Hi guys. Pull up a chair.

by Steve, January 5th, 2007

hockeyLet’s talk hockey. (For reference, you may want to check out this entry and all the witty repartee from the boys over at hockey-fights.com.)

Before this goes over the top, let’s not forget we’re on the same side. Hockey is a passionate sport for passionate people.

I guess the shit storm was ignited when somebody posted on the forum at hockey-fights.com that I don’t like their hockeyfansunite.com site. The posting of my link was followed by a Hansen Brothers-like comment “Nail this guy.” My critique was of their message (so far as I could discern it): the new rules enforcement has taken the excitement out of hockey.

Let me restate my point by directly addressing some comments left on this blog. First, John, I believe the biggest problem pre-exists the rules crack-down. Let’s talk about league expansion to the sun belt and the talent dilution that came with it. From this, we got the trap, as well as and clutch and grab. This was killing hockey before the lockout. The enforcement changes are an effort to address that.

Have they gone too far? I think so, believe it or not, especially with regard to interference. The intent is not to open up the ice by creating power plays, but to allow the skills player to skate without getting tackled. The idea was there would be an adjustment period, then the penalties drop off. From where I sit (having grown up watching hockey from the early 80s on) today’s game is way better than the late 90s and early 00s. So the direction is good, if not perfect. Do you really prefer clutch and grab and trap?

Marc C begins with a straw man argument: “You must be kidding when you write that more obstruction-type penalties being called are making the game truly more exciting.” You must be kidding me if you think that’s what I wrote. Go back and read it again, then feel free to comment when you understand the nuance of what I’m talking about. Marc then pronounces “[r]ivalries are now a thing of the past…” and yearns for “hard-hitting action and, yes, a little tension between teams that work hard to win.” Have you seen Buffalo and Washington play lately? Marc C closes with a red herring, the old war horse about stick work and dangerous hits being up because guys can’t police themselves anymore. Yawn. What’s that got to do with the new standard of calling obstruction penalties? Anyway, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that one…. (“You see this quarter? It used to be a nickel.”)

Hannibal chimes in with another straw man. I don’t think I’ve ever invoked the old Broad Street Bullies. Ah, but those were the days, eh?

Then Chuck comes in talking about football. I might have to ban people for talking about football on this site. Seriously. Football. Football?

Now come Chaser/Johnz/Kevanie and Stinky Johnson with their Beavis and Butthead routine, which speaks for itself (and doesn’t reflect all that well on the “movement”, such that it is).

Anyway, despite the hysteria I’ve incited by not jumping whole-heartedly on the “bring back clutch and grab” bandwagon, I think we can all agree that a lot of obstruction calls could be left uncalled. I never said calling more penalties is making the game more exciting. Come on guys, don’t be thick. I wish you all could look back a bit and recognize the connection between league expansion, talent dilution, the relaxing of enforcement, and the consequent slow down of the game due to clutch and grab and the trap. Either you haven’t been watching hockey all that long, or perhaps you live in the south and think it’s great to have all these teams in the sun belt. You think maybe diluting the talent to expand into markets where the ponds don’t freeze might have something to do with declining attendance and a boring game? Maybe, just maybe, guys.

Is Bettman an ass-clown? You betcha! But I’d still rather see any game this season over just about any game in 03-04. Has zero-tolerance gone too far? Probably. But no way do I want to go back to watching tackle/trap hockey. Talk about taking the excitement out of the game.