Save the NHL Playoffs: Cease and Desist, Commissioner

Steven J. WardContributor IApril 21, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Fans were given glow sticks on their way into the game between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals for Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2009 in New York City. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 4-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

From Boston to Montreal and from San Jose to that "duck pond" in Anaheim, the National Hockey League need only save itself from itself in order to claim the most exciting playoff season of the four major sports.

Unfortunately, those in charge of the league just cannot seem to halt the self-annihilation. They are destined to kill the splendid fastbreak sport.

It matters not what game one is tuned in to: There is no great disparity in talent between any entry because of the spirited action and wonderful dedication assumed on every shift by every player.

One cannot help but be amazed at the excellence in conditioning of these athletes, which to this point has not been tied to artificial means whatsoever! Their bodily sacrifice and spiritual integrity are unsurpassed, period.

But as usual, there is a fly in the ointment, and this one happens to be a huge, hungry horsefly with a very large rear quarters that just cannot stand success. It's NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has made it his life's mission to rid the game of any such human emotion.

Perhaps he seeking a robotic sort of hockey in which all participants would be preprogramed by Bettman's fellow flies to play the game devoid of physical contact and emotions that would be considered reactionary or personally expressive.

Thus far and to my knowledge, this restriction has come at the expense of those players who have been suspended for "sending a message" to the other team at the end of a previous game. Instead of selling this sport on its raw emotion and controlled explosiveness, the powers that be amid their padded stalls have removed any hope of success.

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The NHL struggles yearly for a major television deal, a necessity for smaller-market viability. But instead of marketing the stronger aspects of this supersonic sport, the league seeks to vilify its own participants. Why?

Does the WBA/C or MMA try to suppress the nature of their sport? No way; they brandish it proudly as their most important selling point.

Ask those who truly appreciate the sport of hockey and have had the opportunity to follow it over the past twenty years or so: When was the most exciting age, the "Golden Age" of hockey, or the NHL? I imagine their reply would be the 1970s into the mid '80s.

For the sake of saving what is left of this sport: Stop destroying this game, Commissioner. You are not a fair representative voice, but more a dictator without heart or head, apparently!