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The NHL? Fix it for forget it
January 12, 2005 8:37 PM   Subscribe

The NHL? Fix it for forget it. ESPN suggests how we could start over.
posted by tranquileye (70 comments total)

 
?
posted by mudpuppie at 8:53 PM on January 12, 2005


No fighting, but "players may take off their helmets during a shootout."

Ooh, the excitement.
posted by eatitlive at 9:00 PM on January 12, 2005


.
posted by interrobang at 9:03 PM on January 12, 2005


That John Buccigross animation is useless. It's creepy the way its eyes follow your mouse around. I'm glad I had the sound turned down.

The whole thing is just stupid.
posted by Doohickie at 9:11 PM on January 12, 2005


I saw this in the "Rules --> Teams" section:

'No in-game communication between pressbox and bench'

I don't see how in-game communication is ruining the game right now. In fact I'm not very impressed by many of the changes put forth in the article. It seems to me all they want is 20 teams, 60 games and a 16 team playoff.

I also think things like "wooden sticks to be supplied by the teams, sticks of any other composition must be supplied by the player" are pointless. Just let the players buy their own equipment and leave it at that.
posted by tempest2i at 9:16 PM on January 12, 2005


Improve quality and level of analysis

Kind of paradoxical for ESPN to propose this, no?
posted by cardboard at 9:20 PM on January 12, 2005


while i'm glad they kept Atlanta as one of the 20 teams, i don't think the fans here deserve it.
posted by NationalKato at 9:28 PM on January 12, 2005


When I was a child I urinated all over my father's lap when the Montreal Canadiens lost a playoff game to the Boston Bruins in overtime. He's still proud, and I'm even more of a fan now (albeit a tad more toilet-trained). With its blend of skill and contact -- and each is impossible without the other -- For two months every spring I disappear in the evenings; I don't even like to watch playoff hockey *with* anyone, except for best friend or father, because they understand. It is difficult to explain this feeling to others. It's much easier to just say I'm watching porn.

So I'm about to post everything I've always wanted to say, but been afraid to. . . .

ESPN's teams are a step in the right direction, though Hartford really doesn't deserve a club. Hell, Hartford doesn't deserve oxygen. And Winnipeg, Ottawa and Quebec City all need teams. The sixty game schedule is brilliant; one thing the NHL owners refuse to acknowledge is how ruinous back-to-back games are. Teams playing their second game in two nights are invariably tired and bruised, usually lose, and are a snooze to see.

The adjustments to line changes, coach rules, and pressbox/bench communications are all pointless. Wooden sticks should be the rule, period. As for the shootout, why not have the a winner-take-all Scrabble contest? It has as much to do with the game as ice hockey. What's wrong with the tie? The death of the honorable tie is a symptom of our society's corroded appreciation of nobility, equality, and anything that can't be easily categorized.

And it's telling that they quoted a baseball exec talking about fighting. Fans like fighting; it's much less intrinsically violent than ninety percent of what happens, within the rules, in the NFL; and it's a necessary deterrent to high-sticking, slashing, and checking from behind. It's that stuff which is truly dangerous and ruining the game -- and ultimately the players, not the referees, must enforce correct behavior. If there is a problem with fighting, it's that there isn't enough of it: most is done by designated goons, rather than being something that almost everyone is required to do if they behave dishonorably. And the idea that reducing fighting will encourage skill development is laughable. There's far less fighting now in the NHL than there ever was, and certainly no more skill.

While we're at it, the poor ice and unfrozen pucks too often make the game look like it's played with a happy fun ball. Let's get that together. Good ice and frozen pucks mean that the game can flow and intensity can fluorish -- and it's flow and intensity, more than anything else, that's lacking in the NHL. And to cultivate those they should get rid of TV timeouts. Anyone who's ever attended a game in person and watched it interrupted every five minutes for ninety seconds of standing around, looking for hot chicks in the crowd, knows how hard it is to sustain involvement with the game. There's a reason why overtimes, which have no TV timeouts, are so much better to watch than the regular periods.

The marketing ideas are stupid beyond belief. Christ.

My eyes glazed over with the money stuff. Put Bettman and Goodenow up against the wall. Castro for commish.
posted by Coherence Panda at 9:59 PM on January 12, 2005


When I was a child I urinated all over my father's lap when the Montreal Canadiens lost a playoff game to the Boston Bruins in overtime. He's still proud, and I'm even more of a fan now (albeit a tad more toilet-trained). With its blend of skill and contact -- and each is impossible without the other -- hockey is the greatest game of all. For two months every spring I disappear in the evenings; I don't even like to watch playoff hockey *with* anyone, except for best friend or father, because they understand. It is difficult to explain this feeling to others. It's much easier to just say I'm watching porn.

So I'm about to post everything I've always wanted to say, but been afraid to. . . .

ESPN's teams are a step in the right direction, though Hartford really doesn't deserve a club. Hell, Hartford doesn't deserve oxygen. And Winnipeg, Ottawa and Quebec City all need teams. The sixty game schedule is brilliant; one thing the NHL owners refuse to acknowledge is how ruinous back-to-back games are. Teams playing their second game in two nights are invariably tired and bruised, usually lose, and are a snooze to see.

The adjustments to line changes, coach rules, and pressbox/bench communications are all pointless. Wooden sticks should be the rule, period. As for the shootout, why not have the a winner-take-all Scrabble contest? It has as much to do with the game as ice hockey. What's wrong with the tie? The death of the honorable tie is a symptom of our society's corroded appreciation of nobility, equality, and anything that can't be easily categorized.

And it's telling that they quoted a baseball exec talking about fighting. Fans like fighting; it's much less intrinsically violent than ninety percent of what happens, within the rules, in the NFL; and it's a necessary deterrent to high-sticking, slashing, and checking from behind. It's that stuff which is truly dangerous and ruining the game -- and ultimately the players, not the referees, must enforce correct behavior. If there is a problem with fighting, it's that there isn't enough of it: most is done by designated goons, rather than being something that almost everyone is required to do if they behave dishonorably. And the idea that reducing fighting will encourage skill development is laughable. There's far less fighting now in the NHL than there ever was, and certainly no more skill.

While we're at it, the poor ice and unfrozen pucks too often make the game look like it's played with a happy fun ball. Let's get that together. Good ice and frozen pucks mean that the game can flow and intensity can fluorish -- and it's flow and intensity, more than anything else, that's lacking in the NHL. And to cultivate those they should get rid of TV timeouts. Anyone who's ever attended a game in person and watched it interrupted every five minutes for ninety seconds of standing around, looking for hot chicks in the crowd, knows how hard it is to sustain involvement with the game. There's a reason why overtimes, which have no TV timeouts, are so much better to watch than the regular periods.

The marketing ideas are stupid beyond belief. Christ.

My eyes glazed over with the money stuff. Put Bettman and Goodenow up against the wall. Castro for commish.
posted by Coherence Panda at 10:00 PM on January 12, 2005


you can say that again. (seriously, even)
posted by NationalKato at 10:08 PM on January 12, 2005


Cute little aside in Get Fuzzy. No urination involved.
posted by dhartung at 10:24 PM on January 12, 2005


"With a 16-team postseason, the league may be criticized for the ease in which teams would qualify."

No kidding. Four teams don't make the playoffs. This seems very silly to me. Their poll indicates 58% think 16 team playoffs are OK. Is there something stupid I'm missing here?
posted by Bokononist at 10:42 PM on January 12, 2005


This is my first post to metafilter after having drunk a few too many.

Seriously though, does no one have respect for what came before? Bobby Orr and the Gretz... Rick Middleton and Tiger Williams. Eliminate fighting and widen the nets? Bettman, I think you need to go back to basketball. I can't believe Canada lets him across the border.

Let the boys play. Let them play passionately. Let them play in cities where people are interested enough to pack the stands. Nothing in sports seems as second-rate as a half-filled arena. Yes, Regina Saskatchewan is better for the NHL than LA California. Have you ever flipped through your television and stopped at a sporting event where the crowd was only half-ways into the match? I'd wager that you haven't. But, have you ever been caught up in the fever of a whole community that is behind a single sports team? If you have, you know that being a passionate fan can be a great feeling.

Hockey is a great game. We don't need new rules or camera angles. We don't need a foothold in the South or football-style graphics. We need more fans that care.

Why doesn't ESPN pay CBC to patch into their coverage ? ESPN can't cover a game better than their touque-wearing counterparts and every hockey fan knows it. How can this not make financial sense? Can it really be cheaper to move an entire broadcast team from rink to rink?

Ask yourself this? Would something of the order of the Richard riots happen if the NFL suspended Brett Favre? Hockey has a passionate base of fans. Stop pandering to the masses and the masses will come to you. They'll play hockey in Regina whether you are there or not, NHL. Why not join the party? Bettman, are you listening?
posted by MotorNeuron at 10:43 PM on January 12, 2005


here are a few suggestions from ex-Canucks-GM Brian Burke.
posted by The God Complex at 10:52 PM on January 12, 2005


"Fix it for forget it".... fix it for what again?
posted by jmccorm at 11:43 PM on January 12, 2005


We don't need a foothold in the South or football-style graphics.

Jesus tapdancing fucking-a Christ, yes! I could never understand deliberately forcing a sport's inherit environmental culture on a place that's simply not suited for it. I mean, really, when was the last time a blizzard swept through Georgia? When was the last time kids went ice skating on a real lake, outside in Georgia?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:47 PM on January 12, 2005


I stopped caring about hockey when the Americans started buying and importing Canadian teams.

Actually, I never cared much about hockey, to be honest -- bad, bad Canuck! -- but you know what I'm sayin' here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:10 AM on January 13, 2005


As soon as HD becomes the standard for television broadcast, watch out, because hockey will actually be watchable to the average joe sitting in a sports bar. Include the fact that those overhead cable cameras are basically built for hockey, mount 'em up with HD cams, with pictures wide enough to actually show the development of plays, and then.....

Well, you'll pick up some viewers, but most will still be watching "Survivor 2010: Iraq!".

And C-D, blizzard in Georgia? 1993.
posted by dglynn at 12:13 AM on January 13, 2005


ummm... 18 comments and only one person has pointed out the error...

seriously, "fix it for forget it"? am i missing something?
posted by spiderwire at 12:53 AM on January 13, 2005


There's not that much wrong with the game of hockey itself, it's the league that needs fixing; if they were going to make some substantive changes to the game they should be considering the wider Euro-style rink & elimination of the red line. Wider nets & narrower goalie pads? Are pathetic pandering to the lowest common denominator. If fans aren't interested enough because the scores are lower in hockey they can go watch football or basketball, with triple-digit scores every game. Please don't ruin hockey for those of us that actually enjoy the game.
posted by id girl at 1:48 AM on January 13, 2005


anyone remember the atrocity that was Fox Sports in 1995-or-so when they put that colored circle over the puck and that streak animation when the puck has shot? i had to drink an extra 12 beers just to watch that tripe.
posted by NationalKato at 3:05 AM on January 13, 2005


How is a simple link to the NHL section of ESPN "best of the web"? This would make a very good Sportsfilter post.

Secondly, I can't even see where ESPN's suggestions are. All I can see is a link to a chat transcript.
posted by salmacis at 5:11 AM on January 13, 2005


And C-D, blizzard in Georgia? 1993.

What's that... 2 inches in downtown Atlanta?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on January 13, 2005


"...you know what I'm sayin' here."

Yeah, you hate America. We know.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:45 AM on January 13, 2005


How is a simple link to the NHL section of ESPN "best of the web"? This would make a very good Sportsfilter post.

You're right. Let's put up another op-ed piece. Or an article on the halted search for WMDs. Or hey! An Apple Shiny Thing post!

Seriously, it's something new and interesting that's worth discussion. Sportsfilter and Metafilter aren't mutually exclusive.

Now, allow me to go back to my crying over the lost season.

*cries*
posted by adampsyche at 6:06 AM on January 13, 2005


Would something of the order of the Richard riots happen if the NFL suspended Brett Favre?

The Richard riots were a loooooong time ago, and had as much to do with English/French-Canadian animosity as hockey.

/just sayin'
/used to love the NHL passionately, but bored stiff by today's trap-filled game
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2005


What id girl said. The problem with hockey (other than the fact they're not playing it right now) is not the lack of scoring - it's the lack of end to end action resulting from the various traps and related defensive strategies currently in vogue.

Wider rinks and removing the redline are possible solutions. There are other ideas out there such as wider blue lines and reduced puck handling by goalies. The NHL needs to be working hard to find creative solutions to the problems at hand - instead they're in lockdown.

On the business side, the problem is obvious - they've over-expanded their base. With few exceptions (Florida because of all the snowbirds) there shouldn't be hockey where there is no snow.
posted by krtzmrk at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2005


Would it be at all possible for the NHL to institute an "illegal defence" rule, like the one in the NBA? Get caught playing the trap, serve two minutes in the sin bin. Or is "the trap" too nebulous a concept to define and have a rule against?
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 6:43 AM on January 13, 2005


If I can opine: I think much of the world tunes out hockey because of the inane violence. It's so bad that the commentators won't announce how a player is injured during a game lest the opposing players direct their hits there. That may resonate with some, but it turns off many more.

I think the whole culture is summed up in this scene, where fans rallied to support of a man who punched an opponent so hard he broke his neck.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:54 AM on January 13, 2005


ugh. to support a man. sorry.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:55 AM on January 13, 2005


I never understood what it was the Vancouver police were "investigating" for weeks upon weeks before laying charges. Bertuzzi sucker-punched a guy...from behind...without provocation...in front of thousands of witnesses and on television. I dare say this was a case the incompetent space-chicken lawyer from Futurama could have won. And the backroom deal he was granted without giving Steve Moore a chance to face him in open court was a disgrace. I hope Moore sues him into oblivion.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 7:11 AM on January 13, 2005


No fighting. Players who engage in fisticuffs will be ejected from the game. Repeat offenders will be suspended. Length of suspensions will increase with each fighting penalty.

What the hell? That wouldn't be hockey, that would be a travesty!

But I guess any televised hockey for us unlucky folks on the West Coast would be better than nothing at this point.
posted by cmonkey at 7:38 AM on January 13, 2005


Coherence Panda and Motor Neuron, you need to get over to where this discussion has been going on for a while now. I thoroughly enjoyed both of your posts.
posted by garfield at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2005


If I can opine: I think much of the world tunes out hockey because of the inane violence.

There's plenty of inane violence in football (I'm not talking about the hits or blocks here), and there's no shortage of watchers. Or look at NASCAR. There's a whole sport whose popularity can be directly attributed to people waiting to see carnage. There are many other reasons why hockey is not as popular as it has been/should be and its "inane violence" isn't one of them. You give much of the world too much credit.
posted by shawnj at 8:29 AM on January 13, 2005


What's a trap in hockey?
posted by xmutex at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2005


Ottawa is one of the teams that's managed on-ice success under a financial burden, so obviously they need to go. I'm heavily biased, but still.

Otherwise, there's nothing new or exciting here. The recommended changes in play have all been heard before, and many of them are stupid. (Why restrict goalies' behind-the-net movements, anyway? Just take away their no-hit credit card when they're out of the crease, let 'em risk getting pinned to the boards.) The multi-tiered luxury tax system is what we're gonna end up with, anyway, once the owners dump Gary Bettman. This is all pretty unexciting, in a badly designed FlashBox® to boot.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2005


xmutex, the trap. About as exciting to watch as zone defence in basketball.
posted by shawnj at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2005


I second garfield's recommendation about getting your asses over to SportsFilter if you're at all passionate about this.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:39 AM on January 13, 2005


I don't think any rule changes are necessary, but I wouldn't complain if they brought back the tag-up offside rule.

As for the trap defense and the resulting low-scoring snoozefest games - that can be solved with the league's proposed salary cap. And here's how:
The only teams that play the trap are teams that *have* to play the trap. If a (usually lower-payroll) team is up against a faster, better skilled team of sharpshooters, they know they'd be vastly outgunned & outscored in a wide-open game. So they tighten it up, keep the score low, and hope to eke out a tie or a lucky win. It's their only chance. Eliminate the disparity between teams and you eliminate the need to play the trap.
That's why I'm 100% on the owners' side in this dispute.

And since when has ESPN known anything about hockey?
posted by rocket88 at 8:44 AM on January 13, 2005


Call it what you want to, but hockey with no fighting would suck, and that fighting is often misunderstood. Insert standard deterrence argument here, and follow up with a note that many of the players who fight are friends, it's about as respectful as fighting can get, and that it's part of the game and really not harmful. Sucker punches notwithstanding.
posted by adampsyche at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2005


I second garfield's recommendation about getting your asses over to SportsFilter if you're at all passionate about this.

Surely you jest. Having read through the thread...

I'm all for stiffer fighting penalties. People speak poorly about rules changes and yet fighting is not part of the game, but part of the culture obviously. But perhaps that's why I don't watch the game. Parts of the culture seem exceedingly juvenile.

Is there a greatest Gretzky fights DVD?
posted by juiceCake at 9:08 AM on January 13, 2005


As a Chicago fan, I suggest that the Wirtz family should be kept as far away from the Chicago team as possible. They've all but killed the Blackhawks here. I'm sure there would be a ton of Chicago hockey fans that would come right back tomorrow if the Wirtz family no longer owned the team.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2005


About as exciting to watch as zone defence in basketball.

That's not fair to zone defenses. Zone defenses have their place in basketball, but they also have flaws that are easy to exploit. A better basketball analogy to hockey's trap would be Pat Riley's Knick-stylee from the '90s. Any team, regardless of talent level, can drag the other team's play down to their level.
posted by yerfatma at 10:01 AM on January 13, 2005


One problem with hockey's popularity (which the ESPNHL piece would correct, even though they don't acknowledge the problem) is that the NHL and NBA playoffs have significant overlap. Moving the playoffs a month or six weeks earlier would reduce the number of viewers lost to basketball.

I agree that widening the nets is stupid. Personally, I find good defensive low-scoring games more exciting than high-scoring ones.

I fail to see how "fighting is part of the game." Among the fighting supporters here, Coherence Panda seems to be the only one who has attempted to make any arguments to support it; everyone else is just saying "fighting is part of the game," without any attempt at explaining how it's part of the game.

To Coherence Panda's points:

Fans like fighting

A self-selected group, to some extent. Since hockey currently involves fighting, current hockey fans tend to be those who like fighting in hockey. If we eliminate hockey, we will undoubtedly lose some fans, and gain others. How many? I have no idea.

it's much less intrinsically violent than ninety percent of what happens, within the rules, in the NFL

How is this relevant to anything? Should tennis start allowing fights because tennis fights are less violent than legal NFL play?

it's a necessary deterrent to high-sticking, slashing, and checking from behind. It's that stuff which is truly dangerous and ruining the game

Here's a radical thought--perhaps high-sticking, slashing, and checking from behind could be deterred by penalties, enforced by the officials! As it is, you're saying that it's up to an opposing team member to determine when a player is guilty of one of these infractions and apply the appropriate penalty. Hell, why not apply that philosophy to all rule violations, then you won't need officials at all!!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2005


To make NHL hockey interesting again, there are two ways to do it: bigger rinks or fewer players. 4 on 4 is fun to watch when it happens, because there's more room for the skilled players. This will lead to more open hockey, more goals, and more fun.

The NHLPA will never allow this to happen, though.
posted by sauril at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2005


I gave up on watching NHL hockey when I moved out of CBC range. None of the US networks have a clue about covering hockey (ESPN is actually the best of a bad lot). The only time they even get close to being watchable is when they import Canadian (or college) announcers and directors to do the games. I think the directors are at least as important as the announcers. Not all the action happens around the puck, and it'd be nice to actually watch a game rather than just a puck being flung around the ice.

There's always been some fighting in hockey, but there's got to be some way to keep it under control.

If they're really interested in keeping a hockey audience, how come we're not seeing AHL/IHL/other minor league games? Or even collegiate games. CCHA/WCHA/the eastern leagues play pretty darn good hockey. (yeah, I grew up in the midwest, and don't remember the collegiate hockey leagues on the east coast. so sue me.)
posted by jlkr at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2005


Okay, passionate and intelligent.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:00 AM on January 13, 2005


Sauril - It is not the NHLPA that won't allow for larger rinks, but rather the owners. Larger rinks = fewer paying customers.

I see the biggest problem with the NHL is the owner's inability to do simple math.

The players are not to blame if owners are willing to pay them HUGANTIC sums of money, while the organization doesn't bring in the revenue to cover costs. The lockout is dragging out because the owners are not ready to go back to work without having a salary cap to protect them from themselves.

As for rule changes - I defer to Reggie Dunlop's opinion that old time hockey is the only way to go.

(Hello everyone. I have been watching you for a while now. This is my first Metafilter post. Leave it to me to jump into the fray in a thread that doesn't seem to some to be worthy of posting....)
posted by Armen Tanzarian at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2005


There's plenty of inane violence in football (I'm not talking about the hits or blocks here), and there's no shortage of watchers

I'd just like to say one off-comment about the stupidity of the NFL.

There's a penalty for taunting.

Can you believe that shit? TAUNTING! Like, it's ok to smash someone's face in, but don't do a "In your face!" when you intercept a ball. That would be a no-no.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:32 AM on January 13, 2005


I never understood what it was the Vancouver police were "investigating" for weeks upon weeks before laying charges. Bertuzzi sucker-punched a guy...from behind...without provocation...in front of thousands of witnesses and on television. I dare say this was a case the incompetent space-chicken lawyer from Futurama could have won. And the backroom deal he was granted without giving Steve Moore a chance to face him in open court was a disgrace. I hope Moore sues him into oblivion.

First of all, the penalty was probably in line for any first-time offender with no record, especially under mitigating circumstances (which playing a violent game would probably qualify for). Second of all, I will make no excuses for what Bertuzzi did, but I will say that hockey has a certain code of conduct, and when people break it bad things occasionally happen; it's a culture of violence that probably needs to be resolved, but if the refs and the league are going to do such a poor job of policing their game, it's going to continue.

In a game earlier that year, for example, Steve Moore (the guy that was hit) hit Canucks' star player Markus Naslund in the head when he was reaching for the puck. Now, for some reason, everyone but me thinks it was a clean hit, despite the fact that hitting someone without the puck has never been legal. Regardless, the NHL has done absolutely nothing to stop these "legal" (apparently) cheap shots where players target the head. Naslund was knocked out cold and bleeding on the ice and Moore received no penalty--not even interference--and the league did nothing about it. Bertuzzi, Naslund's best friend, spent the night with him in the hospital where Naslund was undergoing a battery of tests.

When the incident in question occurred (Bertuzzi sucker punching Moore), a number of things happened. First and foremost, the Canucks failed to show up that night and were getting embarassed in their own building. Then, Moore, in an attempt to "pay his dues" for what he did, decided to go after the Canucks smallest player and beat him up, therefore fulfilling his requirement to pay for what he did. Of course, this did little except incite Canucks players further, as one can possibly imagine. Finally, when the fateful event occurred, it's worth pointing out that Moore did in fact know Bertuzzi was there. Bertuzzi was skating after him for ten seconds, jawing and trying to get him to fight. Moore ignored him and Bertuzzi made his stupid decision; it wasn't, however, some random event like most of the American media portrayed it. The American media always looks for these sensational angles (Oprah wanted Bertuzzi on her show after seeing him crying when apologizing to Moore), and they rarely have any idea what they're talking about.

Most hockey people in the know think Bertuzzi, in the context of hockey violence, only did one thing wrong: he should have turned Moore around. Most of them wouldn't have batted an eye if he'd spun him around and punched him, so take that for whatever you want. The fact is, hockey is probably the most violent sport there is, but there's also a strict and unspoken set of guidelines to live by. I guess my problem with the NHL is that they continue to try and change the game to market it to people who won't accept this, or who they think won't accept this. Let's be honest: Americans love violence. That's not the problem.

Oh, and Bertuzzi lost 600k in salary, served one of the longest suspensions in league history (including a suspension for the duration of the playoffs, which definitely cost his team any chance they had of winning the cup) and his team had to pay a 500,000 fine for allowing it to happen. He also has not been reinstated by the league yet, and I'm sure he'll end up paying Moore a lot of money.
posted by The God Complex at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2005


Thanks for the explanation. But what do you mean by Moore trying to "pay his dues?" He makes up for beating up a player by beating up another player? Not trying to snark, just don't understand.
posted by COBRA! at 12:37 PM on January 13, 2005


i had to drink an extra 12 beers just to watch that tripe.

American or Canadian?

As far a fighting goes I think it's right about where it should be now. A little is required to cut down on the chippyness.

As far as improving the game goes I won't speak to the business side (though bigger rinks in new arenas would mean more fans in more expensive seats) but I'm on board with allowing goalies to be checked outside their crease and automatic icing.

Also the elimination of TV time outs and time limits for face offs ala international hockey would be great. The recent world championships were a joy to watch and didn't take 3+ hours to play.

Also I think the CBC should do something to reduce the number of Leafs games that are broadcast so that we could actually see Ottawa play.
posted by Mitheral at 12:38 PM on January 13, 2005


The God Complex nailed it with respect to Bertuzzi. Well done.

As to Devils Advocate's "Here's a radical thought--perhaps high-sticking, slashing, and checking from behind could be deterred by penalties, enforced by the officials! As it is, you're saying that it's up to an opposing team member to determine when a player is guilty of one of these infractions and apply the appropriate penalty. Hell, why not apply that philosophy to all rule violations, then you won't need officials at all!"

On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But in hockey, as in real life, it's fundamentally impossible to notice and punish every single breaking of the rules. Doing so would make the game watchable and unplayable; on the life side of things, it would be (insert dystopian novel, film or deepest nightmare of choice here.) The proper approach is twofold: call enough penalties to establish an atmosphere of lawfulness, and call those penalties which truly upset the competitive integrity of a game. (In other words, write out some speeding tickets, and put most of your resources to nailing the wife-beaters and Enron execs, not the pillow-ticket-rippers.)

Ultimately, acceptable behavior will fluorish where there are social, not merely legal, consequences for inappropriate conduct. Thus the cheap stuff diminishes when players forced to defend their misconduct. And it's worth keeping in mind that, for all the worrying about fighting, very few players are actually injured in fights -- certainly far, far fewer than are injured in the clean, natural conduct of a physically demanding sport.
posted by Coherence Panda at 1:02 PM on January 13, 2005


On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But in hockey, as in real life, it's fundamentally impossible to notice and punish every single breaking of the rules.

I never claimed it was possible. Football officials certainly don't catch every instance of holding--yet in football, starting a fight is not an acceptable response to being held.

The proper approach is twofold: call enough penalties to establish an atmosphere of lawfulness, and call those penalties which truly upset the competitive integrity of a game.

The proper approach is for the officials to call every infraction they observe. Standards such as "enough to establish an atmosphere of lawfulness" and "which truly upset the competitive integrity of a game" are vague and subjective. It may not be possible to make officials perfectly objective, but that doesn't mean we should give them vague standards which makes it that much more difficult to be objective.

And it's worth keeping in mind that, for all the worrying about fighting, very few players are actually injured in fights

Which is not relevant to my argument. I still fail to see how fighting is "part of" hockey. As a contrast, I can see how fighting is a part of boxing; if someone proposed getting rid of the fighting in boxing, I would laugh in their face. Fighting is very clearly what boxing is all about. Hockey, on the other hand, is about getting a puck into the opposing goal while on ice skates, and preventing your opponent from getting the puck into your goal. I fail to see the relevance of fighting.

If the current application of penalties is not sufficient to deter "the cheap stuff," then a) the officials need to be more consistent about calling it when they see it, and/or 2) the penalties need to be increased. "Fighting" as a deterrent for such activities is poor, because 1) it leaves the determination of whether there was an infraction up to opposing team members, and b) the fight can be as punishing to the person starting it as the person on the receiving end of the first blow.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2005


Thanks for the explanation. But what do you mean by Moore trying to "pay his dues?" He makes up for beating up a player by beating up another player? Not trying to snark, just don't understand.

That was the problem. Normally what happens in such a situation is the player in question is expected to face the music, so to speak. If a player cheap shots another, perceived or otherwise, he will almost undoubtedly be forced to fight someone as a means of retribution. Usually this happens immediately afterwards, but when Brad May went after Steve Moore when he hit Naslund, Moore tucked tail and ran (or skated) away. During that game, and I believe one more game the two sides played afterwards, the score was so close (one-goal leads) that nothing really happened for fear of losing the game (they were battling for the divisional title).

Anyway, Moore tried in some senses to skirt "the music" and fought Matt Cooke, who, while a feisty player, is not much of a fighter. Of course, to a hockey outsider it seems ridiculous that Moore would want to fight someone bigger than Cooke, but most people in the business know that after taking a run at a star player like Naslund--more of a Gretzky than a Roenick, for the unitiated--you're probably going to need to take a few punches from someone and head to the box with a bloody nose. This may seem barbaric, but I suggest it does far more to deter the really cheap stick infractions than a two-minute penalty.

Moreover, Bertuzzi's penalty was, in my mind, sufficient because of earlier precedents. L.A. Kings player (at the time) Matt Johnson did a similar thing; however, he did it with no warning--no jawing at his target, Jeff Beukeboom, no tugging on the jersey--and ended Beukeboom's career. He received somewhere in the neighbourhood of ten games--none of them in the playoffs. Marty McSorley received a year's suspension for his infraction, but I think it can be successfully argued that a two-handed stick to the temple is normally far more dangerous than a gloved punch. Of course, the tragedy of this situation is that the gloved punch did do a lot of damage, for which Bertuzzi was undoubtedly punished.

By all accounts, outside of the media circus, Bertuzzi is a good guy who spends countless hours in hospitals and at Canucks' Place, a home for terminally ill children (as all of the Canucks do). The only other suspension he'd received in his career was an automatic suspension for jumping off the bench to defend a teammate (who, ironically, had been jumped from behind by a Colorado player). I have no doubt he'll end up paying Steve Moore a large sum of money, which he should if Moore is unable to return to hockey, and I think that's perfectly fair. The treatment this has been given by the media, particularly the U.S. media, has been something of a joke, however.

Finally, I have to wonder why this act is deemed so much worse than Claude Lemieux intentionally slamming Kris Draper's face into the boards during the playoffs some years back. Lemieux broke Draper's jaw, his cheek, and (I think) his orbital bone, and received one game. For an example of said payback (and how not to receive it), try and get your hands on some clips of the game Colorado and Detroit played the next year; you'll see Lemieux turtle on the ice and five other fights going on all over the ice (including the two goaltenders).
posted by The God Complex at 1:54 PM on January 13, 2005


I never claimed it was possible. Football officials certainly don't catch every instance of holding--yet in football, starting a fight is not an acceptable response to being held.

Football is a different sport, however. Each play lasts for a number of seconds and then there's a "down time". Hockey can go uninterrupted for long stretches of time.

I do agree, however, that the reffing needs to be far better to help dissuade the need for opposing team members to police the game themselves. This isn't simply a reffing issue, however, but is also a league policing issue. The Bertuzzi situation may have been avoided--at least such a severe situation--if the league adequately penalized players for cheapshots to the head that unnecessarily jeopardize other plays careers. If the league took a more hands-on approach to these issues, perhaps the culture of violence could be lessened.

The question of fighting is a hard one to tackle, DevilsAdvocate, because while it is not central to the actual intent of the game (winning), it has played a major role for over one hundred years. Also, it's a far less dangerous way for this animosity to be expressed in the course of a game than stick infractions, which, history would suggest, increase dramatically in leagues that do not allow fighting. Similarly, leagues with full face masks see far more dangerous high-sticking than leagues without (such as the NHL). It's definitely a tough issue to balance.

-----

Someone off-topic, but it was also disheartening to see Avalanche coach Tony Granato talking about how it was disgusting and the worst thing he'd ever seen when he, himself, has been suspended 10+ games for a two-handed tomahawk chop to the top of someone's head (who luckily wasn't killed).
posted by The God Complex at 2:06 PM on January 13, 2005


(cross out at least two of those 'howevers' ;P)
posted by The God Complex at 2:06 PM on January 13, 2005


Standards such as "enough to establish an atmosphere of lawfulness" and "which truly upset the competitive integrity of a game" are vague and subjective.

But ambiguity and subjectivity are inherent to proper refereeing. The definitions of the penalties themselves are objective; the application is subjective.

a) the officials need to be more consistent about calling it when they see it, and/or 2) the penalties need to be increased.

I agree there needs to be more consistency, though in some cases I believe that should mean fewer, rather than more, penalties. But increasing the penalties, both in frequency and severity, would make the game far less enjoyable to watch and play. Penalty-filled games which degenerate into special-teams contests are paint-dryingly boring; and you might sometimes have noticed players in games where too many penalties are called becoming angry and chippy, paradoxically leading to even more of the same stuff you're trying to prevent.
posted by Coherence Panda at 2:22 PM on January 13, 2005


Tony may have just learned from his past bad behaviour. People do change.
posted by Mitheral at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2005


I want to describe a hockey fight as I see it:

A hockey fight is not what happened in Vancouver last year. It is the antithesis of that unfortunate event.

In a hockey fight, two men square off by mutual agreement. A fighter knows that only a few players on the opposition's team are fair-game. The gladiators tend to fight other gladiators and non-fighters are more or less off-limits.

The hockey goons circle each other to give their opponent time to prepare for the fight. Sticks are dropped and gloves and helmet are removed. To do anything less would be unsportsmanlike. Other players leave the area; a hockey fight is between two men, not two gangs.

The fight progresses until the pair fall to the ice. The punches for the most part stop at this point. The hockey fight is strangely all about sportsmanship: a good goon never uses a weapon although one is handy. The helmet is discarded because one's intention is not to injure one's opponent. Like all good sporting events we see one man try to enforce his will on another. And like all good sporting events there are rules and codes of conduct. People who stray outside these rules face punishment and a diminished respect among their peers.

The hockey fight is a beautiful thing. Here is what was so strange about Todd Bertuzzi's actions that night: Bertuzzi is a fighter. By definition he is a player who can be expected to play with honor. It is shocking to see a member of such a proud company behave poorly. Those sort of actions are for the Claude Lemieuxs of the world.
posted by MotorNeuron at 3:15 PM on January 13, 2005


Arrgh!! JRun ate my post!

[TGC] Football is a different sport, however. Each play lasts for a number of seconds and then there's a "down time". Hockey can go uninterrupted for long stretches of time.

Soccer then. Officials can never catch every infraction in any sport, let alone team sports where there are far more players in play than officials. And yet most sports don't allow fighting as an additional way to deter rule infractions, and seem to get along just fine without it.

[TGC] This isn't simply a reffing issue, however, but is also a league policing issue.... If the league took a more hands-on approach to these issues, perhaps the culture of violence could be lessened.

Yep, I'd agree with that.

[TGC] The question of fighting is a hard one to tackle, DevilsAdvocate, because while it is not central to the actual intent of the game (winning), it has played a major role for over one hundred years.

Oh, I don't deny that it's a large part of the culture of hockey. And it certainly wouldn't be eliminated overnight with just a rule change prohibiting it. I think it could be significantly reduced over time, and would be worthwhile to do so.

[CP] But ambiguity and subjectivity are inherent to proper refereeing. The definitions of the penalties themselves are objective; the application is subjective.

I'm not sure I follow you here. Do you mean "because humans are by nature imperfect, officiating will always have some degree of subjectivity?" Or "even in a platonic ideal of hockey, perhaps refereed by angels, refereeing ought to be somewhat subjective?" Or something else?

[CP] But increasing the penalties, both in frequency and severity, would make the game far less enjoyable to watch and play. Penalty-filled games which degenerate into special-teams contests are paint-dryingly boring

That assumes the players' behaviour wouldn't change based on the increased enforcement and/or stiffer penalties. My whole point is that it would serve as a deterrent against those activities. It may produce more penalties (whether by number of penalties, or minutes) per game in the short term as players adjust, but in the long term I don't think you would see more penalties per game than you do currently.

Am I sure of this? No. It's possible that the increased enforcement or stiffer penalties wouldn't deter the infractions. But it seems likely that they would, and there's no way of knowing for sure until it's tried.

[CP] you might sometimes have noticed players in games where too many penalties are called becoming angry and chippy

I'd hypothesize that this happens when a game is strictly called within the overall culture of loose officiating. If I played a sport in which a certain rule's enforcement was lax, and a referee in a particular game started enforcing it consistently, I imagine that I'd get angry and chippy too. But if I came into a game knowing that the rule is strictly enforced in every game, it wouldn't bother me to have the rule strictly enforced.

On preview: that's a fascinating description of a hockey fight, MN. But I still don't think fights should be part of hockey, regardless of how gentlemanly and sportsmanlike they are. I also don't think two players from opposing teams should go off and play a round of golf in the middle of a hockey game, regardless of how gentlemanly and sportsmanlike that golf game may be.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:32 PM on January 13, 2005


TGC, that was beautifully put.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2005


DA, you are correct that a hockey fight is not the same as a hockey game. It is out of context. I find it hard to argue intellectually for its continued inclusion in the game (history notwithstanding).

But damn, I do admire a good hockey fight even as I cringe when I see a chippy play. I don't love violence per say, I like the battle of wills.

But then again, as a transplanted Canuck who has missed the game for a long time (it is hard to follow in Louisiana), I romanticize the heck out of hockey.
posted by MotorNeuron at 4:03 PM on January 13, 2005


I never claimed it was possible. Football officials certainly don't catch every instance of holding--yet in football, starting a fight is not an acceptable response to being held.

No, but piling on top of someone unnecessarily is, and shoves can be seen after nearly every play.

Soccer then.

How many times have you seen a rough tackle get followed up by someone returning the favor later in the game?

Fighting is already against the rules in hockey, as are the other examples above. It's just that in hockey, fighting is the deterrent against dirty play, much like bumping in NASCAR or brushbacks are in baseball.
posted by shawnj at 4:40 PM on January 13, 2005


TGC, that was beautifully put.

Thanks. As an avid hockey fan who lives in British Columbia, I, as you can probably imagine, have had to put up with a lot of this stuff for the past ten months or so. Normally I don't take the time to get into it, because it doesn't seem to be worth it, but I decided to take a few minutes and actually give some light to the other side of the equation. It's just too bad there aren't more sports journalists in the U.S. that seem to really understand hockey (or even care to try). Similarly, it would be nice if more of the good hockey journalists in Canada and the U.S. actually defended the game a little more adequately, instead of rushing to soften the blow when something like this occurs.
posted by The God Complex at 5:33 PM on January 13, 2005


I think the whole culture is summed up in this scene, where fans rallied to support of a man who punched an opponent so hard he broke his neck.

That makes me very sad, Popular Ethics.

I love hockey. I love getting together and getting excited and getting drunk with friends who also love hockey. I love wearing my jersey when I go skating. I love daydreaming about the night the Leafs win the Cup again. I love dyeing my hair blue for the playoffs. I love catching The Sweater on tv. I love the exquisite pain of going into a fourth overtime, sudden death in every shot. I love the way hockey unites us as Canadians. (I'm thinking specifically of the Flames in last years's playoffs, and the men's and women's teams in the 2002 Olympics. And goodness, 1972 was some time ago, but Canadians still puff up when you mention that.) I love the sound of someone yelling, "Car!". I love that I once saw Henry V on ice, with the English in Leafs sweaters, and the French dressed as Nordiques. (Would have been so clever if they had been Habs though. Shame.)

Any hockey fan can give you a similar list. That's exactly why those fans rallied around Bertuzzi. They love the game, he gave it to them. What he didn't wasn't evil, it was just stupid. To boil hockey down to that one thing is unbelievably, and uselessly cynical.
posted by digifox at 6:20 PM on January 13, 2005


They love the game, he gave it to them Thanks for the perspective. My wife complains she can never get me to see that way either ;) I'm sorry I can't get past the dissonance between your examples and the barbarism. (I don't buy the "honorable fight" justification put forward earlier) Also I'm biased, because I actually get to use the TV this year!
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:43 PM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, you hate America. We know.

Damn it, I'm getting predictable, aren't I?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:21 PM on January 13, 2005


Yeah, I know: 'what do you mean, getting?'
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:21 PM on January 13, 2005


Now, the question is:

stavrosthewonderchicken, why do you hate America so much?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:27 PM on January 14, 2005


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