Old Time Hockey or Excessive Brutality?
Wow… when is the last time we’ve seen this kind of physical intensity in the playoffs? Detroit vs. Colorado in the late 90’s? The Broad Street Bullies in the late 70’s? Maybe, but maybe not even, this years madness has been league wide!
A lot of people hate fighting in hockey, and say it has no place in the game. They also say that when the game is on the line like in the playoffs, you rarely see a fight. Well so much for that! And I wonder what they are saying now! I for one love it, and can’t remember being this hooked to every series, and this excited for every game, since the last time the Leafs were in it. And other than tight games, with lots of OT magic, I can’t think of a better way to further intensify a rivalry.
The other great thing about it is that the guys that are fighting, throwing those big hits, and doing whatever it takes to win, are the superstars on each team. Captains leading their teams into battle… can you think of anything better?
The bad thing is, this has also been the dirtiest playoffs in recollection. Because, despite all of the great bouts, and the insane level of intensity, players are getting hurt. I’m sure you are thinking that it goes hand in hand, the fighting and the dirty plays. For example, a player takes a cheap shot, and that brings on the violence. Well, in that you’re not entirely wrong, that is what happens. Players will always come to the aid of a fallen teammate, but believe it or not it is much deeper than that.
This years playoffs have more rivalry matchups than in recent history, and they have intensified throughout the regular season. The intensity level is raised by the skilled players. They are the ones getting all of the ice time at the beginning of the games. They are the ones crashing the net, playing hard in the corners, and getting their teams fired up. And by this point you would have seen a few scrums, and maybe even a fight. And if the game continued like that it would have been intense, physical, and highly skilled. But that’s not what happens.
This is the point in the game where the fourth lines come on. These guys are already hyped up to do their job, which is to frustrate the other teams stars, kill time while their stars are resting, and throw big hits. But now with the raised intensity, these guys end up being reckless. They think they are helping their teams by sacrificing themselves to take out a skilled player on the other team, but what they are really doing is ruining the game of hockey.
Goons don’t belong in hockey. Period. They drop the skill level of the league considerably. They have no integrity or respect for other players. And they get paid to hurt people, and take skilled players out of the game. And that is what is happening in these playoffs. Guys like, Asham, Rinaldo, and Carkner to name a few, are getting sent out to settle scores, or run players. These guys have no place in hockey.
So what is the answer to players getting injured? How do you stop these things from happening? Well, there are two ways a player has to answer for his actions. One is with the league; the other is on the ice. On the ice, typically a fight is coming. For the average player, who doesn’t fight a lot, this is a pretty good deterrent. Usually the player knows it’s coming, and it’s usually from the player he hit or a bigger teammate and he has to stand up and takes his licks like a man. The good thing is that usually ends up being the end of it. But with a goon, they’re looking for a fight. So there’s no real “on ice” punishment. And if you banned fighting completely, than you would end up seeing an eye for an eye type of stuff, and in that scenario everyone loses. So with those types of players you really have to look to the league to make things right. The league, or Brendan Shanahan who is in charge of player safety, is the one responsible for handing out suspensions and fines to the players, and in this he must be vigilant. He has to set a precedent that says, “This sort of nonsense will not be tolerated!” And I strongly think that repeat offenders should be out indefinitely. Lets keep are stars on the ice, and out of the press box.