5 Ways NHL Players Can Bring Back a Little “RESPECT” To the Game

Mark RitterSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2011

5 Ways NHL Players Can Bring Back a Little “RESPECT” To the Game

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    BOSTON - MARCH 8:  Referee Dan O'Rourke #42 tries to break up a fight between Pavol Demitra #38 of the Minnesota Wild and Marc Savard #91 of the Boston Bruins on March 8, 2007 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Image
    Elsa/Getty Images

    There has been a lot of chatter both online and in the fish wrap in regards to NHL players and the lack of respect between them these days.

    Gone are the days when NHL players would think twice about taking liberties with their opponent, giving way to dangerous hits and a general lack of respect for player safety.

    With all this in mind, let’s take a look a five ways the NHL and its players can bring back a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the game of hockey and its players.

Reduce Equipment

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    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 04: Matthew Corrente #32 of the New Jersey Devils skates returns to the bench after a fight aginst the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center on December 4, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    On the surface, reducing the equipment NHL players wear looks to be a curious way to bring back some respect.

    Today’s NHL player is equipped with shoulder, elbow and shin pads that could be suitable for a medieval warrior.

    Recent evolutions in materials and a lack of size restriction allow players to arm themselves with huge pieces of indestructible plastics and Kevlar that could withstand a tsunami.

    Inevitably, NHL players feel they are indestructible, allowing them to hit anything that moves with full force without regard for themselves or their opponent.

    The result of this is an increase in serious injury to the player or players being hit, especially those that do not see it coming—aka the blindside hits.

    If the NHL chose to revert to actual “padding” as opposed to manufactured plastics, the NHL would be a better place and, in my opinion, would see a great reduction in serious injuries.

Enforce the Rulebook

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    OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 20: Colin Campbell of the NHL photographed during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 20, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Let’s face it—as much as there is a lack of respect and accountability between NHL players, two of the biggest offenders are the NHL and the NHLPA.

    The NHL and its referees have a rulebook that they are supposed to enforce. Trouble is the NHL, its referees and the NHLPA are all guilty of either not enforcing the rules or fighting to loosen the shoestrings.

    Rules are great—but unless they are enforced consistently, you will have NHL players taking advantage of the “system."

Increase Fines

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    ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 31:  Jody Shelley #45 of the San Jose Sharks and Derek Boogaard #24 of the Minnesota Wild square off to fight December 31, 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
    Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images

    The average NHL salary is around $2 million. When an offending player is fined $10,000, it’s like most of us having to cough up $10—which does little to sway anyone from perpetuating dangerous, if not illegal, behavior.

    Based on an 82-game season, the average player earns $24,390 per game. While we all know that many suspensions require the player to forfeit his salary during the length of the suspension, an increase in fines may help sway players to walk the line more honestly. 

    Many of the “goons” in the NHL are responsible for the majority of the most devastating injuries. Coincidentally, most of the “goons” in the NHL happen to make a salary below the NHL average.

    Why not scrap the percentages in favor of larger set fines?

    What we’d be left with would be players that thought twice before they engaged in dangerous behavior and perhaps a few players that would be left with little in the bank at the end of the season.

    The bottom line is this: The more you hit an NHL player in the pocketbook, the more likely they are to learn from their indiscretions.

Abolish Fighting

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    TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 26: Jay Rosehill #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs fights Mike Rupp #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during game action at the Air Canada Centre February 26, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    That’s right, I said it; who needs fighting these days?

    Sure, the NHL will never completely abolish fighting—and I am not suggesting that they should completely abolish this behavior. What the NHL would benefit from is making fighting more difficult for NHL players to engage in.

    Reactionary fights, while sometimes tough to decipher, are good for the game. The ones we all hate are the “staged” fight where two players seemingly drop the gloves for no reason at all, subjecting themselves to unnecessary injury and trauma.

    Punishing the offending participants with suspensions would be a step in the right direction and it would encourage players to take care of their own battles.

    If you suspended players for fighting you would see the participants being a lot pickier about when and where they fought, to the point that they may elect to pass on the staged variety.

    I am all for fighting; what I am tired of seeing are the staged fights and the dirty players having their battles fought by goons. Make players accountable for their own actions by discouraging goon fights.

    You want to be an idiot out on the ice, no worries. Good luck defending your actions; the goon can’t do it every time or he will be suspended and/or broke!

    It says here if a “shift disturber” has to fight his own battles he is less likely to be out on the ice chirping and slashing and taking liberties at will.

    The kid on the playground that is best friends with the school bully often has the biggest mouth. But take the bully away and he often has nothing to say, right?

Continued Education

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    BOSTON - OCTOBER 17: 2010 Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL,  speaks during a Celebration of Lester Patrick at TD Garden on October 27, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The NHL prides itself on having the best concussion research on the planet. Unfortunately, the NHL often comes up short with regards to offering the proper/best equipment options that would help ensure player safety.

    It’s not OK to merely understand an injury; it’s high time the NHL made certain pieces of equipment mandatory because they reduce injury and offer the greatest protection from errant sticks and punishing hits.

    Don’t wait for another player’s eyesight to be lost; don’t wait for another concussion to happen; don’t wait for a player to be killed on the ice.

    Take a hold of the issues, demand change and make things like mouth guards, visors and the M11 helmet mandatory for all NHL players.

    I made this point in an earlier article: The first testicular guard or "cup" was used in hockey in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974. It took 100 years for the NHL and its players to realize that the brain was also important!

    Let’s not allow our players to go another 100 years before they are making the right decisions with regards to equipment use. Make it mandatory.

    There is no room for egos and tradition—the game has changed and so should the equipment.

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