posted Apr 29, 2006 at 12:00AM
Maybe it was because I knew that I was going to have start filling out tax forms, but there was one incident in that Game 4 that really bugged me. It was in the first period, and the referee wanted to clamp down on the pushing and shoving after the whistles. He warned both coaches that if it happened again, he would only take one out and leave that team short-handed. Of course it did happen, and Eaves got the short straw. And you know what? It worked. The players were much better behaved for the rest of the game.
And to my eyes, an edge that was part of the game was completely removed. It was the "flattest" playoff game I had watched to date.
What if they applied that tactic to fighting? Right now both get five and the game carries on. But what if they just gave a five minute major to one player? One of things that makes hockey ...hockey, is that it is the only major sport where fighting is institutionalized. But with that kind of rule, fighting would be all but extinct.
So I had these fears that this was just another step towards a kinder gentler NHL. Although it may take many years to undo the inertia of a hundred years of hockey in Canada, that it was just another step of heading the Swedish route, where fighting is barred, and any hard hit is called boarding or charging or "head checking", if you want an official term.
The instigator penalty and the steep fines for fights in the last five minutes are steps in that direction. I am hardly a champion of goonery, but anybody who has played hockey understands that there are times in a season, where "penalties" are not enough - you have to drop the gloves, hoist up the black flag, and start putting certain universal equations back into balance.
There are societal forces at work that would like nothing better than to remove any vestiges of aggression and any semblance of risk from the game of hockey. Yet these elements are integral to the game. It is what makes hockey such an exciting game to play and to watch. It is what makes it hard. It is what makes it great. Take those things away and all you have is a bunch of guys killing time chasing a piece of rubber.
Anyways like I said, it bugged me.