OHL + NHL = Get it together…now!

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Hockey

I am not in any way a fan of David Branch.  The Ontario Hockey League commissioner is, in my opinion, the worst person of authority in major junior hockey.  He really makes you sit back and wonder how much of a hockey fan he really is.

It has been going on for a while now but it really picked up last season when Branch was placed on record in the New York Times talking about how the desire is out there to minimize fighting in hockey.  Minimizing being a best case scenario as many people want to see it completely outlawed.  Why?  Supposedly to increase player safety.  Again, you have to wonder if folks with this mindset are truly hockey fans.  My guess is no.  I don’t care if they’re former players.  I don’t care if they’re highly regarded front office staffers.  I don’t care if they’ve been around the game for 45-years and have seen the numerous different eras that have come and gone.  Because if they were any of those three they should even more so understand and appreciate the art of fighting in hockey.

Starting this season, Branch is going to impose a two game suspension to players going beyond a total of ten fights (plus an additional $1,000 fine to the player’s team).  Should a player get tagged with an instigating penalty after reaching his ten fights then the suspension doubles to four games.  The most absurd rule of all encompasses the types of fights that carry an automatic two game suspension (regardless of the player’s overall fight count for the season): instigating in the final five minutes of a game, fighting at the opening of a period, “staged” fights at any time and whenever the player purposely takes off his helmet before a fight.

Real quickly I can rebut these in one paragraph.  Let’s start with instigating in the final five minutes and here’s the scenario: your team is up 3-0 having thoroughly outplayed your opponent.  Their second line center takes a non-penalized checking-from-behind run at your fourth liner who’s out there trying to earn playing time and as the enforcer you can’t do a damn thing?  How is that protecting player safety?  Or what about not being able to “stage” fights?  In all honesty that’s the absolute safest way for a fight to occur.  Both participants are willing, therefore, they know it’s coming.  Staged fights usually happen at a face-off or when both players are fresh into shifts so both have maximum energy and can withstand the rigors of the tilt.  But above all, it allows them to take care of the situation right then and there.  It doesn’t allow for heated emotions to fester and boil over; eventually that leads to a third member getting dragged into the mess and a mid-play fight erupting while there’s already enough chaos happening on the ice.

Okay, yes player safety is extremely crucial and all steps for possible improvement need to be investigated.  However, it is still hockey.  It is still an extremely fast, heavy contact game played on ice.  Injuries that threaten careers will forever be a part of it with some of those coming accidentally and some of them coming as result of players not watching out for one another.  So let the game police itself.  We don’t need men in suits who played for a little while in bantam (if even that) telling the guys on the ice when they can and can’t standup for themselves or their team mates.

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Here I go with another quick rant.  I know I spoke of the NHL lockout in my last post, but since then it has become a finalized situation and just today all pre-season games through September 30 have been canceled.  There was only one major meeting last week and barely anything scheduled for this week.  How much of a bigger slap to the face of the fans could the NHL dish out?  Three lockouts in the last 18 years with the most recent of which still talked about on a regular basis as having been the darkest moment in the league’s history.  My only question is where is the commissioner Gary Bettman in this whole deal?

Oh, that’s right – he’s 100% on the side of the owners and doing their negotiations for them.  How on earth does that make any sense?  As I’ve said before: I’m just a simple man and don’t fully understand how these situations work.  But what I do fully understand is that I’m a fan of hockey and there needs to be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement made immediately and the one man who should be most concerned about it is the one leading the charge to lockout the players.  Gary Bettman is the COMMISSIONER – it’s his sole duty to make sure his league operates as smoothly as possible.  Well, guess what.  It’s not operating at all right now.  There is no reason why Bettman should be taking any sides.  He needs to sit the owners and the players association down in a room, lock the door, set a timer for 24-hours and tell them to figure their crap out by the time it dings.

It was no secret that the CBA was going to expire this fall.  Why no rigorous stretch of meetings ever occurred is an absolute travesty.  Everyone knew this time was coming and no efforts were visibly made (from a fan’s perspective) to protect the game.  What a joke.  The owners should be disgusted with themselves.  Gary Bettman should no longer have a job.  Give us back our game.

Just drop the puck!

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