My family and I just happened to fall prey to the nasty sickness that has been floating around and not going away in a normal timeframe. This one was abnormally uncomfortable as even my bones and teeth hurt. Nothing like waking in the middle of the night after 15 hours of sleep in a soaking wet sweat, but I am wandering off topic.
The bottom line is I missed the "Next Great Blogger Contest" due to this lovely illness and the only thing I heard about was the Final 64. Oops. So I have been softly asking the HB Coaches and Management to allow me to sit on the bench in case of an injury or suspension. Wearily, it looks like my season dreams may be over. I am expecting my demotion back to Winchestertonfieldville and those cold and lonely bus rides. I fear this may be my final shot to dress and don the HB sweater, so here is the submission I was prepared to play if I got the nod.
Steve Downie and the rest of the suspended Philadelphia Flyers, Kurtis Foster's broken femur, Richard Zednick's nearly severed bloody neck vein thingy, Chris Simon's step on Jerky Ruutu, Pronger's dance on Ryan "octopus legs" Kesler, Sean Avery's alleged pre-game cancer comments to Jason Blake, Ryan Hollweg or Colby Armstrong's hits from behind on (insert name here), and the list could go on and on for 15 pages. I have never read and heard so much whining in the NHL as I have during this 2007-2008 season.
What has happened to our sport and our fans? Have we all become selectively outraged based upon the offense and the teams or players involved? Do we truly want a game where we institute a new rule every time a player gets injured? Is there ever such a thing as an accident in sports? Do we want players looking like the Michelin Man or Robocop in their equipment just to avoid every possible injury? Do the players have an actual opinion and get to provide their input on the rules of the game THEY play? Or will every other outside influence on the game get to make all of the rules? Do any of us fans complain about an issue like "no touch" icing when a majority of the NHL players want to keep "touch" icing as it currently stands today?
Former players, fans, media, and youth hockey Mom's are trying to influence hockey's rules without even asking the players what they think. How bizarre is that? That's like telling your mechanic to fix your car, but tell him he is not allowed to get under the car because that is too dangerous. He is not allowed to use metal tools because they are too dangerous and could cut the mechanic, he needs to wear an oxygen mask with free flowing oxygen - from a certified tank - to avoid all fumes, and he must wear a helmet with a full protective face mask before any work can be performed on your car. Can you imagine such a thing? How long until the mechanic says, "That's fine. I don't want your business anyway." Or if those restrictions became state or federal mandates, then how long until the mechanics just change jobs or move to another country and work their trade? This may not be the greatest analogy, but hopefully you see the point.
Are anger and good old fashioned grudges acceptable in hockey anymore or are they just too politically incorrect? "Fans" of the game are starting to debate if fighting has a future in the NHL. Are you kidding me? Since I was 4 years old, the intensity of the game has resulted in fights. Fights among brothers or neighborhood kids on the pond or on the outdoor rink happened with varying frequency. Sometimes it was just a little shoving, sometimes it was a bloody nose after a jab to the face, and sometimes it was a metal snow shovel to the back of my older brother's head after he kept knocking me down. When fighting is eliminated from hockey, the game will be officially castrated and it will be a game for gentlemen. I already play golf, so I will no longer need hockey. To add a little more sarcasm to this blog, I recently heard that Bull Riding is doing away with the bulls. They are just going to bring in John Travolta to do the color analysis from a honky tonk bar where the PBR will be riding the mechanical bulls - which will obviously be surrounded by a lot of padding. In the same conversation, I also heard that all of the boxing associations are having a conference and symposium to seriously consider boxing helmets that cover the head and face.
When I was a young kid, we wore only shin pads and elbow pads to avoid injuries. Soon after, we added hockey gloves and thin helmets (see Cooper SK100 models) with no face mask or mouth protection. As we added more equipment, it always seemed the danger around us grew and the regard for controlling a stick or elbow faded away. Without a helmet or facemask, I was only hit in the face twice and both times were from a flying puck. As I added a full face mask in my youth league, the elbows and sticks mysteriously started striking me in the face. Sure there were high sticking penalties called, but that never precluded it from happening. On the personal side of receiving these head and face shots, I realized it never hurt and I was never cut, so I would put my face and head in to areas that I probably should not have. As I was better protected, my courage grew along with the protective equipment. As I saw players get those huge shoulder pads (think football style multi-layer Donze brand) all regard for injury was eliminated. You could run into a small automobile coming at you doing 30mph and not get hurt. What do you think happened to the game then? The bottom line is as players add more and more protective equipment, the more reckless and dangerous they become. If a player knows they can run into something or somebody at full speed and not get injured, then they will certainly do it. After I took my full face mask off after my final year of college hockey, it was amazing how the players around me controlled their sticks and elbows so much better than my college opponents. So my playing career had come full swing with the face mask. Without the mask, the players around me were more careful and without the mask, I was more careful about where I put my face and head. To this day, I still do not wear a face shield and actually feel safer without one for the reasons described. I would suggest that those calling for mandatory half shields and mandatory full face masks have never lived or played through a cycle such as this one.
Hockey is a game for tough guys. Wimps and wussies need not lace up the skates, except in a no-check recreational league like the one I sloth around in. It is a game of speed, finesse, strength, intelligence, courage, strategy, hard work, grit, and maybe a little luck. The saying, "To the winner goes the spoils" is an old war adage. In the NHL, it is "To the winner goes the Stanley Cup." And for those that I am writing about, "To the whiner goes my disdain and sarcasm."
My advice and the ultimate point of this blog is this. Shut up already. Quit whining. Stop crying "foul" after every injury and every accident. Let the Officials handle the penalties and suspensions. Just enjoy the game and allow the players to actually play the game. Very rarely, if ever, do you hear a player whine. They know how to handle their own battles and resolve their own frustrations and issues. We fans, media, coaches and hockey parents need to take a lesson from the players and realize that this is hockey. A tough game for tough people.