforcer. He learned a valuable lesson. Safe to say, McGrattan is back in next game on Saturday.

Neil's shoulder smash was a cheap shot of sorts, but not suspendable I don't think, he should have gotten penalized though, considering the refs were calling lesser infractions. It looked worse than it was but still, the Sabres aren't going to take that, especially against Drury, and especially since they have had 6 regulars go down in the last 7 games. It just boiled over. Kudos to 20 yr old Drew Stafford for going after and fighting Neil. That was nice to see. Ruff went nuts, waited till the last minute and shouted GO to Peters, Mair and Kaleta who hadn't played as a line all night, so you knew it was a staged "bush league" "SLAPSHOT" esque call to arms as he saw Heatley, Spezza etc. on the ice. Nothing I love more than the old EYE for and EYE mentality. Its great, its old school, its hockey. Eddie Shore! Puck drops and the crowd is buzzing, the whole crowd cheered as Peters and his brothers of war came over and soon Kaleta was shoving Heatley before the puck drop, and as soon as it drops Mair goes right at Spezza, slashing and challenging him to fight. Of course Spezza will not look at him or fight, so Mair gives him no choices and drops the gloves and starts firing and nails Spezza with a few good shots, then everyone drops the gloves and fly in there in a wild brawl, Biron motions to Emery, and the goalie fight is on!!! Biron's first fight ever I think, in way over his head but does a decent job standing in a took a couple and bounced back up. Peters was just going from pair off to pair off adding punches where needed then decided he wanted to go Emery since Emery got the better of Biron, and I saw him making his way over and you knew it was on. What was sad as the Senators did not even help Emery, nobody even attempted to come off the bench, it was a joke. I watched the pussy's on the bench just standing there. Someone or all of them should have cleared the benches when the other team's heavy is beating up your #1 goalie. Peters thumps Emery, but nothing damaging as Emery hung on. Kaleta was going with someone but never got a major just a misconduct. Also Mair didn't get the 27 PIM package like I thought he would, only 17 PIM and got to stay in the game. A rare good call by the refs in a game where the refs were basically trying to hand the game to Ottawa with many blown and phantom calls. Spezza got nothing for absoring some shots, and Heatley refused to get involved in the brawl because he did not want to get kicked out of the game. Nice team guys Heatley and Spezza are eh?? What a joke. They watched their goalie get abused by the other team's enforcer because they wanted to stay in the game. No heart.

Murray got up on the glass after Ruff. But nothing came of it. I think they are friends actually.

I thought Neil would try to get some revenge after he came out of the box but of course he didn't. He isn't an enforcer or real tough guy anymore, I have been on him for a while, but I think he is just about through. He has become a good player though, but still, I thought he would do something, or run Miller even.

McGrattan I guess was going nuts in the press box, pacing and swearing, and was in the stands for a while too later. Just losing it, so he will be pissed Saturday.

The post game interviews were funny. Murray was pissed, some pretty dumb comments overall, he said if the NHL doesn't take care of it, his team will Saturday. So their will be no jinx or let down game here, it will be another brawl/fight game. Emery's interview was funny, he called Mair and Peters "meatballs" and said he looked and saw Peters standing around in the brawl looking stupid as usual. LOL He also said Biron was dancing around motioning to fight, so he had no problem because he loves doing it and its part of the game he enjoys!!! A rare thing for a goalie to say. The fact he got 2 fighting majors on the same play and took on the other team's heavy is admirable. I remember back in Buffalo vs Vancouver 1997 or 98 range, when Sean Burke fought Barnaby, then Sheilds one second later for 2 majors. Its always happens in Buffalo, the best brawls in the NHL, you know it.

So will McGrattan just go out and challenge and fight Peters right away on Saturday? BORING. But he probably will do that. I think he should run Miller or Biron or Briere and start a brawl. But the NHL will throw the book at him and be all over him in the game, him and Peters. The NHL will probably suspend Peters and Neil 1 game so they miss Saturday. Who knows.

All I got to say, for everyone, the Buffalo Sabres always have been, are, and always will be THE HOCKEY FIGHT/BRAWL team, no other team can match them in what they do over the years, for decades, it just is tradition, I don't know, but when it all shakes down they are the only team with balls, guys, retribution, and old school bush league ass kickers. You can have your Anaheim single fights here and there, big deal, a lot of single fights get old after a while, but its always Buffalo, for some reason who come up with something so special that makes message boards like Fried Chicken's and other fight boards tick year after year. And right now, in the past couple weeks, the Sabres have been the best fight team in the NHL racking up majors and more majors. You got to admit it. The Sabres keep it real.

Instigator Rule: Revamped or Really Not?

There was a major breakthrough today at the NHL annual GM meetings in Naples, Florida, on what has become the hottest and most debated topic thus far amongst the GM's.....the Instigator Rule!

For once, the fans of old time hockey and fighting in hockey caught a break of sorts, when the NHL reversed a rule in our favor! Gary Bettman even agreed that the star players in this league need more protection, and he would rather see enforcers fighting the battles, and letting the star players concentrate on playing. Wow, can you believe that? Bettman actually recognizing the use and importance of an enforcer in the game? Did hell just freeze over?

The NHL GM's with agreeance from the NHL Board of Governors decided that effective next season, it will not suspend a player for 2 games after accumalating a 3rd instigator penalty. Instead, it will allow players to accumalate 5 instigator penalties before the 2 game suspension is enforced. This will allow tough guys to better do their job in protecting the star and more skilled players by not having to worry as much about suspensions for instigators.

So while this should lead to some more fighting, and some more initiating of fighting in reaction to suspect hits and infractions, it does not address the major problem with the instigator rule. That being, the NHL decided to keep the automatic 10 minute misconduct that accompanies any instigating minor. This rule was actually a revised rule from the 1992-93 season when the NHL instituted an automatic game misconduct to any instigator of a fight. So it was worse at one time. So this means a player that instigates a fight with another player who fights back will still get 17 PIM. No player wants to spend nearly an entire period in the box for starting a fight. If it was 7 PIM like it was in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's, that's no problem. Take last night for example, Philadelphia's RJ Umberger said in his post game interview: "I didn't plan on sitting out the whole first period because of a fight, but those are the rules I guess." And guess what? If that player doesn't fight back, the instigating player is at risk still for the 27 PIM package that a ref has the option of issuing if he deems the aggressor to be in an attacking mode on a player who clearly doesn't want to fight. It doesn't matter if that instigating player throws 1 punch or 15 punches. And this leads to a 7 minute power play and can change an entire game, just for sticking up for a teammate? Not fair. The NHL HAS to go further with the instigator and change this rule as well.

So in essence, the ENTIRE Instigator rule must be changed then. I am talking about the following:

FURTHER CHANGES TO THE RULE:

- Misconduct or Game Misconduct with an instigator minor. (unless its an outrageous or vicious attack causing harm) Should return to a 2 minute minor for instigating, 5 fighting. (That's it)

- Scale down the 27 min package. (see above) If a player jumps a player or beats on a player who turtles or who doesn't want to fight, instead of 27 min package, that player will get 2+5+10 and remain in the game.

- Last 5 minutes of the 3rd period or game instigators get an automatic 1 game suspension and the coach is fined $10,000 (this should be scaled down to if you instigate in the LAST minute of play, and the coaches fine down to $5,000).

I still strongly believe that the NHL must keep the instigator minor still. Its not only tradition and part of the long time game, its a recognizable penalty and understandable. But if its going to revamp or ease up on this rule altogether, it should address all aspects of this rule, not just one aspect.

Perhaps they will slowly phase back in the instigator rules of old, slowly but surely, and do not want to change them back all at once to create the wrong impression or idea that the league is going back to a barbaric age of knuckle dragging goons. We know their are many critics out there of this so called era of hockey.
To me its a lot of over exaggeration. Hockey was never like that. The game has come full circle, and it goes in cycles. I believe the NHL is realizing that in order for the game to thrive and maintain interest of many of its core fans and even new fans, it must enhance the entertainment aspect. Its no secret that fighting in sports is popular. Look at the Mixed Martial Arts events, the WWE (wrestling), the UFC, and Boxing. These sports are still highly popular and exciting. The NHL powers to be are starting to realize what we knew all along. And maybe this is a start, and finally a turn in the right direction. Time will tell, but we will continue to fight the good fight!!

ESPN Knows What's Best

Check out the front page of ESPN Hockey, you know, the same ESPN that wouldn't re-up with the NHL. Could this be a message. While some will tell you that fighting hinders the NHL from grabbing major t.v. contracts, ESPN's reaction to last nights brawl couldn't give a clearer idea as to what they think fans want to see.

ESPN Sports Center has run extended clips from last night's Sens/Sabers brawl countless time. Barry Melrose gave a blow by blow description of just how things transpired as well.

Now we have the ESPN NHL page posting nothing but hockey fights. Check out their gallery of pics, a description of last night's brawl, and video recaps of the fights, coaches reactions, and Barry Melrose commentary (have to go to the site for those links)... ALL linked to their front page.

When will the NHL catch on?

The Aftermath of the Sens/Sabres Brawl

All right... it's over for now. So let's sort out what will happen next. I am calling two, maybe three, suspensions.

The first will be to Emery for his two fighting majors. I will go with one game. The second will be to Mair for going after Spezza. And while the NHL wants you to think that it is going to start letting the players police themselves, that couldn't be any further from the truth. Remember Donald Brashear going after Vishnevski in response to a cheap hit by Andy Sutton? Same thing here. There is no difference. Brashear got one game and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Mair get one as well. Finally, Andrew Peters will get one game for fighting Emery. Why you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. But probably for some general reason like, "Mr. Peter's actions were unacceptable by NHL standards."

The real answer for why these suspensions may occur is, of course, to squelch any possiblity of a revenge game come Saturday night. All it will take will be one game suspensions to ensure the usual suspects are not in that game. It would be a terrible PR move by the NHL. Again, they would best be served to sit back and watch their ratings sky rocket come Saturday night. But the NHL has proven time and time again that it would rather step and destroy any chance at an emotion filled game, you know, what some refer to as the beginnings of a rivalry. I would expect any suspensions to be handed out today since the two teams play tomorrow.

One of the best parts of a brawl are the post game comments and quotes. Let's take a peak at what was said:

"Emotions were running high . . . It didn't matter who was on the ice, anybody would've responded," said Biron, who was ejected along with Emery and Buffalo tough guy Andrew Peters. "That was really satisfying. "And it's satisfying to see the way we played after that."

"I put out skill players and he sends out the five guys on his team that are going to start a fight," Murray said, referring to Ruff. He then accused the Sabres coach of ordering his players to
start the fight.

Ruff's answer to that was: "I'm not going to comment what I had on my mind." After pausing, Ruff added: "Go out and run 'em."

Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta said, "It was a lot faster, quicker - passes were on the tape." "Its a great game to be a part of, whole bunch of stuff went on and hopefully I can say up here and make a lot more memories." Patrick's father, Tom Kaleta, said, "I knew he was gonna hit some people. That's his game. Having a point his first game was odd. I wasn't expecting that, so it was kinda nice."

"The hit is obviously something the other team is going to react to," Emery said. "I think it's healthy for the game, as long as people don't get hurt. I think it was a fun game to play."

"It was a clean hit. Everyone has seen it," Neil said. "When you're out in the heat of the battle, you're not sure what happens. The ref asked me, 'Did you get him with your elbow?' and I was pretty sure I didn't. It was all shoulder."

"My take on it, it was a late hit, a dirty hit," said Ruff, who, after the game, backed off his claim that it had been an elbow. "We can't respond any other way. I was so proud. I don't condone the tail end of it, with Andrew (Peters), but the players did the right thing."

"I thought it was embarrassing. I think there should be suspensions and there probably will be," Murray said. "Lindy kept complaining that it was an elbow, but Drury's helmet wasn't done up properly. And then Lindy sends out five guys and suckers some of our skilled players. "Obviously, they were told to do it, and that's disappointing. It was a fair hit."

"I don't know if it's going to be different, but you'll see (Senators tough guy Brian McGrattan) in the lineup," Emery said. "There's probably a little bit of a revenge factor. "You can't just sit down after their tough guys went after our skilled players."

Note: Should anyone from Ottawa be suspended, or should Brian Murray get brave, the Sens have four capable tough guys in their system... Danny Bois, Mike Sgroi, Serge Payer, and Jamie Allison. Should Mair or Peters be told to sit a game, don't be surprised to see Stefan Mayer get the call.

Photograph by : Dan Cappellazzo/AP

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators Brawl

Finally some old time hockey! Did you hear those fans? The HSBC was absolutely rocking during and after the melee. Here is a recap from my pal Maguire...

Neil hammers Drury with a nasty hit. The hit was a bit dirty as it came late. But Drury had his head down too. There was no penalty for the hit. Drury is on the ice and bleeding. Stafford comes in and tries to glove punch at Neil. Neil drops em and hammers Stafford with 6-7 shots while he has his sweater over his head.

Ruff is screaming at Murray with only Rob Ray separating the two. Ray sits back and takes it all in without saying a word. I am sure Murray was upset because Ruff used the last change to put out his tough guys. Good for Ruff...shades of Glen Hanlon earlier this year. The code came in to play here and it fell under "an eye for an eye."

So the very next shift, Ruff sends out Mair, Peters, and Kaleta. The puck drops and Mair goes right after Spezza; he hits him a good 5-6 times while everyone tries to get in. Off camera to the side Kaleta and Phillips are going. The camera goes to Peters who piles in and starts grabbing Volchenkov out of the pile. Out of the blue, Biron skates down to challenge Emery who is more then happy to go. They square off briefly, come together and it's basically all Emery doing the throwing. Biron slips to the ice and the lines men come in while Emery gets a couple more pops in. Peters then skates over and starts throwing them on Emery. Emery returned one or two but Peters got him a couple, no damage done. Emery enjoys a good fight. Just ask Josh Gratton who Emery beat in the AHL. Emery was grinning ear to ear during his bouts with Biron and Peters.

Here's your YouTube video... remember to listen to the rocking fans at the HSBC.



Drury is out for the game with a head injury. Rob Ray said it right when he noted that you don't send your tough guys out to fight the other team's tough guys after one of your star players was cheapshotted. You send them after the other team's star players. That's exactly what Mair did... he went right after Spezza. And while the Yuppie Hockey League (YHL) fans will tell you that this sets hockey back, I will tell you to listen that arena rocking. The fans were going crazy as we finally got a good taste of some old time hockey.

Drew Stafford is your Player of the Game. He went after Neil for his hit and took a beating. But he stood right in there for his teammate. Then Stafford goes to the backhand in the shootout for the game winner. Ryan Miller then proceeds to follow up with a Statue of Liberty left handed glove save to end the game.

Here is your box score.

These two teams meet again Saturday night. I wouldn't expect Murray to make the same mistake twice in scratching Brian McGratton. With the addition of Kaleta, the Sabres were carry three willing tough guy tonight. And yet Murray decides to go without his enforcer and he is unable to counter Buffalo's toughness.

The YHL fans might not agree; but these are the types of games that will put fans in seats. While I imagine the NHL brass were busy taking notes on what transpired during the line brawl, they should have been taking notes on the Buffalo fans' reactions. Again, an electric atmosphere tonight at the HSBC... simply electric.

And there should not be any suspensions from this game. Neil's hit was clean... it was borderline late at the most. But it certainly does not deserve a suspension. Peters fought the goalie; but there is nothing illegal about that. The NHL would be best served to leave this between the two teams. And they would also best be served to sit back and watch the Sabres/Sens television ratings soar come Saturday night. There is no doubt casual fans will be tuning in.

The hockey fight I can hardly stomach to watch... poor Craig Berube.

Craig "the Chief" Berube was one of my favorite Caps growing up. I still remember the excitement from reading the Washington Post article about the trade that brought Berube from the Flames to the Caps... there was the Chief hammering away on another opponent. It might have actually been Dennis Vial. Berube spent the next six years with the Caps before being shipped back to Philly for a year and half. We got to see him for another 22 games 2001-2002, but his time was pretty much up.

Now the fight below is probably the fight I most hate in the history of the NHL. It takes place in 1996 against the Panthers. As you can see in the video, Paul Laus absolutely destroys Berube with a right from out of nowhere. I say no more... I am at my weakest.

Britney Spears wants to know... do you shave Mickey?

Citing that he has his fill of the refs, University of Southern California goalie Mickey Meyer, went a bit nuts this past weekend. But give the guy credit… he did it in a non-traditional, semi-lewd, and definitely a humorous sort of way. During a stoppage in the third period, Meyer rode his stick like a horse, dropped trou, and mooned the refs and fans in attendance. He was ejected, but not before he applied a few smacks to his bare buttocks for good measure.

The fun quickly ended for Meyer following the game. He was charged with lewdness, a misdemeanor, after an officer working security at the game said he had witnessed the scene.
According to NBC, “Prosecutor Scott Wyatt laughed when told about the incident Tuesday at the state Capitol, where he is a member of the Utah House. He declined to say whether he would press charges. The maximum penalty is six months in jail.”

Well, if he gets jail time, let's hope he doesn't give the inmates the same treatment should he get mad at them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Time to Bring Back Traditional Divisions?

Tom Powers, from Minnesota’s Twin Cities newspaper, says that that the NHL needs to go back to a playoff/divisional format that promotes rivalries. According to Powers:
One of the many problems bedeviling the NHL is a lack of rivalries. Oh, there are a million other problems, such as the awful TV deal with Versus, a bunch of failing teams — the result of the owners' expansion money grab — and the monotonous Eurohockey style that has all but eliminated rough-and-tumble play.

Folks, you don't see it here in Minnesota, where the Wild are thriving. But hockey is dying in many other parts of the country. And that includes traditional markets such as Boston and Chicago. The sellouts you see at Xcel are the exception, not the rule.

Still, it could take a common-sense approach. (Fat chance.) Ask any general manager or coach what it takes to kindle a rivalry. He'll tell you: meeting the other team in the playoffs. So someone please explain to me why we don't do it like we used to: Team 1 vs. Team 4 and Team 2 vs. Team 3, right in their own division during the first round.

This added familiarity not only breeds contempt, but it also adds extra oomph down the stretch to divisional games. The NHL should get rid of this stupid six-division format and go back to four divisions. Take the West, for example. Switch Dallas and Minnesota into the current Central. Then merge the remainder of the Northwest and Pacific for a true West Division.

Eric Godard Reacts to the Instigator Rule

Eric Godard has reacted to the proposed change to the insitgator. Check out what he has to say at the Calgary Sun. A couple of tid bits:

In fact, he’d like to see the penalty erased from the rulebooks, using the recent hit on tammate David Moss as an example.

The hit on Moss, which occured Saturday night when Colorado’s Ossi Vaananen hit him from behind, has put the Flames forward out of commission with facial injuries from his impact on the dasher board.

“He doesn’t even get suspended, so where’s the retribution on him?” Godard said yesterday. “Maybe if there’s some sort of rule that’s in place, he’ll make a better decision, just carrying him into the boards instead of burying him.”

“There are certain circumstances where it’s inevitable actions have to be taken,” said the Flames forward. “For the most part, I don’t think you see it happening too often. I don’t know how many instigators have been taken but there are times when there is a cheapshot, it’s only fair for somebody to be able to stick up for his teammate.”

"You can see the purpose of it,” said Iginla, who likes the idea of extending it to five games before handing out suspensions. “You don’t want a guy taking 10, not having it be an issue if they’re just jumping guys. There is a purpose for policing on the ice.”

You ready? You ready? Let's Instigate!

Let’s get it on! Well, not really. The news that NHL GMs have voted to up the number of instigators needed for a suspension isn’t all the exciting. Previous rules dictated that a player that accumulated three instigators be suspended for two games. The new rule, should it pass with the NHL Board of Governors, would raise that number to five instigators.
So the question is… what exactly is this going to do? The major media writers keep pointing to the abuse Sidney Crosby is taking, but he is way out in front in the NHL scoring race; so how does it make sense to say that he is not getting room on the ice? Sure there have been a couple of instances where he has been run at. My personal opinion is forget Crosby… look at the beating Jagr has been taking. And he has a tough guy in Colton Orr and a willing combatant in Ryan Hollweg. What have they done for Jagr?

Will they and other enforcers be more willing to drop the gloves and go after an opposing player for taking liberties with the team’s star player? I mean, let’s face it, we are only talking about two more instigators. The only one in the NHL that has accumulated three this year has been Ben Eager. But that may be the point… tough guys are less willing to protect their stars when they get to two.

So how does this make things any different when these same guys get to four? It doesn’t. So how much does this really change things? I guess now enforcers will be available to go after opposing players on four occasions instead of two… whoopee! While this will do a lot of good for Brian Burke’s Anaheim Ducks, you know… the same Brian Burke that introduced this idea and the same Brian Burke that carries four regular willing tough guys, what good will this do for the Detroit Red Wings (no toughness) or the Florida Panthers (no toughness) or the Minnesota Wild (one heavyweight and no toughness after that)? The answer is, it won’t do them any good. These teams will have to continue to inaccurately state that the possess team toughness.

Ultimately, this change does very little overall. The NHL will finally get it right when it decides to do one thing… listen to its fans. Its fans have already given their views on the instigator penalty… and over 80% of them said they wanted it removed completely.

So where does the true answer lie? Somewhere in between as always. The NHL will get it right when it modifies the instigator, making it either a two-minute minor or a ten-minute misconduct. I very seriously doubt this will ever happen… the NHL would much rather cater to the liberal media that wants a ban on fighting than to its fans that want more fighting. And I really don’t know why. I mean, the NHL relies of fan attendance as the largest source of its revenue. And the NHL will get good and bad media regardless of what it does. And, ultimately, Gary Bettman hides from fans and the media. So he might as well make a smart financial decision from under his desk.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ross Bernstein Interview

Thanks to On Frozen Blog for yet another great interview with Ross Bernstein, author of The Code. David Singer also interviewed Bernstein a while back. Both are great reads. And if you haven't read Bernstein's book, you are missing out.

A couple of interesting statements from Bernstein:

Fighting was made more prevalent to sell the game. I’m talking about regions where the kids don’t play the game; fighting became a selling point there. What if NASCAR said, ‘We’re eliminating crashing?’ But the way I’d put it is, fighting isn’t as gratuitous in the new NHL.

You know you mentioned the commissioner. I was in the Minnesota Wild’s owner suite recently, and Gary Bettman was there, and I got almost an hour with him. He told me that he loved my book.

The bottom line is this: When the gloves drop, the crowd always rises as one, no matter what era you’re talking about, and you can’t deny that.

Here’s the thing about hockey. It used to be one of the top 4 sports. Now it’s 8. Eight. Today, based on television ratings and revenues, you’d have say golf, college hoops, NASCAR are all above it. Hockey has always been about hockey. And by that I mean, it’s always taken care of its fans. Seventy percent of revenues are from the fans. Football makes billions — literally billions — before the game gates even open. Hockey . . . it’s a Catch-22: it’s always had to take care of its fans.

You know, not one of the 100 I talked to told me that they thought Todd Bertuzzi was a dirty player. All 100 said he broke the Code. He lost his emotion. Interesting when you think about the media coverage of that incident — all you saw was the replay, then we got the verdict. Again, the context of everything leading up to it — why was Moore on the ice then, what was said — all of this is absent the coverage.

Donald Sits Down for a Q&A

Check out NBC’s recent Q&A with Washington Capital enforcer, Donald Brashear. Brash had a nice take on the Shanahan fight at MSG a few weeks back. According to the bruising winger…

It was a big game for us, and we were losing. At times, when things like that happen with teams playing at home, they always gets more brave, so you see
things happening and it [ticks] you off. I had a little bit of emotion going, and the game was over [at that point] and you want to send a message. So I went out on a shift against [Jaromir] Jagr and I went to hit him and he slew-footed me and got a penalty. Shanahan was kind of yapping at me and so I screamed at him, 'you were the one that was asking for the rules to be like that where we can't touch anybody.' And he was screaming at the ref, and I said, 'stop bitching, because that's what you wanted.' So I guess he figured he wanted to show me that 'I could get out there and fight too, if you want me to.' He's a guy that played a long time in the league and has always been known as being pretty tough too for doing what he's doing -- scoring and dropping the gloves. I respect that, but when he dropped his gloves, I was kind of surprised. I thought he was joking, but I didn't mind going with him.

And go figure… if Brash were the Commissioner for a day, he says he’d change the rules.

Brett Hull Sounds Off on Gary Bettman

Brett Hull has become the latest to tear into NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman. An excerpt from the Charleston Post and Courier:

His take on NFL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "I don't think he really understands the game. He doesn't understand the history and at times I don't think he really gives a hoot. All he cares about is if he's making the owners happy."

Let’s face it… Hull says a lot. But most of the time, the guy isn’t far off. Bettman has openly stated that he works for owners in the not so distant past.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Instigator Penalty a Major Topic on Day One of GM Meetings

To piggyback the news that the instigator rule would be on the agenda at the GM meetings, TSN has followed up with an update saying the instigator discussion dominated the first day of the GM meetings.

According to the article, Ducks' GM Brian Burke introduced the topic. His focus was primarily on the number of instigators one should have before being suspended. That currently stands at three before a two game suspension is levied by the league. Burke said that should be raised to five or six to let enforcers effectively perform their jobs.

"So the question is, when a guy is at two instigator penalties, does it affect him to say, `I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to protect my guy. I'm not going to protect my goalie because I'm going to be suspended.' That was really the debate today," said Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean.

Here are the next steps and roadblocks...

If the GMs vote to loosen up the rule Wednesday, it would then have to be discussed by the NHL competition committee (players and GMs) and then finally get the approval of the board of governors (owners).

Not all GMs are in favour of changing the instigator.

"I'm not against the way it is right now," said Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler.

That certainly is surprising considering Muckler has a full time heavyweight enforcer in Brian McGratton. Chris Neil isn't too far behind in that category either.

More...

Ferguson worries about the bad optics for the NHL if the instigator penalty was loosened, the perception that the league was encouraging more fighting.

And you don't get to control that end of it. because perception comes from the person who's viewing it and I do think it'd be tough," he said. "We'd potentially be leaving ourselves open to that type of criticism."

This from a man that watched his father make a nice living as a tough guy in the NHL. As a matter of fact, John Ferguson Sr. is often referred to as the first enforcer in the NHL.

The bottom line is this. The NHL has a choice to make... side with yuppie liberal media outlets that will form what is believed to be a mainsteam perception but is not. Or side with hockey fans, the fans that pay the salaries of the players, the GMs, and the commissioner of this league... the same fans that say they want the instigator gone for good. Forget modified, 81% of fans have spoken and said they want it completely abolished.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chelios Misses the Old-Time Hockey

Thanks to Kuklas Corner for pointing out this blip in the New York Post.

“Coaches like Mike Keenan and Darryl Sutter encouraged going out there antagonizing and intimidating,” Chelios said of his time with the Blackhawks, which ended with a 1999 trade to Detroit and a coach with a different philosophy. “Scotty Bowman didn’t like that type of play, the scrums after the whistle, the penalties. “You look back at the old Chicago days, players hated coming into that building. It was like the gladiators, a battle every time they came in there. I love that type of game.”

Chelios added: “But the league is changing. It’s more of a European style of play. If they think that’s going to fly in North America, I’m all for it if it helps the game, but I’m an old-school defenseman.”

Brant Myhers Update...

Great article from the Edmonton Journal... a couple quick quoties and you read the rest.

Brantt Myhres never did keep a log of his many fights.

But going back to his wild junior days, the former NHLer figures he dropped his gloves about 300 times before former Edmonton Oilers enforcer Georges Laraque ended his career with a smashing left hand in a 2005 pre-season game at the Saddledome in Calgary.

Myhres never fought again.

Myhres, who turns 33 next month, is now as an agent-in-training with Ritch Winter's firm.

He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, 97th overall in '92. In his 154 NHL regular-season games in Tampa, Philadelphia, San Jose, Nashville and Boston, he accumulated 687 penalty minutes, six goals and eight points. Not to mention hundreds of fights.

"I got calls from the Quebec (senior men's) League, too. You can make 10 grand a week, but my dad said, 'Brantt, are you crazy? You know it was hard fighting for $500,000 a year,' " said Myhres. "The guys in that league were trying to tell me, 'No, no, we want you as a power forward, we've got four other guys to fight.'

"I said, 'You think I'm stupid. Most goals I ever scored in one year in pro was four.' That league is something else. I saw some film where two guys on the same team wanted to fight somebody on the other side and they went, 'Rock, scissors, paper' to see who won. Can you believe that?"

Enforcer Tournament Updated...

The Province has update fan picks for the enforcer tournament. As you can see, I picked 7 out of 8 correctly. And I still stand by my Ferguson over Howe pick! Lou Fontinato who?

Winners for the next round are Probert, Semenko, Brown, and Kocur. Sorry Marty, you did beat Joey twice in your career. But I always liked the fear factor Kocur had with that desvastating right...

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.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Unedited Iron Mike Classics

A Saturday morning special... I actually think this is our first non-hockey related blog. But, hey, it's Iron Mike... it's worth it. [You've been warned - lots of cursing in the clip]

Embedded function doesn't want to work so click here!

Friday, February 16, 2007

"The farther this sport gets from its roots, the closer it gets to irrelevancy."

Steve Politi, from The Star Ledger, recently weighed in on the perceived lack of passion in today's NHL.

Says Politi...

Cam Janssen could've been somebody. He could've been a contender for the top hockey enforcer of his generation, maybe even putting his name on a list with the great fighters such as Tie Domi, Joey Kocur and, of course, the Grim Reaper himself, Stu Grimson.

Instead, his sport went all peace-love-and-happiness on him, the pansies in the league office making tough guys like him increasingly unimportant. So now Janssen, a kid with
endless guts and a mean right hook, rides the Devils' bench most nights.

Janssen weighs in as well...

"You take (fighting) out of the game, it's not going to be hockey any more. It's going to be soccer with sticks!" Janssen says. He is 22. His lip is swollen from a teammate swiping him in practice. "At least now, a guy knows if he take a run at somebody, he's got to step up and pay the piper.

"The guys will go crazy if there's no fighting," he says. "The fans will go crazy, too."
Politi proceeds to point out that fighting is down some 40% since 2003. But forget stats, Politi adds...

The NHL thought limiting fighting will make the sport more mainstream. It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. The nerds who run this sport figured without the brawls, some little old lady in Peoria would find Versus on her cable system and declare, "I'm going to give this beautiful sport a try!"

The result, like much of what Gary Bettman has done, is the opposite. Attendance is down in
several markets, and they'll need a breakthrough in nanomathematics to compute recent TV ratings. The lack of fighting is not the main reason, but the farther this sport gets from its roots, the closer it gets to irrelevancy.

Classic Caps/Flyers Brawl

Remember this melee from 91? Dale Hunter started this one with a huge cheap elbow to head of Gord Murphy. Craig Berube (soon to be a Cap at that point) runs Donnie Beaupre later on and receives a blocker to the head for his troubles. Nick Kypreos ends up feeding rights to the head of Dale Kushner. Murray Baron rushes into save Kushner at which point Beaupre jumps Baron. Peeters flies down the ice to subdue Beaupre. Holmgren is incensed on the bench and beats a stick on the top of the glass separating the two benches.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jagr Destroys Avery...

You have to see it to believe it...



Apparently Sean almost failed his physical as a result of this hit. His pride levels were significantly deficient. But further tests determined that his pride functions at low levels most of the time.

Not a fans of the comics, eh?

Former St. Louis Blue enforcer, Tony Twist, recently settled for $5 million in a suit over his depiction in a Todd McFarlane comic strip, “Spawn.” Seems the Twister’s feelings were hurt after McFarlane characterized him as a violent mob boss character. We all certainly know that wasn’t accurate… maybe next time McFarlane will get it right and have the part of the hit man.

The Great One Chimes in on Fighting in the NHL

Wayne Gretzky sees the value in hockey fights. Mike Zeisberger, from the Toronto Sun, recently released a Q&A he had with the Great One on the always polarizing topic. Recently, anti-fight supporters jumped all over the Kris Newbury KO, calling for an end to fisticuffs in hockey.

Gretzky disagrees…."I don't love fighting, it's not something I tell my players to do, it's not something I would do. But as stupid as it sounds, it probably prevents a lot of stick infractions. "The unique thing about our sport is that we play with hockey sticks that potentially can be used as weapons. This is a game that is very emotional and guys are only human. Fighting gives them an outlet to release (energy and frustrations) instead of slashing, cross checking and high sticking. "You almost never see a tough guy grab a small skilled guy and start (punching) either. There is still a code."

So add the greatest hockey players of all time to the list of current and former players that support fighting. One day, anti-hockey fight supporters will realize that there are far more damaging aspects in hockey that they should focus their time on.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"We need to bring the game back to what is was."

Add former Bruins tough guy Brian Curran to the list of hockey insiders that have spoken out against the new NHL. Currently the coach of the Quad City Mallards in the UHL, had the following to say in an interview with Jeff Wendland of Quad-Cities Online:

"Our NHL game today is boring to watch," he said. "I don't know what was so wrong with it in the '80s. The tough guys knew who the tough guys were, there was intimidation and there were battles all over the ice."Then, it was like we're not going to be able to sell the game to TV if we fight too much, and we're seeing now what a huge mistake that was. The TV deal now is not even worth it."

"I look at Robbie Nichols in Elmira," Curran said. "He's put together what's become a gong show on some nights, but look at his attendance numbers. They're way up because the fans enjoy the fights."I think fans want to see fights. We need to bring the game back to what it was, fill the stands again and forget about TV. Let the fans see the game that they want to see. It doesn't have to be barbaric, but we need to let fights happen."Brian Curran played 381 games in the NHL, totaling 40 points and 1461 penalty minutes. Curran was best remembered for his days in Boston. He also played for four other NHL teams.

Another Year of Protection for AO…

The Washington Capitals have re-upped Donald Brashear for another year. That means another year of guys thinking twice before taking a run at Alexander Ovechkin or any of the young Caps. Brashear has been a model enforcer in the NHL this year, looking to stick up for teammates rather than engage in pointless heavyweight fights. Earlier in the season, Brashear pounded Thrasher Vitaly Vishnevski in response to an Andy Sutton cheap shot to Caps defenseman Mike Green. Most recently, Brashear too exception to a late run and at Ovechkin and promptly beat Colton Orr the very next game. Brashear has also chipped in with 2 goals and 5 assists to go along with his 152 penalty minutes.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Enforcer Tourney Update...

The Province has updated their first round voted results for an all-time enforcers tournament. Brackets are as follows:

There were a couple of tough bouts in there... but I don't have any complaints with the outcomes.

My winners for Round 2... Probert, Twist, Laraque, Semenko (Brash had a tough test the first round... he's tired), Brownie, Ferguson (tough pick), Kocur, McSorley.

Some great names in this tournament. It would have been nice to throw out Manson and add Behn Wilson, who is widely regarded as the second best fighter ever.

Yuppie Hockey League (YHL) fans take notice. Kris Newbury got KO’d and is doing just fine.

Newbury will be out for a week and recent news articles are stating that the incident looked far worse than it was. Ronald Petroviky, who delivered the deciding blow, phoned Newbury the next day to make sure he was okay. Newbury was not upset with Petro and said that it wasn’t his fault. As for coming back, Newbury said that he is being kept off the ice as a precaution and that he is not experiencing concussion like symptoms.

A few tidbits from the article:

He saw the fight on video.

“Yeah I've seen it a couple of times," said Newbury. "It doesn't look good. But injuries are part of the game and every now and then you get a scary one."

The incident revived the anti-fighting element from some hockey observers. Newbury, for the record, doesn't agree with them. The fight with Petrovicky was his second of the NHL season.

"Especially for my game, it's part of what I do and what I get paid for," he said. "I think it belongs in the game, it's just a freak accident that happens every once in a while."

Now for all the YHL fans out there, let’s get a few things straight. First off, you are so far in the minority you register like Neilson ratings for a Panthers/Devils game on a Tuesday night. And while you’ll pretend that major media polls are not methodologically sound, you couldn’t be more far from the truth. The polls I have seen are neutrally worded and have two opposing response options. It doesn’t get more sound than that. Check out the CBC’s poll on the instigator penalty. It seems 8 out 10 fans want it completely removed. And that isn’t even a fighting poll. Most fighting polls display that 9 out of 10 fans enjoy fighting and want it in the game. And we can compare college transcripts to see who has the background in research methods any time.

Let’s have a good look at a YHL fan… Bleatings from a Caps Nut. Bleatings, a nameless blogger and one that will not allow you to leave comments, has officially named pro-hockey fight fans as Ultimate Fighting on Ice (UFOI) fans, meaning 9 out 10 hockey fans are UFOI fans in his mind. Looks like Kris Newbury is a UFOI fan too. Seems not even Newbury agrees with the nameless YHL leader. Not only that, if you check out his blog, he goes on to applaud the re-signing of Capita'sl enforcer, Donald Brashear. Now personally, I don’t understand his logic. On one hand, he calls hockey fight advocates UFOI fans. On the other hand, he is a Donald Brashear fan. Keep in mind that Donald is one of the toughest enforcers in the game and has been dishing out knuckle sandwiches for years now. Some might call his line of thinking a bit delusional. I’ll just say he is misguided.

Bleatings goes on to complain about one of the most respected coaches of all time and the force behind the most popular hockey show in Canada, Don Cherry… yet another “UFOI” fan. Seems Cherry said that he believes touch-up icing should be implemented as a rule. How can one disagree with that? Is that center to end line rush for a puck worth the knee and ankle injuries that result from these supposedly exciting plays? No chance. Bleatings even mentions that Pat Peake had his career ended from an icing incident. Bleatings real problem is that Cherry makes a statement like that, yet is a pre-fighting supporter. Pretty weak IMO. Let's examine...

Bleatings mentions two incidents, Trevor Halverson and Todd Bertuzzi. The Halverson incident was unfortunate and blame should be placed solely on the Chicago Blackhawks. If I remember the story correctly, Caps GM, George McPhee, phoned the Blackhawks before that night’s preseason game and asked them if they were dressing any toughness. He was told that they were not. The Caps answered by doing the same, only dressing one tough guy in Halverson. When play started, the Blackhawks mysteriously had quite a few tough guys in their lineup. Halverson fought THREE times that night, getting dropped in his last bought. McPhee was so infuriated, he ran into the Blackhawks locker room after the game to get at their GM. Apparently he got in a couple but also left missing part of his suit jacket.

As for Bertuzzi, this has been covered countless times. The Bertuzzi incident was not a fight. It was a mugging. And it was a mugging that has happened countless times in the NHL. However, it was the unfortunate end result that drew attention from libby media nuts and YHL fans. If Moore didn’t break his neck, the media wouldn’t even have taken notice. And please note that the Bertuzzi mugging could have occurred in a rules system that says you are automatically ejected from the game if you fight just as easily it occurred under the rule system at the time. It was in the last minute of play, so who cares if you are ejected?

Now on to where Bleatings is really misguided about these or any incidents he can conjure up. There are all sorts of injuries in hockey… blown out knees (e.g. Neely), concussions from open ice hits (e.g. Lindros), concussions from fights (e.g. Kypreos, Halverson)… you can’t just pick one of the causes and state that it should be removed from the game. Career ending injuries from fights are few and far between. The only one I can really file under that category is Halverson as even Kypreos played seven years in the NHL before he retired after his last concussion. If you follow Bleatings line of thinking, you should be calling for a ban on hitting too… because, in reality, that causes more career ending injuries than fights do. You should also be screaming for an end to all cheap shots… because those cause more long-term injuries than fights do too.

Bleatings continues on to provide us with his all-knowing prophecy that someone will die from a hockey fight. I don’t disagree with him. Boxers have died in the ring and they wear gloves. His statement is actually is accurate (finally!), but nothing to get excited about. Even more, I would venture to say that the chances that a hockey player dies on the ice from a non-fighting related incident is much higher. Consider the facts that hits from behind can leads to broken necks and backs, that players carry weapons in their hands, that they skate with razor-like skates on their feet, and that they shoot pucks in excess of 100 mph and you might just agree too. Hockey is a dangerous sport… with or without fighting.

Thank God that we have somewhat realistic folks at NHL headquarters. If Bleatings were the Commissioner of the NHL and he eliminated fighting from the game, he would have the game sitting in the sewage treatment center awaiting purification. The NHL is aware of the popularity of fighting in hockey and they aren’t about to outlaw it from the game. They also hear from the NHLPA every year who constantly asks them to remove the instigator rule. So even the players want it gone! Wierd... I mean, if all these players are having their careers ended as a result of fighting, why wouldn't the players be knocking down the doors to have it thrown out of the game? Instead... it's the opposite. Seems the NHLPA are UFOI fans too.

So who would ban fighting on account of a few isolated incidents, some of which are blown way of proportion? It’s the YHL fan that would… and remember, 9 out of 10 fans are not in the YHL fan’s camp. Sorry Bleatings... it's just you and.............. well, you.

"The `stache demands respect.”

If Brian Burke never said, “When you walk into our barn, you’d better be ready to dance,” George Parros’ might be have taken the Quote of the Year category. Kudos to Jeff Miller, from the Orange County Register, for lending a full story to the evolution of George Parros’ porn star mustache. Seems as though George’s willingness to please others hasn’t paid off in the past as he shaved his stache before coming to the Kings and Avs and was promptly moved after brief stints. When he came to the Ducks, he kept the stache and quickly became a fan favorite in Anaheim and a valuable role player for a team that appreciates the qualities that George can bring to the table.

Instigator Poll Update from CBC

I don't know how long they'll keep the poll up, but I can't but update CBC's After Hours poll on whether or not the Instigator should be removed.

This Week's PollThis Week's Poll
Should the NHL eliminate the instigator penalty rule?

Yes
(703)
81%
No
(168)
19%

Total Votes: 871

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Newbury KO'd by Petrovicky; Will be Okay

Refreshing Writer... Mr. Patrick Hruby from ESPN.com

Check out some of Patrick's pieces from ESPN here. My brother and I had the pleasure of sitting with Patrick at last night's Caps/Rangers game. Patrick has the job we all envy. He is a freelance writer for ESPN.com. He essentially gets to decide what he wants to write about. As you can see from some of this articles, he chooses some fairly unique topics. That makes for entertaining writing...

Patrick will be putting out a story on the hockey fight community in a few weeks. Judging from the major polls out there, something tells me 9 out of 10 hockey fans will enjoy it.

CBC Instigator Poll

Right now it is 76% for the removal of the instigator and 24% for keeping it. You can cast your vote on CBC's After Hours Show here. The instigator is a hot topic these days. The guys from Wayne Gretzky's XM Show BLASTED the rule yesterday, calling it the worst rule in hockey.

Instigator on the Way Out?

Thanks to GS for this tid bit:
Anyone catch the Hot Stove on HNIC tonight? All three panelists talked about how there is interest among GMs to remove the Instigator Rule. One of the guys reported that the NHL is beginning to realize that the demographic they wanted to attract by curbing fighting (new NHL fan) isn't going to care about the game anyway. Therefore, to keep the core fans, they want to bring back the physical element of the game. I want to believe that this is going to happen. The NHL at the end of the day is a business and too many fans like us have either stopped going to games, cancelled Center Ice, etc. and I think it is showing. Let's hope so.

At the least, they should MODIFY the instigator rule, dolling out a ten minute misconduct OR an additional two minutes for instigating as well. There has to be SOME sort of deterence from jumping players for no reason...

Orr is Avery's Babysitter? Apparently So...

Damien Christedero, the Lighting's beat reporter, wrote up a nice article about the Rangers/Lighting broohaha from Friday night. Apparently Andre Roy doesn't think too highly of Sean Avery. A couple of quotes from the article:

It was the type of game you rarely see in the new NHL. Challenges were made, bodies slammed, fists flew.

Yessiree, the Lightning and Rangers engaged in a little old-time hockey Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Although Tampa Bay fell 5-0, there was satisfaction among players that they answered when challenged physically in a game that had 73 penalty minutes.

"We're a team. That's how we handle ourselves here," wing Ryan Craig said. "That's the way it's always been. There's a time and place, and so be it, this was the place."

"That's what teams are about," coach John Tortorella said. "That's what good teams are about. I wish more guys would get in there."

Avery is an agitator. "You know, he wants to put on a show; Mr. Hollywood," Roy said. "So right off the start, he's chirping on the bench. I asked him to fight five times, but he just likes to chirp. That's what he's good at. He's a big mouth."

Roy ended up fighting Orr in the second period. "Orr was probably babysitting him," Roy said, "because he needs a babysitter."

"You don't see it in the league anymore," Tortorella said. "I'm glad it happened. That's part of hockey. We all get surprised when it happens. That is where the league has gone to. That should be an everyday occurrence in the game of hockey."


Tortorella is a breathe of fresh air in this vanilla new NHL...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Karen Guregian Says the Lack of Fight Might be the Bruins Problem

After watching Bruins rookie David Krejci be concussed by a flying elbow from rugged Sabre Adam Mair, Bruins fans wondered where the retribution was. As Karen Guregian, from the Boston Herald, writes,

There’s an unwritten rule in hockey that says if an opponent takes a liberty with a teammate, there will be hell to pay. In other words, Mair should have been taken to task for the questionable hit on Krejci. He had to take his medicine, only there was no one on the Bruins willing to dish it out in a swift and decisive manner.

More from the article. Some great quotes in here. Former Pen, Kevin Stevens adds:

“It’s an unwritten rule. You don’t sit there and tell someone they have to do it or don’t have to do it. It just happens,” said former Penguins and Bruins [team stats] power forward Kevin Stevens, now a pro scout for Pittsburgh. “You don’t think about it. You even have guys who don’t fight, do it to stick up for a teammate. I’ve seen a lot of guys who don’t fight that often jump in there. They’ll take a beating, but they’ll do it for the team. I think you have to do it.”

“The game has definitely changed, but it still happens,” said Stevens. “I saw (Sheldon) Souray do it the other night. Colby Armstrong hit Saku Koivu behind the play. And Souray jumped him right away. It was a clean hit, but Souray still went after him. The Canadiens wound up losing in overtime, but it gave the Canadiens and their fans a huge lift. For him jumping in, the Penguins may have scored a power-play goal, but I think it was important to do that.”

Adds former Bruins great Cam Neely:

“Contact is part of hockey. “You want emotion. You want guys sticking up for each other. The thing I loved about hockey is something Harry (Sinden) used to say. There’s no out of bounds. There are unwritten rules and codes that we all lived by. We’d police ourselves. Now if you touch someone, you’re in the box.“It’s not the game fans grew up watching, especially the ones around here.”
Former Bruins coach and host of the most popular hockey show in the World, Don Cherry says:

Jaromir Jagr has no enforcer, and he gets whacked around pretty good. Sidney Crosby is getting speared and is getting the (expletive) kicked out of him. How do you think Saku Koivu feels having the best defenseman in the league coming to his rescue? Now, you can’t have a Souray or a (Zdeno) Chara do that all the time, but it’s admired when they do and it makes a difference. Teams that are pushed around aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup. Look at Anaheim. They lead the league in fights. Brian Burke has put together a terrific team. They have balance. They’re smoking everyone”

I just know this... There was a time when everyone was terrified of the black uniform. Sometimes, we’d lose a game, but because we’d win five fights, we’d get a standing ovation walking out of the building. Fans loved us because we were the toughest team out there “Sweetheart" hockey is not the Bruins. In Boston, they’ve got to be the toughest. When you put that black sweater on, you
can’t play sweetheart hockey. If you don’t stick up for each other, you’re not going anywhere.”

And to make you feel even better about your Bruins, current GM Peter Chiarelli, takes a page from our great Commissioner's book and denies that anything is wrong:

“Do we need to get tougher? Yes, we do,” Chiarelli said. “We need more team toughness, but we have to be smart about it. Do we need an enforcer? No. We just have to play mentally tougher and physically tougher.”

Said Chiarelli: “Can the players take care of the justice? I’m not sure they can.”

TSN Loves George Parros and the Ducks!

Surely they have something better to put on the front of their homepage... apparently not. Nope, TSN has George Parros and the Ducks highlighted today. Complete with his 70s style "love making" stache, Parros (and his fighting Ducks teammates) have been quite the hit this year. And Ducks GM, and should-be NHL Commissioner, Brian Burke backs up his team's playing style.

"I make no apologies for it," Anaheim GM Brian Burke said Thursday. "That's the way our team is built. If you're going to come into our barn you better be ready for a square dance."

"We made a conscious decision to protect our skill players, provide them with an environment where they can better succeed."

Parros adds... "There's guys on this team that are willing to step up on every line. Everyone that's out there is willing to protect each other. We're team tough and we're physically imposing."

"I think it's a great combination and obviously we can play the game quite well. It's the first time I've been on a team like this."

There's Still Room for Enforcers...

Eric Francis, from the Calgary Sun, says there’s still room in the NHL for enforcers. He goes on to hammer Pens coach, Michel Therrien, for boo-hooing to the league about protecting a player. Now that’s something new… maybe the NHL will integrate a THIRD referee to shadow star players and make sure they are protected.
Coach Michel Therrien made a desperate, pathetic plea for the league to better protect Crosby last week after the league's star attraction was once again used as a Penguin pinata.

Truth is, the league has spent years setting laughable precedents in terms of dispensing justice, thus leaving such security tasks in the hands of enforcers.

Darryl Sutter figured it out late in the summer by inking Eric Godard to a deal.

And while few knew he'd be up with the big club as much as he has of late, it's clear he's here to stay.

With an emerging group of superstars on his hands, Sutter knows someone other than Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf or Robyn Regehr has to keep opponents in line.

So go ahead Mr. Therrien, whine all you want about the mistreatment opponents have reserved for Crosby. Truth is, until you start fighting back you should be beating yourself up over this one.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fans HATE Fighting...

Click on the pic for a larger version...

When Donning the Orange & Black Meant Something (from Nachbaur's Knocks)

Thank you to Nachbaur's Knocks... a contributor to Two Minutes for Blogging and hockeyfansunite.com.

When Donning the Orange & Black Meant Something

It could be Gary Bettman’s “New NHL,” where personality and rivalry are frowned upon with contempt. It could be the vast number of Europeans that currently litter the Philadelphia Flyer’s roster that have no semblance of the rich history that the franchise rightfully exudes. It could be the fact that the ridiculous rise in player salaries leave little to be desired on the ice because, in most cases, the new breed of NHLers are financially set for generations before they even lace up their skates. Any which way that one wants to readily look at the big picture; the deterioration of passion and drive has resonated throughout the Philadelphia Flyer’s once proud organization. An organization that was once the preeminent force in all of the NHL has suddenly turned into the ubiquitous moniker of “what not to be liked” in regards to succeeding in the “New NHL.” In the Flyer’s locker room, a sign has adorned the wall for decades that reads, “You play for the crest on the front of the sweater, not the name on the back.” That meant something to guys like the Hound, Moose, Clarkie, the Hammer, the Chief, Brownie, and Toc. To guys like Afanasenkov, Zhitnik, York, and perennially underachiever Gagne, it is just another day, another game, another mundane sweater. Hell with the fans that are mortgaging their houses for lower level season tickets, the passion meter has been below E for the entire 2006-07 campaign. God, do I yearn for the days when donning the Orange and Black meant something.

Iconic owner, Ed Snider, who grown men still refer to as Mr. Snider, brought a sport to the city of Philadelphia in 1967 that no one even knew existed. Ed Snider put everything that he had on the line to try to sell a sport still in infancy in parts of the United States. Ed Snider did a surreal job and 40 years of fond memories, passion, and drive ensued. The Flyers became the envy of the NHL; they played to sold-out buildings every night both at home and on the road. The Organization became the barometer in the NHL; opposing players and free agents all saw Philadelphia as one of the most attractive destinations in the league. From the top down, the Flyer’s organization was predicated upon work ethic, drive, passion, and determination.

A barnstorming group of Canadians known as the Broad Street Bullies captivated an entire town during the 70s and spurned the Golden Era of Philadelphia sports. The Flyers back-to-back Stanley Cups and their destruction of the Soviet Red Army brought back civic pride to a city desperately searching for a winner. Winning became contagious; the Phillies went on to their best years in the history of the franchise in the late 70s and early 80s that culminated with a World Championship. Ditto the Sixers, who became a perennial power throughout the NBA, winning a Championship in 83. At the time, the Eagles made their only appearance in the Super Bowl in 1980, a year in which all four major Philadelphia sports teams appeared in world title games. The Flyers were the precursor. They were the proverbial lightning rod. Their hard work and dedication rubbed off on the other franchises in the town.

The Flyers continued their success right through the 80s, appearing in two cup finals. They hit a hic-up in the early 90s, but would bounce back and once again become a preeminent force right up until this year.

The common denominator throughout the existence of the Philadelphia Flyers organization has been hard work, passion, and pride. It started with Ed Snider at the top and trickled down onto the ice. The players mimicked their owner’s drive and passion and the Flyers were a model for a successful franchise. The Broad Street Bullies morphed into the Keenen-led kids who morphed into the Lindros era. These teams played with heart; they played when donning the orange and black actually meant something.

Fast forward to 2007 and the mess that currently constitutes the Philadelphia Flyers. Not only is the team in disarray, but the front office remains in shambles. Most pundits say that leadership starts at the top and matriculates to the bottom. Well, if that is the case, then the Flyers are in trouble. It is almost like the players on the ice are mirroring their front office counterparts. The head coach, that of a Stanley Cup pedigree, was fired less than 10 games into the season. The General Manager, with a career get out of jail free card from his Uncle Eddy, resigned on the same day. A head coach with no NHL experience was hired. The lame duck GM, Paul Holmgren, was promoted on an as needs basis. This is the same guy that was the assistant GM under the GM that put together the worst team in the history of the franchise. If that isn’t enough, the defunct GM was re-hired and now presides over his former assistant. Then, the owner claims the entire team stinks and that a salary cap makes it hard for teams like the Flyers to compete. This is the same owner that sat back and allowed uber-buffoon, Gary Bettman, to dictate the entire landscape of the NHL, catering to the Nashvilles and Atlantas of the world. Simply amazing…

As if the front office shenanigans are not enough, the on-ice product is just flat-out terrible. Not being a good team is acceptable in Philly; but not being a good team that quits is not. The Flyers are a passionless, heartless, gutless team that goes through the motions every night so that the respective players can get their paychecks. Their star player and captain gets run on what seems like a nightly basis to no avail. The players do not even have enough pride in themselves to stick-up for each other. It is sickening; it is not Flyer’s hockey. Half-empty seats adorn the Wachovia Center. Blow-outs have become the norm. Passionless hockey has jumped to the forefront. In the Flyer’s quest to conform to the “new NHL,” the game experience has become a cross between a Flyer’s infomercial, hawking anything and everything in sight, and a Justin Timberlake concert. What happened to the days of yelling at the refs between whistles? The corporate greed has become astounding, almost unbearable. Welcome to the “new NHL.” Welcome to the “new Flyers.” Welcome to the National Bettman League. The golden days are over. The days when donning the orange and black meant something have disappeared like the Flyers ever-dwindling fan base. Philadelphia Flyers 2006-07: Keeping the first, overall pick in the state of PA. Priceless.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Bettman Saga Silently Rolls On...

Ed Willies, from the Province, wasn’t impressed with Gary Bettman’s latest trip to Vancouver. Last night Gary casually put down any speculation that he could be asked to step down by the league’s BOG. The arrogance drips for his quotes as he mentions that even he isn’t sure how many years he has left on his contract… four maybe five. Rest assure, it runs through the end of his latest and greatest CBA. Maybe the owners will strategically re-up him after he oversees the next work stoppage and another CBA… we might as well make this a cyclical process. Bettman again spun answers like a yoyo, saying that the NHL’s deal with Versus was a good one and they were willing to trade viewership for better coverage. His criteria for that, of course, is that Versus covers hockey in between periods and not other sports. Forget the .02s for regular games and a disastrous .7 for the All-Star game (a 76% drop from 2004). Forget that the All-Star game placed 18th on the Neilson in Dallas, the host city. Bettman lied to NHL fans, saying that all major polls show that only 25% of fans disagree with the current schedule. While not major, one from my site says that 65% of fans WANT a balanced schedule (248 votes). While not surprising, Bettman’s deal, should it have been voted on recently by owners is disgraceful. It essentially displays that owners are content with the state of the NHL; that they do not care what fans think. Do you ever wonder why Gary doesn’t make too many public appearances? Because he is ridiculed by fans everywhere he goes. And forget speaking at on-ice ceremonies. The great NHL Commish was booed mercilessly at Wayne Gretzky’s jersey retirement when he was handed the mic.

A couple of quotes from Willies’ article that will make you want to lose you cookies:


Bettman remains impervious to any criticism of his administration or the game's direction, as the commissioner again demonstrated during a 40-minute presser in which he said absolutely nothing of interest.

He will tell you the Versus deal is good for the game. He will tell you it's part of a master plan that will launch the NHL into a golden era. He will tell you the new conomic order has positioned the NHL for a prolonged period of prosperity.

And, it doesn't bother him one iota that others would look at the league and draw a far different conclusion about its prospects.

"I do it at the will of the owners," Bettman said.

Bettman, for his part, understands what's good for the owners is good for him. He's presided over two work stoppages, hasn't been able to deliver a national TV contract and his mere presence is a divisive point among NHL fans.