Deadspin’s Adam Gretz yesterday published his argument that the hockey enforcer is “the most useless role in sports,” including a statistical analysis that shows the presence of enforcers on the ice or bench in modern NHL games does nothing to deter injuries. It’s well worth reading, though like most arguments against fighting in hockey, its lack of understanding for the sport’s nuances suggests Gretz has never actually played–something I may or may not be completely wrong about.
The math is enlightening, certainly, but the thesis ignores recent historical development. It’s the NHL who diminished the role of the enforcer, and made their players less safe by removing the opportunity for them to police themselves. I would be very interested to see the same mathematical analysis on the NHL game before the “third-man-in” and “instigator” rules effectively took away the ability of an enforcer to protect his team-mates without hurting his team. Maybe there was no statistical basis for this idea either, but I’m betting it would show. Continue Reading
After my sophomore year of college, my parents gave me their 1988 Plymouth Reliant. We lived in the suburbs, I needed a car to get a job, and my parents are very kind people. The car was a slate gray four-door sedan, one of the ubiquitous boxy K-cars that defined the late 80s the way softly rounded cloud cars defined the following decade. It had aged well, as K cars did, and though it was well past its warranty in both miles and years, it was in good shape. The vinyl was sun faded, the steering wheel worn pale in a couple of places by years of sweaty palms, but the car was basically intact.
Except for the ceiling. The goddamn ceiling.
The Plymouth Reliant was only one of many cars with a fabric upholstered ceiling. The trouble with this is that eventually time and weather would take their toll, and the fabric would begin to fall away from the ceiling. It started as a small bubble, near the interior dome light, but before long the whole ceiling was hanging down, sad, like the doughy belly of a retired athlete. I tried numerous things to try and reattach the fabric to the roof, but eventually it always drooped back down, growing progressively worse. It brushed my head when I drove, block my vision in the rear-view mirror, and forced friends in the back seat to duck down. But the worst was yet to come. Continue Reading
- I feel a little kinship with Jonathan Quick, a fellow goalie who grew up idolizing and studying Mike Richter. He’s done a little more with it than me. Makes him a lot of fun to watch, though.
- For a kid who grew up watching the Rangers and Richter, beating Marty Brodeur for a Stanley Cup is about as close as you can get to a dream come true.
- A few months ago the headlines about the Kings were entirely about their lack of scoring, and how Quick was the only thing they had going for them. He kept them in games they had no business winning, and they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.
- I wonder what it feels like to be a Flyers fan right now. I know as a Philadelphian who hates the Flyers it feels damn good.
- Two years ago after the Blackhawks beat the Flyers, I had several conversations (and saw lots of opinion articles) about how goaltending had become a commodity. I wonder if those people still believe that, after the last two Conn Smythe winners were goaltenders.
- With all due credit to the Kings, who absolutely earned this, I’ve got to say that if NHL officiating in the playoffs bore any resemblance to officiating in the regular season, they wouldn’t have an 8 seed beating a 6 seed for the Cup. Right now, it’s like the two have completely different rulebooks. Makes it hard for a team to excel in both.
- I wonder if Quick will accept congratulations from President Romney.
I had a very brief back-and-forth tonight with Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, but as sometimes happens I had to come here to explain myself in a bit more detail. To clarify, my complaint is not with Greg himself or with Puck Daddy specifically. It’s with the hockey media in general, but since I know Greg is accessible on Twitter, I went to him to voice my concern.
As you may already have heard, Joel Ward’s game-winning goal for the Washington Capitals, eliminating the Boston Bruins in a dramatic seventh-game overtime, resulted in a slew of hideous racist reactions on Twitter. This might have made national news on its own, but particularly coming on the heels of the horrible racist reactions to The Hunger Games film and the heavily social-media-driven controversy surrounding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, it was justifiable to afford it coverage. The rapid-response condemnations from both the Bruins and the Capitals were excellent, if a bit of a no-brainer. Ward himself had a very level-headed reaction to questions I’m sure he never wanted to have to answer. At Puck Daddy, Harrison Mooney, himself a person of color, penned an excellent response that went beyond the dismissive and oversimplified idea that “race shouldn’t matter,” and called out those who were ready to blame the whole thing on the Bruins fans, as if racism in hockey were endemic to a particular city or fan base.
None of this raised my hackles. Racism in hockey is an issue barely beneath the surface. The NHL has advanced a bit, I guess – there are now almost enough active NHL players of black or African descent as there are teams – but the issue is still present, and worth discussing. When the hero of a game seven overtime is assailed with racial epithets on a major social network, that’s noteworthy.
What concerns me is that those racist tweets now come up every time Joel Ward is mentioned. Tonight, it was Harrison Mooney who felt hate-tweets merited mention in his write-up of the Rangers’ overtime win, in which Ward took the four-minute double minor on which the Rangers scored their game-tying and game-winning goals. I’m not accusing Mooney, or any of the other reporters who made the same decision, of having an agenda — far from it — but I’m concerned about the unintended consequences when idiots on Twitter keep working their way into the story. Continue Reading
I wish I could say it’s because I’m buckled down and writing, but honestly it’s mostly the NHL playoffs. For productivity, I’m better off when the Rangers miss the playoffs.
I am writing, though. Painfully close to finishing the novel I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. I was originally hoping to finish it by December 31, 2011. Then it was January 31, then April 30. Now I’m aiming for May 31. May the gods of writing and Henrik Lundqvist will it so.
Here, according to Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy, is a comparisson between the NHL’s old (as in one-year-old) and new rules regarding headshots:
…and here is my proposed headshot rule, circa March 7, 2010:
(1) Any hit that either (a) contacts only the head or (b) contacts the head before any other part of the body, whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the player initiating the hit, should be a minor penalty.
(2) Any hit where, in the referee’s determination, the player initiating the hit deliberately (a) targetted only the head or (b) targetted the head before any other part of the body should be a match penalty.
I referred back to that proposed rule in two other posts, one on March 9, 2010, and one on April 17 of that same year. Combined, those three posts have 173 hits. As I see it, the evidence is incontrovertible: I have single-handedly saved the NHL from its headshot problem. While I’m at it, let me say hello to Brendan Shanahan, who is obviously a reader. Hi, Shannie. Nice work. Sorry you didn’t join the Blueshirts when you were a little younger. Continue Reading
[Credit to David Byrne for the post title]
Way back in November of 2007 I posted about the sordid saga of Ethan Reynolds, formerly of the model blog / community Brat Boy School (since shut down; internet wayback machine link here – caution, it loads slowly). I’m seeing echoes of that experience in the recent downfall of “Hockey Kid Mikey,” an alleged gay high school hockey player promoted by gay web site OutSports who, after building a small empire on the web, turned out to probably be a 40-year-old gay hockey fan.
Both appear to be cases where some blogger used the magical power of the internet to pretend to be someone else. In both cases the bloggers built an enormous base of enamored fans, and in both cases their success began to open doors outside the internet shortly before their fictitious persona fell apart. In neither case were any actual crimes (apparently) committed, and yet in both cases the fans, once betrayed, called for blood.
As I was in 2007, I am fascinated by the response from fans. It’s not as if this technique is old. I’ve compared Ethan to nudie centerfolds, who always seem to find titillating answers to the same questionnaire, but the creation of a fictional persona is not limited to the vaguely pornographic. Think of Dear Abby, or Poor Richard, or for that matter any talk-show host. None of these people is really the person they present to the world. Granted, that fact is disclosed to varying degrees, but I’d imagine there are many Letterman fans who would be outraged to discover the real person behind the television character he portrays. This is, I would hazard to say, at least partly to blame for the outrage behind the most recent “Late Night Wars,” and why Jay Leno emerged as the villain while Conan’s popularity grew: cutthroat businessman is pretty far removed from the brand Jay has been selling his viewers, while Conan’s brand is apparently not as far from his actual personality. Continue Reading
Andy Sutton’s hit on Jordan Leopold in last night’s Senators-Penguins game nicely illustrates that the new “lateral backpressure” rule doesn’t address the NHL’s real problem. Skip ahead to the one minute mark for a good slow-motion look.
I have one problem, and one problem only, with this hit – but it’s a big problem. Andy Sutton very intentionally and deliberately targets Leopold’s head. Leopold is clearly in a vulnerable position and doesn’t see Sutton coming, which means Sutton can apply any hit he chooses – and he chooses to avoid contact with Leopold’s body and hit only the head. Notice the way Sutton spins off of Leopold into the boards? That type of spin-off is the same you see in a head-on car crash, where one swerving driver is trying to avoid the collision and doesn’t quite make it. Notice that term trying to avoid, because that’s really what Sutton does here. He specifically tries to avoid Leopold’s body, so that he can transfer all of his energy into Leopold’s head.
Sutton’s defenders point out, correctly, that Leopold had his head down, that Sutton kept his elbow at his side, that this is not a “lateral backpressure” hit, but a head-on (no pun intended) open-ice hit, and that based on those criteria this is currently a legal NHL hit, a “hockey play” as has become popular vernacular recently. This is all true, but I counter that this should not be a legal NHL hit for one simple, clear reason: a hit that specifically targets the head (solely or primarily) is, and should always be regarded as, intent to injure.
The aftermath of Sunday’s Matt Cooke head-shot on Marc Savard has left Savard with an uncertain future and the NHL mired in controversy yet again. Coming just a day before a meeting of General Managers, the Cooke hit was one more point in an argument the players have made very convincingly all season long that the league must do something to stop this madness.
I don’t read a lot of hockey blogs, but I read Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy fairly regularly, and I’m a little disappointed in his approach to this. For one thing, he gets sidetracked, like a lot of die-hard hockey fans, by the fear that arguments like this one open the door for those who would, in Mike Milbury’s words, “pansify” the sport. That fear leads him to argue too hard against the pansifiers, and he ends up defending what he should be condemning.
Wysh, I understand your concern. We’re both hockey fans. We both love physical, hard, grinding hockey. We love that the playoffs are a battle of attrition where no player emerges unharmed. We love what it requires for a person to be a hockey player. Neither of us wants to see that change. But as hockey fans, we have to be firm here: targeting the head has never been acceptable in the history of the NHL, and it is not acceptable now.
We may speculate as to why headhunting has become more prevalent– personally I think it’s a combination of the instigator rule diminishing the consequences and better equipment making hits to the body just play hurt less — but regardless of reason, this has become a plague on the NHL, and it’s up to the league to do something about it.
There are two points Wysh makes with which I take issue. The first is that there is a big difference between the Cooke hit on Savard and the hit early in the season by Mike Richards on David Booth. Wysh’s point is that the Cooke hit is just a plain old dirty play, while the Richards hit is a valid hockey play, an attempt to separate Booth from the puck. I agree with this, and the distinction is important – but less important, to me, than what the two plays have in common. In both cases, one player caught another player in a vulnerable position, and rather than applying a devastating body check, they chose to target the head, and only the head.