The NHL Needs to Start Passing Out Aspirin To The Fans

Matt SchaeferCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

Damn it, NHL!

Just one morning I would like to open up the newspaper, turn on the radio or television, or even surf the web without getting a headache from stupid decisions that you have made.

Like most mornings, the headache came very early. 

Today I woke up, and the first thing I did was turn on the local radio station in Buffalo (WGR550) and wait for the news that Sabres winger Drew Stafford has been suspended for a few games for his cheap shot on Duncan Keith during the second period of the Chicago Blackhawk’s 4-1 victory last night.

To my surprise, the normal two-game slap on the wrist—I mean “suspension“—for head shots was not announced. 

Stafford clearly put an elbow to the head of Keith as he released a wrist shot in the Sabres end.  The NHL’s response? Nothing!

The NHL created the "instigator rule" to stop players from retaliating on one another.  What this did was take the game out of the players hands—they cannot police themselves anymore.

They know that a couple instigator penalties will get them a fine and suspension from the league, so many players try to stay away from the infraction.

With the "instigator rule" put in, the league now has to police the players by handing down suspensions that will stop future violations, which they are not doing. 

I was screaming a week ago when Sabres forward Andrew Peters was bit by Jarko Rutu of the Ottawa Senators.

Now I sort of understand why the suspension wasn’t too strict, (only two games) seeing as they didn’t really need to send a message to other players (how many people planned on biting the opposing team).

Hits to the head, though, have been a problem for the past few years now, as players have little respect for one another and they realize they will barely get a suspension for a cheap hit.

In the old days of hockey, this kind of garbage didn’t happen because players knew if they went for a cheap shot on the opposing team, they would get pounded, not only during that night’s game but in future games, too.

The instigator penalty takes that way.

Now, I would love for the instigator penalty to be stricken from the rule book, but if the NHL wants it, they have to police the game themselves.

They have to hand down penalties to players so brutal infractions don’t happen again.

Two games for a hit to the head is not getting the job done, because hits to the head have obviously continued. 

They also can’t treat players different,or judge the suspensions or fines on the outcome. 

Just because a player can get up and skate to the bench doesn’t mean that elbow to the face should be looked at any differently.

Also, skill players should be penalized just like the grinders or enforcers of the league. 

If Sidney Crosby crossed-checked someone in the face, my guess would be that he gets the slimmest penalty possible from the league.  While if a guy like Rutu, for example, commits the same infraction, he would get a much stiffer penalty. 

The NHL has to make it more strict,and make it more fair.  They wanted more power, and they got it.  Theycertainly haven’t used it to the best extent though.

While still half listening to the radio as I got ready to leave, I heard some news about the Winter Classic for next season.  Just writing an article on it the other day, I was quite interested on what some possible scenarios could be for the next game.

I hear Detroit, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Boston and Minneapolis as possible cites for the event, and for once I feel happy that the league is going to stick with a great tradition of playing in cold states with great hockey fan bases.  Yes, the league finally got one right!

Not so fast.

Towards the end of the report I hear Las Vegas and the Rose Bowl in Southern California mentioned as possible locations, too.

Here comes the headache.

Apparently, the league just doesn’t know how to handle successful events.  In their defense, it is quite new to them to have something go right, but come on.

The Winter Classic is great for cold-weather-state hockey fans, especially those who grew up playing pond hockey.  It is just a spectacular moment for people in those states, who grew up with the game.

Please, tell me when anyone in Las Vegas or Southern California played a game of pond hockey.  For that matter, have they even seen a large body of frozen water in person?

No, ice cubes do not count.

What the NHL doesn’t get is that they are showing off the product on the ice, not the location of the game.

No offense to fans there, but what are people more interested in Southern Cal, a hockey game or football?  Not to mention that selling out the Rose Bowl would be a tough task and lower level seats along with the higher levels would not make for a good viewing experience.

And what teams would you bring there?  The LA Kings or the Anaheim Ducks?

Yes, because that is just what the league wants—an outdoor game with a half-empty stadium between two teams that will use the defensive trap for a low-scoring affair that no one on the East Coast will care about.

They are talking about an evening  game there, too, which of course would not be on New Years Day, due to a college bowl game. 

Not to even mention that an evening game under the lights would mean a very late start time for the East coast, in which they would lose a large amount of viewers.

Enough about the Rose Bowl—what about Las Vegas? 

What a stupid idea!

Does anyone remember back in 1991 when the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings played an exhibition game on an outdoor rink in 85-degree weather in Las Vegas?

Didn’t think so.

I don’t think 85 degrees really resembles the hockey fans know well.  Neither does the swarm of flying insects that attacked the first game in Las Vegas.

Just like the suspension issue, make it simple NHL! 

You are making things way too complicated when they don’t need to be.  Especially when the event you have is already great! 

Please, just put the game in New York or if you want to get fancy, put it in the national’s capital.

I’m off to try and get rid of this awful headache.  

Garry Bettman and Colin Campbell should start paying for my aspirins.


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