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    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    "Violence" in Hockey...

    Stardate 4380.6

    I just want to be clear on several points here. First of all, one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy hockey is the hitting and fighting. You simply cannot have a good game without the physical contact. Fighting was traditionally a good crowd raiser... the two heavy weights come out at the same time, and have a bout. Or perhaps the goalie was hit, or the star player... so the tough guy would take care of it. It kept guys like Gretzky and Lafleur playing and off the injury list. Tempers flare, and two guys could go at it. Now they have the instigator rule, where the guy starting a fight risks gettign the game and even fines... So what has this done?

    Well to start the list off, lets go with goalies getting hit. You think any goalie in the the 70's or 80's would have gotten hit without the guy getting killed by a ham-fisted tough guy like Chris Nilan? Well maybe Billy Smith could take matters into his own hands, but everyone else had the protector. Nowadays, goalies come out more aggressively, but are realistically open market for hits. Andy Moog retired after being run over too many times in the playoffs... while at the opposite end, any time a guy blew on Hasek's jersey, they got an interference call (okay I am a Montreal fan but still). There are far less goalies in the league, so I think they need those protectors back. If Roman Turek got run over, you can bet that Chris Simon would love to pummel the offender if there was no instigator rule... It is good for the game, and good for the fans.

    How many star players have been cheap-shotted or taken down by a dirty hit? Guys like Saku Koivu, Mike Modano, Paul Kariya... the list is endless. Half the time now, nobody even blinks if your star player is roughed up or knocked down. You think that a guy wiping Gretzky out would have lived past the next shift that Semenko was on the ice at the same time? I think not. Fans like the fighting and hits, but they also want to see these few actual superstars play. Again, why risk the match penalty, fines and suspensions? Your average guy makes so much money now, that there are few pure "role-players" left in the league. If the fighters fought, and the stars played, and the best goalies weren't hurt all the time, we would have a hell of an exciting sport to watch and play, and they could stop changing rules...

    As it stands now, a guy can't touch another player without fear of getting a boarding, charging, roughing or hitting from behind call (maybe even a high stick if the ref is on glue). The hitting from behind rule had great intentions, but now all a player has to do is turn away from a guy along the boards, and BAM! 2 minutes for hitting from behind. Maybe he could get hurt, but it doesn't stop it from happening ALL the time. Some guys don't want to fight because they don't want to get the game... fair enough. I blame the instigator rule for that too.

    In my previous post, i mentioned the McSorley/Brashear incident. Donald mocked Marty all night, and refused to fight him. That's when Marty blew his cool, and I say, watching that game live, I was sickened by the stickwork. Without an instigator rule, would Donald have fought him? Who knows. Maybe his hand was buggeredfrom the last fight he had...

    Equipment has been a factor as well I think. New gear protects much better, so perhaps a guy may feel a little invulnerable out there. Some players use fancy gear that simply doesn't protect htem like the old stuff... How many times have we seen Don Cherry rant about the low-cuff gloves that the stickhandlers liek to use? How many of those players have had broken wrists, or hands? Possibly, this is part of the problem. A guy may hit harder, or stick a guy, not meaning to injure, just to hurt (sounds silly but I think it is a valid point) him.

    Back to Bertuzzi. The guy never meant to cause the damage he did to Steve Moore. That I can almost guarantee. But the fact of the matter is, it was a cheap shot. Whether it is the rules, the way the game went, better equipment, it doesn't matter. Bertuzzi was humiliated (in an 8-2 game) and likely pissed off enough to lose it. We all know what happened. Guilt is guilt, and now he is back to play. Steve Moore will likely never play again. Bettman, in what *could* be called a money grab, has decided that Bertuzzi "has suffered enough" and done his time. Frankly, I have to disagree there. Bettman says Bertuzzi missed 17 months of hockey, but the fact is, there was NO season last year. In reality, Bertuzzi barely missed any hockey at all, when you consider how much Steve Moore will miss. The loss of pay (roughly $500,000) is peanuts to a guy that makes over $5 MILLION a year. How much is Steve Moore going to make in his career? Seriously? Bertuzzi should still be sitting. And maybe paying a few bills on the side too.

    My point here is that there is violence in hockey. It is by nature a violent sport. It has to be, with the amount of contact and the sheer intensity of play. But the line must be drawn. Either players are taking liberties now, or the rules have altered the face of the game. A good fight or a big open ice hit is one thing, but sticking a guy in the face, or sucker punching him from behind is another...

    All opinions shared on this site are strictly my own. Some people may disagree and that is fine, but rude comments or overzealous debate will be curtailed. I enjoy civil discourse, and encourage independent thought. I oppose George W. Bush and his Wars based on lies.

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