Does the NHL Hate the New Jersey Devils?

John SzurlejAnalyst IAugust 4, 2010

MONTREAL - JANUARY 25:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman looks on from the stands during the 2009 NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre on January 25, 2009 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It is hard for me to remain unbiased to this situation of the New Jersey Devils versus the NHL.

Aside from the fact that I am a Devils fan and may seem partial to their side on many issues, I find that there are some interesting coincidences regarding Gary Bettman and the NHL front office and the Devils.

Amidst the latest challenge of Ilya Kovalchuk's contract, the NHL has decided to reject this document, stating that it violates the collective bargaining agreement.

In my opinion, this effort seems to be a poor attempt by the NHL to prevent one of the biggest, brightest stars from being bogged down in the swamps of New Jersey.

If you look at this from my perspective, Gary Bettman, whom I feel is a NJ hater, can't stand to let a high-profile player remain in NJ and play in their system.

If you consider the history of coincidental changes to the NHL you may start to see my point.

Looking back to the Devils teams of the mid 1990s it isn't far fetched to see the first intrusion by Betman's NHL offices.

The Devils were winning Stanley Cups.  The Devils had a stifling defense and a system which would be considered a curse word to utter in the halls of the NHL front office, the neutral zone trap.

Subsequently, after teams cried foul, and other teams like the Ottawa Senators started mimicking the Devils system, the NHL rules committee—with encouragement from the NHL front office—declared that a new interference rule would be installed thus negating the neutral zone trap.

The reasoning given was to improve the flow of the game, and increase scoring.

In professional sports, is it acceptable to punish a team for doing something they have perfected?  In this case it is.  NHL 1, Devils 0.

Moving forward, we also see another tampering effect in the form of the Trapezoid ruling.

Once again, as I have stated in previous articles, the NHL, under the ruse of leveling the field and increasing scoring, decided to limit the role of goaltenders puck handling to a specific area. 

Play the puck outside of the trapezoid and pay the penalty.

Is this fair to limit the talent of a professional athlete?  No.

However, because of the exceptional ability of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, teams likely had complained to Bettman that the Devils play a system in which makes the goaltender a third defenseman.

In response to these complaints, enter the trapezoid rule and with it the increased injuries that were a result of it. 

Goaltenders and players alike now wound up obtaining injuries that would not normally have been endured before the rule was conceived.

NHL 2,  Devils 0.

Moving forward, we now arrive at the contract issue with the New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk.

Since when did the NHL intervene with other massive contracts, most recently ones similar to Chicago's Marian Hossa?

Perhaps the Rangers consistently spending money for talent and exceeding the salary cap and similar issues?

We arrive at a contract for Kovalchuk which would be an historic signing, and it seems that the NHL will do whatever it can to prevent this from happening.

I believe this is an unfortunate abuse of power from the NHL front office, and applaud the NHLPA for filing for arbitration on Kovalchuk's behalf.

At this point, it looks as if the NHL will score the hat trick.  If it does,hopefully the arbitrator will reverse the goal.