Dialing It Back : Tom Benjamin's NHL Blog :: CanucksCorner.com
More than a few pundits have suggested that a violence tipping point has been reached in the aftermath of the Max Pacioretty injury. I’m far from convinced, but its possible.[...] Those that consume the NHL product – and those who sell it – still hope to eliminate the worst of the incidents while maintaining the same level of physical play in the game. That’s a pipedream.
[...] The fans are very uncomfortable with the idea that someone could be killed on a hockey play, a play that does not assign blame. They are much happier deciding Chara is the bad guy. The NHL could have lessened the noise by giving Chara up to the mob because if that was a hockey play, hockey play has to change. In that sense, it was similar to the Cooke hit on Savard. That was acceptable? Then something fundamental is wrong.
But what to do? [...]The obvious starting point is the elimination of all legal head shots. A second obvious way to reduce concussions is to get rid of a quarter of them by eliminating fighting. Neither change appears to be in the cards, tipping point or no tipping point.
How about a third way to dial back the gratuitous violence? [...] [T]he changes the league made to open up the game have also made the game more dangerous. Players can’t protect teammates with little obstructions. As a result, checkers arrive at the puck with more speed and hit with more force. Nobody wants to allow obstruction again, but why can’t the league restore the balance by giving the checker less time to make his hit? There is precedent for this change – it is already different for a defenseman when the forward chips the puck past him. If the defender isn’t very nearly on top of his opponent when the chip is made, he can’t make the hit any more without taking an interference penalty. [...] Giving the checker a full beat to finish the check gives him a free shot, a shot too many players are happy to take. Give the player with the puck a chance by reducing the full beat to half a beat. Why not?
I love this idea.
Look, as much as I wish it were possible for
players to wake up tomorrow and decide to somehow magically have more respect for each other and decide that hurting other players is bad sportsmanship, I know that we're talking about a game which is big business, in which the players will take every edge they can get, including putting the fear of whatever into their opponents, physical intimidation, the threat of violence, the threat of life-changing harm. All of that is, in practical terms, fair game if the rules tolerate it. The only way to change that is to legislate against it, implement rules that cause your team to lose if you act in what we know unequivocally is a dangerous manner.
I loved today's notion of fining the coaches for their players' or team's repeat offenses. Maybe they should fine the whole team every time one of their teammates runs a guy. That would bring them around pretty fast, I think.
One last thing. I found this kind of sad. Well, not kind of.
New helmet offers better protection
But the M11 helmet hasn't been very popular with NHL players (only 12 of them are wearing it this season), partly because of "the look" and possibly because it is marketed as providing extra protection. "The NHL still continues to be our greatest challenge," Mary-Kay said. "One of the things we're really working on is changing the culture of hockey so that head protection becomes a priority. [...] Part of the culture (in the NHL) is that if you choose a more protective helmet, does that in some way make you a weaker player?" [...] [Mark Messier said,] "I think (NHL players) look at it sometimes and feel that because we live in such a bravado world that if they're wearing that helmet you must have a fear ... that you're afraid."
You know what else is not at all macho? Drool cups.