Wake up NHL, wake up


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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  • $1,000 Gift Card to use at Michael Anthony Jewellers
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You can bid by listening to my show on TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santa’s Anonymous and Mayfield Edmonton Rotary Club.

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      • Buttsy

        Absolutely!!If someone had of slashed Gretzky the way they do now, the players life would have flashed before their eyes. Taking liberties on star players was deterred by the fear of getting your face punched in. The NHL stated that it’s the refs responsibility to ensure the policing of the game and protection of the players. Enforcers were no longer needed and will be penalized if deemed an aggressor. No game vigilantism allowed! The rules will protect them!
        As it appears now, they’re not doing that and the players can’t police themselves without penalizing their team. The weasels and opportunists take liberties without any concern for retribution.
        Take the instigator rule out and watch that trend change.
        On another note with referees, I have a real issue with absolute power in any life situation. It breads corruption and arrogance with no way of correcting it!

    • freelancer

      The accountability and consistency of the NHL is an absolute joke. This is a league that pulls guys off the ice when they hit their chin because they’re worried about concussions but let crosschecks from behind, slashes, and other dangerous plays go unnoticed and unpenalized.

    • fasteddy

      The game has gotten way too boring…no room to make plays out there. If calling the rule book properly will open things up a bit then please do it before more and more of us tune out. Who turns on games between teams they aren’t a fan of anymore? Why would you? It’s like watching paint dry most of the time. If a team completed two or three passes in a row it’s a borderline miracle. Goals are tips or scrums most of the time.

      • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

        You understand that Bettman only does what the owners tell him? If the owners wanted the way the game is called to be changed, they would tell Bettman to do something about it, and it would happen.

    • 99CupsofCoffey

      A player can be tough without slashing hands and fingers. I see that as a cop-out on a player who doesn’t have enough skill and speed to “slow” a better player down.

      If the NHL REALLY wants to get scoring up, then CALL THE [email protected]*% RULES THAT ARE WRITTEN IN THE RULE BOOK.

    • deferoiler

      I think part of the problem is that refs have this unnecessary reasoning to even out penalties. It may sound bizarre but how many games do we see an opposing team get 2-3 more powerplay chances. Last night it was a 1-1 tie when mcdavid got pulled down right after the blues had just got off the pp and both teams each had a powerplay chance. Unless calls are extremely obvious (the Mcdavid call was btw and should have been called) refs aren’t going to call it. It’s the sad truth but is a factor in today’s game

    • Butters

      I watch the Oilers almost exclusively, but I remember watching a few Penguin games a long while back and thought; holy frack does Crosby take a lot of abuse.

    • fasteddy

      Whoever made the comment about refs making sure the penalties are somewhat even was bang on. Drives me crazy; doesn’t matter what a team does if they took the last two penalties. I’m the kind of fan that loved the fights and chaos of days gone by, so I find it ironic that I’m now complaining about non-calls…..but there’s so little offense that I see no other options; call the penalties as they happen and maybe the game will open up a bit.

    • DonovanMD

      GREAT article Jason. Now print it off, put it in an envelope and mail it to Gary Bettman, since the obstruction calls in the NHL are closer to 1995 than 2005 post lockout.

    • TruthHurts98

      For these specific reasons you’ve listed I’ve found myself hardly watching the NHL games anymore. Just a few highlights, it’s an absolute joke what the NHL is doing. Don’t even get me started on the overturned offside calls and the big goalie equipment. I’m beginning to wonder if the NHL even wants scoring anymore or their star players playing without injuries. Can’t stand that smug Bettman either. Great article, I hope more are written and expanded upon around North America!

    • Semenko27

      Even though i cannot stand the player getting whacked.

      The first one wasn’t so bad, the second one must have hurt like he#^. Both deserved a punch in the pie-hole for Staal.

    • A-Mc

      Missed calls cause injuries. Time to start firing pucks at the Refs.

      If the officials aren’t willing to respect the rules meant to keep players safe, then i don’t see why players should respect the referee’s safety.