With the start of a new hockey year and the opening of my hockeybuzz, I thought I would post an old blog of mine from many years ago without any alterations. I think about this blog the first time I walk into an arena during the start of every new season. I welcome everyone's comments on all my blogs and hope that you all find something in my writing. As the demands of my real job permit and the support of my beautiful wife, I hope to blog consistently on this site. As a great man used to say, it's a great day for hockey......
Many things keep an NHL fan's mind working in the off-season. Who is my team pursuing in the free agent market? Who are my team's rivals courting? How am I going to save enough money for Stanley Cup final tickets? Will the referees and linesmen actually enforce the rules this year? Etc. As this year starts, a very unusual question races through my head. How much is my view from my season tickets going to be obstructed?
In response to the tragic death of Columbus Blue Jackets fan Brittanie Cecil, who died in the hospital two days after being struck by a puck deflected into the stands during a game on Mar. 16, 2002 the NHL has mandated a major off-ice stadium renovation for all of its teams, safety netting. The netting will hang from the rafters and cover both ends of the rinks, starting from where the curve in the boards begins in each corner. It is this netting that has given many season ticket holders heartburn in the off-season while letting others sleep better. Well, after attending the Blues first preseason home game, my opinion is still a bit blurred.
I anxiously entered the building and headed up the escalator and around the upper bowl to section 313. I paused in the entry way, concerned about what I was going to see on the other side of the blue curtain.
I am happy to report the new protective nets were somewhat less obnoxious than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, they take many things away from the game I love.
First, watching the game through a grid is annoying. Imagine for a moment that your TV had thin black lines an inch apart running both vertically and horizontally in a grid on your screen. Would you enjoy your TV programs as well as you do now? I think not. Then imagine your cable subscriber told you not worry because you will get used to them and not even notice them after you have watched a few hours of television each day. How would you respond? Not well I would suspect. It’s an eyesore for sure. Some might even say most seats are now limited view seats. I'm sorry NHL but there ARE parts of the ice I cannot see because of the netting and the cables that hold it up. For some people, this may block their view of the blue line, goal line, etc., all of which are crucial sightlines to true fans. I can just see two guys watching the game drinking a beer. One guy asks, "was he off" with the other responding "beats me, the hem of the net blocks my view of the blue-line".
Second, the excitement of sitting behind the net and maybe being lucky enough to get a game-used puck is gone, well unless it roles down to the net and falls into your beer in the first row. That reminds me, I need to send a letter to the NHL to make sure to put a new warning on the back of the tickets of those lucky enough to sit in the first row of the arena. From time to time, pucks will go out of play, hit the net and fall straight down onto you. I cannot wait for the first lawsuit from the lady talking on her cell phone who was hit in the head by the puck after it rolled down the net.
Third, how many debates and controversies are we going to have about whether the puck hit the top of the glass of the net? Imagine it is the 7th game of the Cup finals and Brodeur plays the puck to where the glass and net meet. Did it hit the glass or net first? This could be a crucial delay of game penalty or no-call. I guess the league will use instant replay to decide this. This is just what the game needs, another reason to slow the game just when you thought they finally were doing things right to speed it up.
The NHL states that this move was for safety. Was their primary concern the safety of the NHL or the safety of its fans? Some may argue both. The netting should significantly reduce the NHL's legal exposure. The number of fan injuries due to pucks leaving the ice will certainly decrease thus reducing the number of suits brought against the NHL and protecting its fans.
The NHL has responded to this tragic accident swiftly and strongly, reacting to its only accidental death in over 80 years of existence. Using this reactionary approach, maybe we all should be driving bumper cars so that car accidents would be less serious. Maybe all hunters should be required to wear bullet proof vests so that there would be less fatal hunting accidents.
I have great sympathy and empathy for her family, friends and the players involved in that game. As with any tragedy there are many ifs that can be debated. If the gentleman who the puck grazed off had been paying attention, he could have attempted to catch it or knock it down which would have severely slowed the puck down. Her father could have shielded her from the puck.
When my dad used to take me to games behind the goal I always brought my baseball glove in case a puck came my way. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, it was always fruitless because he tended to shield me from any puck that came anywhere near us, protecting me. Kids cannot be expected to pay attention the whole time or be able to protect themselves from a 90 mph puck. Their parents should be ensuring their safety, especially when they know the risks involved. Please do not get me wrong, I am not trying to place blame, however I do think that if the adults involved had been paying more attention to the game, aware of their surroundings (people and otherwise) and thinking for a change, the tragedy may have been avoided. When my wife and I used to sit in the lower bowl behind the goals, I made sure she paid attention to the game making her aware of the dangers of the seats.
There are already too many people on their cell phone, etc. not watching the game in the lower bowl. The net protects them at the expense of others. I feel very little sympathy for an adult who gets hit and was not paying attention. They are there to watch the game, so watch it. They know the risk of those seats. It amazed me that more people were not hit. Thanks to the NHL, we can put some of those worries to bed.
As I walk through the tunnel each home game ready to BLEED BLUE, I will gaze at the net and curse it. Cursing it for all it represents: the loss of a precious life, our society's sue happy culture, the absence of accountability and responsibility individuals take for their own actions, and the negative effect it has had on the game I love.