This article is for those of you who want the NHL to become a better product.
This isn’t for Gary Bettman, because we have heard your deceitful responses too often. We know you will tell us the league has never been better, of course, that is until 12 months before the CBA is set to expire and then magically your message will change and you’ll outline all the financial hardships NHL owners have endured.
Your words means absolutely nothing to me. You’ve proven you will talk out of both sides of your mouth to push your agenda of the day. You’ve proven you don’t care about the fans. All you care about is if they keep paying the over-inflated ticket prices to watch your game.
It is nothing personal, honestly. It isn’t. I understand business, and as you’ve shown multiple times you know more about the game and what is best for it than I or any other lowly reporter or fan does. It is okay, but as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
I want to talk to those who should care more about their players and the enjoyment of the NHL.
I’m looking at the General Managers.
Why are they scared to speak up?
GMs: you pay the most money to your star players, yet you allow them to be hooked, held and slashed on a nightly basis. Johnny Gaudreau, one of the most dynamic players in the game, was slashed on the hand repeatedly by the Wild in November, with Eric Staal delivering the final blow. Gaudreau missed six weeks, because, for reasons that defy logic, the NHL has decided to allow players to slash opponents on the hands.
Flames GM Brad Treliving was frustrated, but he held back from lashing out, because, um, I guess you don’t want to be looked at as a complainer or whiner, as the Neanderthals would say.
“There are tactics with good players, but when you chop a guy in the hand there’s a rule that says you can’t do that,” said Treliving. “We’re not naïve – do we whack guys, too? Probably. But the frustration comes when that turns into a player being out for an extended period of time,” he continued.
If you allow slashes, of course it will lead to a player being out for an extended period of time. You can’t have it both ways. Don’t sit on the fence.
It has become an epidemic, yet you sit by and do nothing. Why?
Coming out of the 2005 lockout every team watched videos on what would be a penalty. If your stick was parallel to the ice and you touched the opposing player with your stick, it was a penalty. No debate.
Fast forward eleven years, and despite the rule book still being the same, the NHL has inexplicably allowed slashes and hooks back in the game at an alarming pace.
The main concern for me regarding slashing is it isn’t just marginal players doing it. Staal and Alex Pietrangelo have both been Olympians, but they clearly received the memo from the NHL that slashes to the hands of the puck carrier are allowed.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 20, 2016
There was no penalty on the play. McDavid could only look at the referee in disbelief. Pietrangelo turned his stick over and went right at McDavid’s wrist and hands. It makes absolutely zero sense to me.
The NHL has a plethora of exciting players spread across the league, yet we rarely get to see their elite skill, because the NHL has informed the officials not to call obstruction. Make no mistake, this is a league-governed phenomenon.
After the 2005 lockout (I’ve lost track whether it was the second or third lockout under Bettman’s watch), the NHL told their officials to actually enforce the rule book. I know, it sounds crazy, but for a brief time the NHL realized their league is better when the skilled players can showcase their skills without being accosted every shift.
I’m not the only one who has witnessed the change. I asked former NHL referee Kerry Fraser about the state of the game in 2016/2017.
“Penalties need to be called. I see Connor McDavid being taken down, chopped down regularly and I think the officials have to be a little more vigilant. It’s not protecting the stars, so much as the puck is usually around them. (Wayne) Gretzky had the puck more than anybody, and consequently if you could foul him, you had to. They are the ones who draw the penalties.
“You have a player like McDavid, for example, who is a champion. He is a great kid, he plays hard and I think when he is fouled, because he has the puck a lot, the referees have to have their radar up.
“He is a hard guy to stop with his explosive speed, and you have to be really tuned in, dialed in, as a referee, to make sure it isn’t a grab, a hook, a slash or a trip that is going to restrain this guy,” said Fraser.
It is rare an official questions the accuracy of his union, but Fraser is seeing the same thing as you and me.
The lack of calls on obstruction, hooking, holding and slashing is absurd.
The worst part is the slashing on the hands. Players are targeting the hands of the skilled players, yet the refs aren’t calling it and the GMs aren’t demanding change.
Why the hell not?
And the scary part is players believe it is part of the game.
“It’s tough for the refs to call hard slashes or whether it’s a love-tap. I can see why it’s difficult for them,” said Gaudreau in his first media scrum after breaking his finger.
“It’s part of the game. I don’t know if it’s something they need to look at more. I know if guys are starting to miss four to six weeks with broken bones, maybe it is something they need to look at a little more. But it’s part of hockey.”
Clearly, he is scared to death to speak the truth. Players don’t want to be deemed whiners. It’s archaic thinking that voicing your displeasure with a lack of common sense is whining, but that culture still exists in the NHL.
Gaudreau, McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and the other elite skilled players shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. It’s a travesty how the game is being officiated right now. It is easy to blame the officials, but the NHL tells them what to call and Bettman, the owners and GMs have decided this is what they want.
Something has to change. It is not good for the game, and the reality is it wouldn’t be hard to change. Just make the players adhere to the rule book.
The amount of obstruction I see on any given night is increasing, not diminishing, and if we just sit back and do nothing it won’t change.
I don’t want to wait until 2021, when Bettman will most likely lead the NHL towards another lockout. We don’t need a lockout to adjust how the game is officiated.
It is time the players demand change, and it would be wonderful if the general managers and owners wanted to protect their best assets, instead of subjecting them to needless hooks, slashes and holds.
The NHL has an abundance of speed and skill, but they refuse to enforce the rule book. Why are they willing to accept needless obstruction or injuries to their star players?
Wake up NHL. Please. Wake up.
MONTH OF GIVING
Thank you to Jeremy and Scott for their great bids and to Auto Details and Taylor Hall for the packages.
Today’s Package #1: A custom made golf cart courtesy of Golf Cart People.
- You will get a custom designed golf cart built by Golf Cart People
- It is a two person golf cart
- Electric or gas
- One colour custom paint job (Courtesy of Herbers Auto Body)
- A custom seat
- Custom set of Mags
- $1,000 Gift Card to use at Michael Anthony Jewellers
- Pair of tickets to the Oilers/Canucks game on New Years Eve on the drink rail in the Sportnet Lounge. Tickets include free food (Chicken Wings, Carved Prime Rib, Carved Striploin, Jerk chicken thighs, Mac& Cheese, Hot Dogs, Pretzels, Desserts) and free non-alcoholic beverages.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santa’s Anonymous and Mayfield Edmonton Rotary Club.
Recently by Jason Gregor: