This article is pretty much spot on:
But now the violence is at unprecedented heights and still the Commissioner is silent. Too bad, because someone should be out front here and at least giving theimpressionthat he’s attempting to lead!
Add the dangerous hit that Chicago’sBrent Sopellaid on Anaheim’sCorey Perryand the obvious retaliation byJames WisniewskionBrent Seabrook– a blow to the head that appeared to knock his former teammate unconscious even before he fell to the ice — to the growing pile of videos featuring the “reckless” (NHL’s word) hit onBrian Campbellby the now multi-time offenderAlex Ovechkin,Matt Cooke‘sunpunished blindside head shot onBoston’sMarc Savard, theMike Richardshit on David Booth, andSteve Downie‘sunconscionable and twisted takedownfrom behind ofSidney Crosby, and its clear that the NHL has a leadership problem that shouldn’t start and stop with Colin Campbell.
It is hard to argue with this. And whats worse, it seems to be coming from the top:
Bettman, who fast became a student of the NHL’s inglorious history, should take note of that. His league has a crisis on its collective hands and he appears to be doing nothing about it.
Now, we use the word “appears” because something odd happened in the last 24 hours. First, Campbell gave an interview to Canada’s national newspaper,The Globe and Mail, confirming rumors that the league was about to “fast track” the recent rule cooked up by the GMs regarding blows to the head and the penalties that could or should be called or at least reviewed by Campbell and his office. Heeven went so far as to tellGlobe reporterEric Duhatschekthat the league was preparing a DVD to show the 30 team administrators and all the players what will and won’t be a penalty under the proposed rule change. Campbell also said that if rushing the rule through saved even one player from a concussion, then the fast-tracking effort “would be worth it.”
But almost before the ink was dry on that story, Campbell’s right hand man,Mike Murphy, was on a Toronto-based radio station saying he didn’t think that the “fast tracking” was likely. Later that same day, Campbell appeared on the league’s own radio station and “back tracked” down Route 180 so fast that he’s fortunate he wasn’t injured in a collision with himself. Whether that turn around was his own or imposed from above, well, we’ll leave it for you to decide.
“I don’t anticipate doing anything with a penalty call on the ice right now,” Campbell said with what we swear was the sound of screeching tires in the background. “I think that would be a difficult thing to consistently administer at this point in time.
“That’s not our issue,” he added. “Our issue probably is making sure that some of the hits we’ve experienced can be dealt with from the supplemental discipline aspect. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish at the moment.”
Moments don’t last very long in the NHL, and our guess is that Campbell’s order came from above. He has been reversed before, more than once, without anyone taking credit or blame. When you see words like “right now” and “at this point in time” and “not our issue” and “probably,” it’s fairly reasonable to assume that he’s been told to alter his stance and fast. That happened when he started handing out real punishment in the form of 15-, 20- and 25-game suspensions a few years back and quickly went back to two- to four-gamers and the now absurdly low fines like the one Downie, a repeat offender, got for nearly breaking Crosby’s leg in a takedown that Crosby never saw coming.
Hockey is an acquired taste in most of the country. It is hard to find places where ice occurs naturally long enough for people to come to the game naturally. It is even harder to afford the costs of rink hockey for most people. Fortunately, hockey as a game has a lot to recommend it. It is faster than basketball, more hard hitting than football and involves more strategy than baseball. The success of the game in the late eighties and early nineties shows that it can be grown, that casual fans can learn to appreciate it. The amazing ratings for the Olymic tournament show that fans today enjoy good hockey.
But the NHL has squandered that momentum and goodwill with a series of ugly incidents that have gone either unpunished our ludicrously lightly punished. And that is Bettman’s fault. As pointed out above, the last time the league’s disciplinarian tried to reign in rough behavior, he himself was reeled back in by the league. Bettman has given in to the tiny-dicked troglodytes who assuage their own feelings of sexual confusion and inadequacy by arguing that pushing a defenseless player into the boards, or ramming a man’s head into the glass with your elbow, or cracking someone’s skull with a blindside elbow is “tough” instead of cowardly.
There is no game more physical, more graceful, nor exciting than well played hockey. Americans saw that during the Olympics. But if Bettman continues to listen to those who thin that players who cannot skate, pass, shoot, or think should be allowed to make up for their deficiencies through mindless thuggery, the league will never be able to demonstrate that the the public at large. Worse, if things continue to spiral out of control liek they have the last few months, someone is going to be crippled or killed on the ice. And the NHL will look back at these last few weeks and wonder why they didn’t do something about this before it was too late. And they will conveniently forget that the answers is because they chose not to.
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