I would not classify myself as a hockey fan. Sure, I know which teams are good and who the star players are, but beyond that all of the Czechoslovakian and Russian names without vowels create a state of confusion in my brain.
But in honor of the NHL’s 57th All-Star game this weekend (Sunday at 6 PM ET on Versus if anyone cares), I think I’ve schemed a solution to resurrect hockey as a major sport. And let me go ahead and shed my apologies to those readers who are die-hard puck fans and are appalled even at the notion of altering the game.
Before I unleash my earth-shattering concept to change the face of hockey, I want to let you know where this epiphany came from. It stemmed from my disbelief in some of the recent transpirations involving player suspensions and a proposed fighting ban.
Three weeks ago I got up on my soapbox and preached about why former Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery deserved a second chance. Two meaningless words cost this hockey player a job and perhaps his future in the sport. I argued, and continue to do so, that athletes in other sports have committed far greater crimes and received far less in terms of punishment.
On Jan. 7, Senators right wing Jarkko Ruutu was handed a two-game suspension for biting the finger of another player while in an altercation. Now this one had me rolling on the ground in tears.
Andrew Peters, who serves as the enforcer for the Buffalo Sabres, was the victim of this chomping and he claimed that “it’s not part of the game of hockey” and “not acceptable at any level.”
This is coming from a guy who batters, bruises and boxes other men for a living.
I don’t know what fighting parameters Peters grew up with but playground rules are: Anything goes except a kick or punch to where the sun doesn’t shine. Biting, scratching, hair-pulling, eye-gouging, tittie-twisters, Indian sunburns and wet willies are all fair game. But this 6-4, 247-pound beast of a man, who is supposedly the team goon, is calling mamma because he got bit on the thumb.
The head coach of his own team, Lindy Ruff, shared my sentiment, "I find it a little humorous to tell you the truth. It makes it something good to talk about. Games need a little spice and we get a little spice."
The latest news to hit the frozen floor this week reports that the NHL’s Director of Operations plans to discuss with the league’s 30 general managers the possibility of placing a ban on fighting.
That could be the most ignorant idea I have ever encountered.
Gloves dropping on the ice and bare knuckles flailing are the only reason this sport is still attracting a fraction of fans. If people wanted to watch a boring, back-and-forth, low-scoring sporting event they can flip over to ESPN Deportes and watch soccer. Because without fighting, that is exactly what hockey would be.
This is what Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager, Brian Burke had to say about the proposal of taking the physicality out of the game, "I vigorously oppose (a ban), so I think it will be a short discussion.”
It is very apparent the National Hockey League’s biggest fault is making a big deal out of nothing. Antics Commissioner Bettman and his posse have pulled over the last month gives the league no credibility.
Are they seriously trying to hold their players to the PGA’s code of conduct? These are hockey players and attempting to give their image a divine appearance is skewed. This sport needs some bad boys with an edge. A league full of Sydney Crosbys and Wayne Gretzkys would be like watching a PG-13 chick-flick.
So enters NHL Hybrid.
A league that would never entertain the possibility of terminating fighting but instead, promote it. Highlighting featured bouts between bruisers where at least two fights per game is guaranteed.
Essentially a sport where the only rule is there are no rules.
OK, maybe we won’t take it that far. Icing, offsides and any regulation that keeps the game in some form of uniformity can remain, but everything else goes. No penalty minutes for cross-checking, high-sticking, holding, hooking, roughing, slashing or tripping.
In fact, penalty minutes will become extinct. The penalty box will remain intact, although a bit remolded, to serve as a boxing ring inside the rink. This enlarged area with padded walls will encase the nightly boxing matches that occur after the conclusion of the first two periods. So whichever two guys are the most ticked off at each other get to go round and round until someone gets dropped.
So no penalties would equate to no power plays, right?...WRONG!
There will still be short-handed opportunities. Designated power plays of two minutes during certain time frames of the first and second periods will be assigned to each team. The power play assignments will be determined by a coin flip before the start of the game.
Let me try to break this down in the easiest way possible. Team A wins the coin toss and elects to take the first power play session. The first six minutes of play is standard hockey with five players and one goalie on the ice for each team. Then the next two minutes is a power play for Team A.
After Team A’s allotted time expires, Team B gets their two minutes with a man advantage. The following six minutes is back to standard play, and then the last four minutes of the first period will be each team’s final power play possession. But this time Team B gets the first power play with Team A closing out the period.
The same format would be followed for the second period of the game.
The third and final period is standard play for the first 17 minutes and then in the final three minutes both of the goalies are pulled. Six on six with nobody in the net. And if the game is tied at the end of regulation, an overtime shootout immediately ensues with current rules applicable.
A helmet modification from the current issue will be mandated as well. With the physical nature expected in the new league, heavy-duty head gear with equipment covering the entire face and neck will be enforced.
NHL Hybrid is a league for people like Happy Gilmore and Reggie Dunlop. It will offer fans higher scoring contests, more excitement (fighting) and a change from the standard game that has produced the lowest ratings and attendance figures in years.