I’m a big Hockey fan.
I have the Canuck games, scheduled into my Blackberry, so I get sent a reminder on Game Day, notifying me of game time, and where the game is being played.
I have been a Hockey fan, pretty much since I can remember. Saturdays, when I was a kid, was the best night of the week, because the line-up on CBC was Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour… Maple Leaf All Star Wrestling… Hockey Night in Canada… and Don Messer’s Jubilee (usually joined in progress)
Before the Canucks came on the scene, my teams were Montreal, or if they were knocked out… Boston. Even back then, I didn’t care for the Leafs… but I don’t remember why.
Jiffy Pop Popcorn came with iron-on decals inside the lid… and I ALWAYS got the Leafs, and never got the Canadiens !!!
Through the years, I have not changed much. I’m not a hockey fan who can reel off rosters and stats. I follow my team, and have a passing interest in who they are playing, and where the other teams line up. I can tell you maybe one or two players for most eastern Teams, but because the schedule doesn’t allow for as many Conference Games (East-West) as Divisional Games (By Region) I know the players of the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers, better than I know the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals.
So, in a nutshell, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Canucks fan. When cut, I bleed Blue. I believe we are all Canucks. But, more than that, I am a fan of the game.
The first player I ever became aware of, was Yvan Cournoyer. Number 12 on the Montreal Canadiens. When I ran across the basement, of my parents’ house to the strains of the Hockey Night In Canada theme-song ? I was “the RoadRunner” … Yvan Cournoyer.
Again, not being a stat guy, I couldn’t rattle off Goals, Assists, Time on the Ice, Penalty Minutes or any of the other stats that flew from some kids brains… I just knew he was a talented hockey player who was small and fast. And being one of the smallest kids in my class, I appreciated that.
Throughout the intervening years, there were many times where it became apparent that the game was changing, and players were bigger, faster and tougher… but none so much as the recent 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game. After Canada won the game, and as Team Canada stood there, getting their medals, the camera panned slowly, left to right, as each player was recognized. One player caught my eye, because he was substantially shorter than the rest. I wasn’t sure who he was, as I hadn’t caught his name, but I made a note of his Jersey Number, and afterwards, looked him up. Dan Boyle. He WAS the shortest guy on the team, by quite a bit. He was 5′ 10″ Most players seemed to be 6’4″ or 6’5″
The reason I bring this up, is that the game I love, has been tainted, of late, with mentions of thuggery.
Hits to the head, and hits from behind are becoming the norm, and far too commonplace. The words “season ending injury” have been spoken too much, and too often.
There have always been fights, and there have always been agitators. However, the technology has advanced, the players are bigger, faster, more athletic and their equipment is made of light, but rock solid components. The rinks, once reserved exclusively for Hockey, are now serving multiple purposes, and not all arena walls have the same “give,” to allow the absorption of an impact.
I believe that the NHL Players Association, in conjunction with the Team Owners, have a responsibility to the fans like me. I love Hockey, but I don’t want to see ANYONE carted off the ice on a stretcher, and it is only a matter of time, at this rate, until someone gets carted off in a body bag. This is not Afghanistan, and no one should die, chasing an iced puck.
Accidents and injuries have always happened… Again referencing Yvan Cournoyer, he had serious back trouble, and missed a whole season because of it. However, the types of injuries, and the severity of the injuries, in my opinion, requires immediate action.
If I was in charge, I would like to see a Three Strike Policy.
Again, as I’ve already stated, I acknowledge that there will be accidents, and with the speed at which the players are moving, and how the game is played, those accidents are unavoidable. This is the reason for the Three Strike Policy.
Some players, lacking in skill, make the team because they are big, tough, and are a physical, visible deterrent.
Some players, are fast and ornery. Quick with a stick in the ribs in the corner… and just as apt to bring an elbow up when checking, as they are to breathe.
Those players have to be kept in check, and if they cannot control themselves, must be expunged from the game itself.
For the first two strikes, the standard rules should apply, as being discussed currently.
On a Third Strike, when a player is injured, the person causing the injury should have to sit out, as long as the person he injures.
Alexander Ovechkin, arguably one of the most skilled players, currently in the Game, and a marquis draw whereever the Washington Capitals go… is also a player who is said to play with a lot of “edge”. His hit on Brian Campbell, breaking Campbell’s collar bone, was another in a long line of similar incidents. But, because he is a star, he gets dealt with, in a different manner.
Colin Campbell, the NHL Executive, who has the unenviable job of trying to equitably hand out justice, in context with the past, has to wipe clean the slate, because in the past, there has been no context. Sean Avery, who made some crude and vulgar comments in a press briefing, was thrown out “indefinitely” for an admittedly crass comment… but injuring an opponent, and ending their season only gets Ovechkin a two game suspension ? Nothing even-handed there ! The ruler, against which past transgressions have been measured, has been broken for a while, and should be discarded.
Colin Campbell has to start fresh, with a mandate from the Players’ Association and Team Owners, to get rid of the “intent to injure” hits that can destroy a team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup.
In that way, a small, fast player, like Yvan Cournoyer, could again take the ice, and play with passion and talent, knowing that if someone tries to remove his head from his shoulders, that there will be a fresh, even-handed approach to punishing the player causing the injury, and the Team that player plays for… regardless of their “star power.”
And then let me get back to watching my Canucks win the Stanley Cup !!!